Sunday, July 31, 2011

New Excerpt –The Last Daughter of Prussia

  Thank you all for the comments and encouragement regarding The Last Daughter of Prussia. I am SO looking forward to holding the finished product in my hands! (Next spring, Yay!) Though still in the throes of editing, I'm finding it is an interesting process. To look at every comma and quotation mark and wonder -  are they placed properly? To mull over each word and ask myself - is it necessary? It feels like an never-ending work in progress, yet one day I know I'll get there. 

  Many of you have said you enjoyed the last little excerpt and so as promised I'm posting another one. In this chapter my heroine Manya rides to the Roma gypsy camp to see her best friend Joshi and his mother Vavara. This scene happens just before tragedy strikes the Roma clan.

  I know you understand that these excerpts are always a little out of context as I take them from different chapters. All the same I hope they give you a sense of what the book is about without divulging too much because I really want you to read the entire novel when it comes out next year.

My grandmother Edith von Sanden with the old gypsy woman Frau Florian
who lived on the Eulen Hof - Owl Farm mentioned below in my excerpt
 from  The Last Daughter of Prussia.
The Eulen Hof was near Guja, East Prussia and the Roma gypsies lived there.
The SS drafted Frau Florian's sons into the army even though at that time
most Roma gypsies were persecuted and sent to concentration camps..
All of her sons - I believe there were five - died fighting on the Eastern Front.
Frau Florian could not understand war. She said gypsies never want to fight.
She asked my grandmother,
"Why? Why if we gypsies are so hated by the Nazis, do they take my sons and make them fight for Germany?"
(c) Photo Gottlieb Property-Familienbesitz Gottlieb

  Snow rose in powdery gusts under Aztec's hooves, filling the air around them with glittering flakes. They cantered past the Guja forest that was draped in strings of icy pearls, leaving behind the tiny hamlets of five or six cottages where fishermen’s nets still hung in the frozen gardens. A few lonely dogs barked in the doorways.

My grandfather Walter von Sanden in Guja, East Prussia before WW2
with the long poles that  he used to set his fishing nets in the lakes and the Angerapp River.
(c) Photo Gottlieb Property-Familienbesitz Gottlieb

  After a thirty-five minute ride, Manya saw thin scarves of smoke rising from the Karas camp. She slowed Aztec to a trot and turned onto a trail running along the Angerapp River. Up ahead in the river bend two women in wide flowered skirts were scrubbing sheets in a big metal tub. They both wore yellow headscarves, but the older woman managed to keep a pipe between her teeth even while she worked. They waved at her, their bare hands chaffed and red from the cold. She wondered briefly if she would ever see them like that again. 

A gypsy woman who like Frau Florian used to visit my grandmother.
I don't know her name but her face is unforgettable..
(c) Photo Gottlieb Property-Familienbesitz Gottlieb

In the weeds to her right, an empty beer keg lay on its side. The words Eulen Hof – Owl Farm had been painted on its circular belly. It marked the entrance to the settlement. The familiar smells of wood smoke, wild garlic and herbs drew her forward. She’d never been to the camp when there wasn’t a pot of stew on the stove.
  Near the edge of the encampment, she caught sight of a sturdy mare, with gorgeous tufts on her lower legs. The mare snorted.
  “You’re a good guard dog, Tsura,” laughed Manya.

I don't have a photo of Tsura, the loyal, devoted gypsy mare.
However , this mare has a lovely face, so sweet and gentle
and she lived during that time in East Prussia.
She's a good stand-in, I think.
(c) Photo Gottlieb Property-Familienbesitz Gottlieb

  Within seconds, a young man waved from behind an upturned cart, the large metal cufflinks in his jacket sparkling in the sunlight.
  “Hello Harman,” she smiled.
  “Mistress von Falken,” he called to her teasingly. “Is it Big Man Karas’s son, Joshi, who brings you here? Or is it his wife?”
  Hearing Joshi's name, Manya blushed.
  “His wife, sir,” she replied quickly, relieved to see Vavara’s curvy figure coming down the muddy path.

See you next time. As always, thanks for visiting this blog.
– Marina Gottlieb Sarles

(c) All content and photos are the private property of the Gottlieb family, unless otherwise stated or linked,  and may not be used without permission.
(c) Privatbesitz Gottlieb Familie

Friday, July 15, 2011

Publishing, Passages and the Process

Hi  everyone! I am in the throes of editing my manuscript for The Last Daughter of Prussia. Deadlines are coming up with the publisher and so you can imagine that I am busy with edits, but also very excited. The process is an interesting one. 

I know this book inside out. However, now when I return to it after having left it alone for a few months, I still find things to add to enhance a characters emotional experience and at the same time there are words I must take away to make the sentence more meaningful. It really is a line by line process, time consuming to say the least, but hopefully this final honing will give the book its clarity and shine.

The garden temple situated on my grandparents estate by the Angerapp River in East Prussia
What a place that would have been to write and edit a novel!
(c) Photo Gottlieb Property-Familienbesitz Gottlieb

  In these past months while I have been away from the book, I have spent time thinking about what to write in my blog. I always want to give you, my reader, insights into that era during WW2 when East Prussia was evacuated and believe me there are many I still want to share with you. However, I'm feeling the dilemma of time - there never seems to be enough of it in a day, yet I want to stay in touch with you.  

So... I have decided to share little passages from the book while I'm editing as naturally these pieces are already written. I sincerely hope that the excerpts and photos I post will peak your interest and entice you to read the the novel when it is published. 

My grandfather, Baron Walter von Sanden
I have taken the liberty of loosely basing the baron in The Last Daughter on his character.
My grandfather was good man, kind, compassionate and close to nature in spirit.
He wrote many books about East Prussia. I often feel him with me when I write.
(c) Photo Gottlieb Family
 Short Excerpt from The Last Daughter of Prussia:
The baron’s upper lip ticked.
  “Just yesterday a Nazi official from Angerburg came to see me,” he hissed. “One of governor, Erich Koch’s underlings.” He dropped his voice to a whisper and glanced into the garden, making sure no one could hear. “I told him we must begin transporting our people to safety.” He pointed out over the railing,  frenzy darting in his eyes. “I asked him why our women and children have been prohibited from leaving for the west when the Russians are right on our doorstep. They won’t think twice about killing young children. They’ll shoot our horses. They’ll eat them.”
  “What did he say?” asked Manya.
  “He screamed at me. Warned me never to question the Führer. I’ve never encountered such fanaticism. He told me that if I attempt to take my family and flee East Prussia, I’ll be considered a traitor to the German Reich, and we’ll all be shot.”
  “You can’t listen to him,” Manya insisted. “Winter is coming. We must leave before the cold sets in. Blacksmith Helling says it’s going to be a harsh winter. If we don’t leave soon, we’ll never get out in time!”

Forester Hellwig who cared for the forest on my grandparents' estate in
Guja, East Prussia.I feel him with me too when I write.
It's as if he tells me about the forest, the herds of elk that swam in the rivers
 and the birds that serenaded the sky .
 (c) Photo Gottlieb Family

East Prussia in early autumn before my family and my characters fled.
(c) Photo Gottlieb Property

East Prussia in winter. This is what the house in Guja looked like when they left.
They knew they would never see it again.
(c) Gottlieb Property

Thank you for taking the time. I'll be back with more soon.
– Marina Gottlieb Sarles

c) All content and photos are the private property of the Gottlieb family, unless otherwise stated or linked,  and may not be used without permission.
(c) Privatbesitz Gottlieb Familie

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Prologue Part 3 - The Last Daughter of Prussia

  This is the final part of the prologue which will be published in my upcoming novel The Last Daughter of Prussia.

My great-grandmother Magdalene von Sanden at her home in East Prussia.
She was a true daughter of the land, deeply spiritual in the sense of being connected to all things,
nature in particular.
Photo (c) Gottlieb Property–Familienbesitz Gottlieb

I went back to search for the estate home (now Poland) and found her grave hidden in the forest.
 It is quite amazing that the headstone is still standing after all this time.
Photo (c) Marina Gottlieb Sarles
  I hope what I have written in the first two sections of the prologue helps the reader understand the turmoil of those final winter months of WW2. As my research unfolded, I realized that I had to write a love story – one that was set in this tumultuous time and gave expression to the agony and inspiration that lovers from different ethnic backgrounds experienced. I wanted to include their triumphs and tragedies as well as those of their families. And how could I leave out the Trakehner horses whose determination on the trek was the purest expression of courage and love?

Pythagoras a famous Trakehner sire prior to WW2

  I wanted to make the story interesting for readers who perhaps wouldn’t read history books and who might lump all Germans together without sympathy for the plight of the East Prussians.

East Prussians fleeing on the great trek

  Having said that, I must confess that despite all the digging up of facts I did, the book often wrote me. Many nights, I encountered ghosts hovering by my bedside, their silent voices imploring me to bring their story to paper. I’m a writer but I have also dedicated many years of my life to the healing arts. I find it possible to walk the threshold between reality and the spirit world. However, for this book, my intention was to stay grounded in factual details.

Nevertheless, the ghosts came. Looking into my dreams with hollow eyes, they urged me to view the columns of starving women dragging their children through the snow. I saw babies frozen to death in carriages, old men shivering by the wayside, hearts so broken at the thought of leaving their land, that they could not take another step forward. I heard the whine of bombers, the blasts of artillery and guns and I watched the horses falter and fall on bloodstained fields of ice. Each time I awoke, I found myself feeling more and more obligated to remembering. I felt a moral responsibility to these people who never dared to speak of their ordeal because they were German. I felt the need to give a voice to those who could not talk about their vanished land because the memories were just too painful.

The crescent-shaped island in the middle of the Guja Lake, East Prussia.
It was a view they saw every day from their verandah
 but once they fled, the island was only a memory swept away on the tide of war.
Photo (c) Gottlieb Property - Familienbesitz Gottlieb
  I began to understand my grandmother and her dream to return home to East Prussia, the land of golden amber and green forests full of elk. In her heart she knew the dream would remain unfulfilled for as long as she lived. She would never stand by the sparkling Guja Lake and watch the swallows soar against the sapphire colored sky. The yellow wood anemones pearled in dew would droop low to the ground without her ever picking one again. When she turned to look up her house on the hill, the heavy oak door to the foyer would stay closed.

Yellow wood anemone painted by my grandmother Edith von Sanden
Photo (c)  Gottlieb Property - Familienbesitz Gottlieb

  Perhaps, her loss is justified in God’s eyes for in some miniscule way it helps maintain the balance on the scales of devastation where the corpses of genocide are piled high. But does the judgment that decrees, ‘Germans deserve every awful thing they got,’ lessen her loss? I think not.

  I honestly hope that the readers will not think I am diminishing the ungodly cruelty of the holocaust. I am profoundly aware of the atrocities committed by Germans against Jews and others who were murdered and forced into death camps. While researching the camps, I felt my own life force dwindle to a tortured breath. I felt the piercing shame and terror deep in the DNA of my own German bones. Still, at the risk of being condemned, I want to say that the people of East Prussia were also victims.

Photo (c) Christine Matthäi

  My grandmother has been dead a long time, but from her unseen place of refuge I still hear her whisper, “Tell the story so that others may know what happened. Tell it so that people remember and have compassion for anyone killed in hatred, prejudice and war. Tell it for the Jews, the Germans, the Roma gypsies – every slain tribe and forgotten soul, and for any unjustly slaughtered animal in the history of humanity. Tell it so that healing may happen in all hearts. I have done what she asked, to the best of my ability.

(c) All content and photos are the private property of the Gottlieb family, unless otherwise stated or linked,  and may not be used without permission.
(c) Privatbesitz Gottlieb Familie