Friday, April 28, 2023

Blog Tour: The Lost Daughters of Ukraine by Erin Litteken

There are a lot of WWII books out now, with many more being released each month and it is easy to find some of the books repetitious. There are a lot of similarities in these books,  but every now and again you get the opportunity to read one that is different, and you realise that this is why you continue to read books set in this period. The Lost Daughters of Ukraine is one of those books! I started learning new things even in the prologue!

Firstly, the book is set predominantly in an area of the Ukraine that I previously had little to no knowledge of. It is an area of the world with a very volatile history and, as we know from the very recent news headlines, this continues to today. This is an area that has been fought over for years, at times being invaded by the Russians, at other times by the Polish, and of course the Germans in WWII.

At first the residents of the town where this novel is set are relieved that the Russians are driven out of their country as the Germans approach, but it doesn't take long for them to realise that this change of regime does not mean that their life is going to get any easier. The Ukrainian people don't like the Polish people because of the crimes committed against them and vice versa. Both The Polish and the Ukrainians have set up resistance organisations trying to oust first the Russians and then the Germans, but there are times when they are too busy fighting each other. It's a messy world where it is difficult to know who you can and cannot trust.

This novel traces the lives of 3 women, each at different times of their lives. There is Liliya, who is a young woman who has lost her immediate family, who watched her mother die in her arms, and then her father was killed by Polish in the village they had moved to for a fresh start. 

Liliya returns back to her childhood home which is now occupied by her aunt, Vika, and her young family. Vika's challenge is to keep her family, which now includes Liliya, together and safe. However, with young people being forcibly conscripted to work for the Germans, it is only a matter of time before the family will be separated. The question is can they all survive the war and find each other again.

The third main character is twelve year old Halya. She is being raised by her father and her stepmother, Katya, knowing very little of her birth mother. Katya is doing her best to protect Halya, even employing tactics such as rubbing her down with garlic to make it looks like she has a rash, so that the Germans won't select her for transportation.

In the first part of the book I was wondering how the author would bring all three strands of the story together, but gradually she did. First, Halya meets Liliya and her cousin Slavko (Vika's eldest son)and the three young people determine to stay together in the hope that they will be able to look out for each other. But staying together in a world where you are not in control of your own destiny is hard. It just takes one small incident to separate them from each other.

Vika is reluctant to leave her home, but it soon becomes clear that she will need to, or her family will face reprisals from the Russians who are forcing the Germans back and retaking the lands they once held. At every turn there is danger and it isn't always clear what the right action to take is.

We also go to see about some of the truly devastating events such as the destruction of the city of Dresden by the allies resulting in massive fires which in turn caused horrific loss of civilian life. I first became aware of the events at Dresden in the mid 1990s when i visited Dachau. We were at the train station when an elderly man tried to convince us that Dachau was closed that day so we didn't need to visit. When we pulled out our guide books to say that it should be open (pre-internet and Google) he started yelling at us about the air raids on Dresden, about the level of destruction and how people were forgetting about it.  It has always stuck with me as, at that time, there were plenty of people who could have been part of those horrible events still alive. It makes you remember that we were really only one step away from that history. Reading about it in this book made me remember that exchange straight away.

The fact that at least some of the events described in this novel are based on the author's own family history, just helps to make the story even more poignant. 

I was vacillating between giving this book a grading of 4.5 or 5 out of 5. Whilst the beginning was a bit choppy with the changes of narrator, the author did a great job of bringing it all together. I was moved by the individual stories and I learnt a lot. It is an excellent read and I will definitely be reading more by this author. 

This book counts for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge which I host. You can find information in relation to the challenge here.

Check out other stops on the blog tour too!

Rating 5/5

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources, Netgalley and the publisher for the review copy. 

About the book

The Lost Daughters of Ukraine

A story of the strength of the human spirit, the personal cost of conflict and how love can be found even in the darkest times.

Summer 1941. War rages in Europe. The Germans march towards Ukraine. Halya, Liliya and Vika are no strangers to sorrow. They lost family during the Holodomor, loved ones in Stalin's purges, and war looms once more on the horizon.

Vika lives in fear for her children. She and her sister survived the terror famine by leaving their whole family behind. Now, years later, many believe the Germans will free them from the Soviets, but she’s not so sure. Should they stay in Volhynia or flee the approaching Eastern front?

Liliya has lost too much in her 17 years. As those around her join the resistance, Liliya wonders how she can fight for her friends, family, and country. When the choice is made for her, can she find the will to survive and protect those still with her?

Twelve-year-old Halya is struggling to discover who she is. But as the war escalates, can her mother Katya’s tactics keep her safe from the Nazi soldiers rounding up slave laborers? How can a child survive the horrors of war on her own?

These daughters of Ukraine will face devastation and loss as they fight to survive and protect the ones they love.

A gripping page-turner of love, loss and resilience for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

Purchase Link -

Author Bio –

Erin Litteken is a debut novelist with a degree in history and a passion for research. At a young age, she was enthralled by stories of her family’s harrowing experiences in Ukraine before, during and after World War II. She lives in Illinois, USA with her husband and children.

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  1. An excellent review Marge, thanks for sharing your thoughts

  2. Thanks for commenting Shelleyrae!

  3. An excellent review, and I tried to reserve at our library. Sadly the book is not in the collection. But, there's always Kindle.

  4. Sounds like a very gripping story and very personal for the author. Thanks for the great review!