The Orphan’s Mother

Written by Marion Kummerow
Review by Lorelei Brush

In the last winter of World War II, Emma and her two children (a German family) are trapped in Poland. The Russian army is advancing toward them, and rumors of the men’s savagery have traveled before them. With Emma and daughter Sophie pulling a cart, son Jacob trudges alongside and soon falls ill. With Jacob close to death, Emma persuades a Polish hospital to take him in. The staff will not let her stay with him. Unfortunately, the Russians overtake the village, Emma cannot reach Jacob, and a nurse takes the child home to save his life. Then comes Emma’s choice: escape with her daughter and abandon her son or send her daughter off with family friends and try to find her son. She leaves, vowing to find and reunite with her son. The Iron Curtain closes behind her. The choice of actions then assails the nurse: report this German child to the Red Cross to be reunited with his family, or keep him and love him as the child she cannot biologically conceive.

This plot-driven tale describes the anguish of two mothers who love the same child, the loss and anger of the child who was chosen to stay with her mother, and the doubled anxiety of the child who was torn from his birth mother and then a second time from his adopted mother. It reminds us of how difficult it is to keep our children “safe,” however we choose to define that word.