“You can make beauty anywhere,” Lida’s mother always used to say, but can Lida retain her humanity as a young Ukrainian child in a Nazi slave labor camp during World War II?
Though she’s only 9 and not even Jewish, Lida Ferezuk is part of a group of Ukrainian young people rounded up by the Nazis anyway. Heartbreakingly separated from her younger sister, Larissa, Lida eventually lands in a German labor camp. “Figure out a skill” her new friend Luka advises. “And say that you’re older.” Lida saves herself by posing as 13 and demonstrating her sewing expertise. Eventually she is forced to make bombs, which she cleverly comes to sabotage. Despite multiple hardships, Lida never gives up searching for her beloved sister. Employing a close third-person narration, Ukrainian-Canadian author Skrypuch draws on real-life stories of survivors in telling Lida’s poignant tale, and she creates a cast of young people who are devoted to one another in both thought and deed. She also sheds light on history emerging since the dissolution of the Soviet Union: Ostarbeiters (“eastern workers”), mostly from eastern Ukraine, who were persecuted by both the Nazis and, later, Stalin, if they attempted to return to their homeland after the war.
A well-told story of persistence, lost innocence, survival, and hope. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)