(Reviewed by JD Jung)
“Kiev was still burning and executions at Babi Yar continued, even though the river of condemned people had gradually dwindled to a creek. Not because the Germans relented, no. Because there was hardly anyone left to execute. “
September 1941 . Teenagers Natasha, Lisa and Nikolai Smirnova had no idea of the horrors that awaited their once peaceful city. Yes, the Nazis had bombed and attacked Kiev, but they were sure that the Red Army would push them back. Their grandparents had evacuated Lvov, Poland and joined them and their parents in their small apartment. Their older brother was fighting with the Soviet Army and Lisa was engaged to be married.
But despair set in as family and friends were taken away one by one by the Nazis to face a certain death. “Germans only” restaurants keep the Nazis and their women fed, while the rest of the Ukrainians starve. Do you work for the Germans in order to stay alive? “Nine out of ten will sell you for a piece of bread. The trick is not to confide in anyone.”
The only bright spot for Natasha was that she fell in love with a heroic Hungarian soldier. But the Hungarian troops were forced to fight alongside the Nazis. Would Natasha be considered a traitor by giving aid and comfort to the enemy?
Though the love stories in this novel were predictable as far as war stories go and too melodramatic for my taste, the human suffering of war seemed all too real. Savaged Lands is a gut wrenching historical novel that will tear you apart.
This is a must-read for all. We should never forget the horrors of WWII and the evil leaders and citizens involved. More importantly, we need to be reminded that this evil and corresponding suffering still exists in the world and we can’t sit back in apathy or denial and just let it happen.