Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Sweeping Saga of Love & War

The Last Daughter of Prussia

"Well-rendered, keenly felt, and quite vivid.
Sarles adapted her novel from the real-life experience
of her grandparents,
and readers will appreciate the
characters' quiet heroism
and be intrigued by this affecting tale of WWII."

—Publishers Weekly

This picture was taken in the bitter winter of 1945 when thousands of refugees 
defied Hitler's evacuation orders and fled across the only escape route open.
Many did not make it to safety in the west.

A vivid, riveting book that captures the intense human dramas
of love and family, persecution and rape
amidst a chilling WWII winter where
the last hope of escape becomes a narrow lagoon
of rapidly melting ice...
One of the most moving animal stories ever written—
the writing is as sure-footed as the peerless race of East Prussian
Trakehner horses who trekked through snow and
falling bombs to save their owners' lives,
and their rare breed from extinction.

—Patricia Clough, Author
The Flight Across the Ice

About the Novel:

Germany, in the winter of 1945. Hitler's Reich is crumbling. The Russian army is advancing, hell-bent on revenge for the atrocities committed by the Nazis in Stalingrad and other cities. The quiet province of East Prussia sits in the middle of it all. The Prussians have no choice now but to flee against Nazi orders—an act punishable by death—or risk being butchered, the women raped to death by invading soldiers.

This is the story of two families caught in the eye of this catastrophic hurricane, one of East Prussian nobility, the other Romani Gypsies, and the unlikely love between Manya von Falken, a beautiful, courageous heroine and Joshi Karas, a Gypsy, brilliant and passionate, who has crossed incredible barriers to study medicine until he is sent to a concentration camp.

While Manya and her family take part in the "Great Trek" west with two of their famed Trakehner horses who must lead them across a large, dangerous frozen lagoon, along with thousands of refugees, Joshi must find a way to survive and reunite with his soul mate.

The story is based on true events passed down to me by my grandparents who were survivors on the Great Trek out of East Prussia—a tragic, historical moment, rarely discussed.

A Welcome to My Blog Readers:

Author Marina Gottlieb Sarles
with a portrait of her great great grandmother
photo courtesy Christine Matthäi
Thank you so much for visiting this blog which was created while I was writing my novel—The Last Daughter of Prussia. The posts cover what inspired me to write the book. I share a lot of history about what actually happened in East Prussia during 1945 when the Russians were invading. I felt called to give a voice to the some three million women who were raped by the invading army and who felt they never had a right to talk about the violence because they were German.

Further, I wanted the Roma Gypsies, so unique in their ethnicity, to be remembered as millions of them were murdered by Hitler in yet another Holocaust—a Forgotten One. 

Finally, I wanted to honor the famous Trakehner horses whose determination on the "Great Trek" was the purest expression of courage, love and selflessness. Without their help hundreds of thousands of civilians would not have escaped.

I believe our world is crying out for healing and although we must NEVER forget what happened in the Jewish Holocaust, we must also recognize that peace will not be possible until ALL suffering is brought to light, and ALL the broken souls—be they human or animal—are  able to tell their side of the story while being held in the heart of compassion. I hold this same space in my heart for the millions of people in our world who have been forced to flee their beloved homeland to escape death, torture and persecution. 

Although The Last Daughter was written as a novel, the story is based on actual events. Much of the information was passed down to me by my grandparents, Walter and Edith von Sanden—survivors of the "Great Trek." Other parts of the story were handed to me by ghosts I encountered hovering by my bedside at night while I slept, imploring me to bring threads of their lives to the tapestry of the tale. All of it has been extensively researched and though the characters are fictional, my intention was to stay grounded in factual details.

There are lots of photos in this blog. They are all real. Many were taken by my grandfather. Some I found on the internet and have taken the liberty of using them. Thank you to whoever took them.  You'll also see photos by my talented friend and photographer, Christine Matthäi.

There are various posts about my family lineage—East Prussian and Lenape Indian, as well as reflections on my inner landscapes as a writer. There are posts about the Roma Gypsies, the Trakehners and the amazing horse farm—The City of Horses—where they were bred. Some posts address the characters that inspired the book and the publishing process. Others will take you to my life in The Bahamas—the islands where I was blessed to grow up as my parents immigrated there. 

Take your time, dear reader, to peruse whatever calls you. My hope is that you gain insight into the vanished world of East Prussia and the heart of its people.

The book can be found on Amazon.

Thank you. Enjoy. And please, please I would love to hear from you—feel free to write to me and let me know your thoughts.

In peace and with blessings,


Marina visiting a Trakehner in Poland
near what was her grandparents' estate in East Prussia.