Maps and Shadows by Krysia Jopek
Hey, did you know that during World War II almost 1.5 million Polish civilians were deported to forced labor camps in Siberia? Isn’t that a cheerful little fact? As should be apparent by now I read a lot of depressing books. This is a very short (151 pages) book that packs a sharp punch. The writing is so beautiful and lyrical; the story so horrifying and bleak. Taken from Jopek’s real family history, the story is told from the point of view of five different members of her family who were deported from Poland after the Soviet invasion. “Deported” is a nice word for what actually occurred: the loss of their entire lives. The family is separated multiple times, members being sent to Africa, England, Uzbekistan, Italy- all eventually ending up in the United States. The book has a lot of unusual touches, but the poetry interspersed throughout the book was my favorite.
This scrim of the inner room
The door of some other now, the book
Of will unknown. The book of how
And why drowned, encrusted under:
Sisyphus longed for a beginning, middle
And end to make it all bearable or seem
To have context. The shortest distance
Between two points can be viole[n]t
Those wounds in the armpits
Wary at the lookout, ready to bow
And disregard history’s narrative.