Anastazia Malinska was my mother. I based the character of Anastazia in my novel ‘The Journey’ on her.
She was the youngest in a family of five and only a small child when her father and her oldest brother (17) were called to arms in the First World War. The next few years her mother and her four little girls endured poverty and deprivation.
It took another several long years after the war to achieve the basic acceptable standard of living, when the German planes flew over their newly built house and bombed it to smithereens. The Second World War began.
Anaztazia’s family was split up by the invading armies. In 1940 Anastazia and my father Kazimierz were deported to Siberia to Stalin’s labour camps. Her aging parents, her three sisters and two young nieces were deported to Germany for slave labour. Throughout the war years and all her imposed journeys – Siberia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Persia, Palestine and finally England she knew nothing of her family. In 1948 a letter from the Red Cross arrived informing her of their address in Germany. She cried with joy (I still remember that, though I was only four) but unfortunately both her parents had died by then.
The long separation during the war years caused a split between Anastazia and Kazimierz. Later, she married Tadeusz Ludwig, my kind step-father. They lived a quiet life in Rugby, where they worked in a factory that produced food tins.
Anastazia died prematurely from a stroke at the age of sixty three. Tadeusz survived her for another seven years.
They came from a generation that was sandwiched between two world wars, a generation that endured and survived unimaginable hardships. My book ‘The Journey’ is a tribute to them. It is written as a novel with a driving central plot, and all additional research woven into sub-plots. All events described took place in reality.
I did change one key part of my family’s history to enable a more positive ending to one of the storylines. However, I can’t give more details here without spoiling the plot for any potential readers! Although what is described didn’t happen within my own family, through my research I know that it happened to a number of others which is why I wanted to incorporate it into the story.