This year the Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – are celebrating 100 years of independence with new translations of Baltic Books coming to the UK for the first time and a series of cultural events happening across the UK. The Baltics are also being honoured as the Market Focus at London Book Fair from the 10th-12th April, the biggest book trade event in the UK. I was delighted to be asked to a stop on the LBF Baltic Books Blog Tour. All the blogs on the tour have been paired with authors and books, and today I have two posts for you – a guest post by one author, and a review of a book by another.
First, I am delighted to present a guest post by Alvydas Šlepikas, a writer at home in many worlds, literature, theatre, film, TV and poetry; an actor, director, novelist, playwright and screenwriter.
His novel “Mano vardas – Marytė” (My name is Marytė) will be published by Oneworld later this year (titled In the Shadow of Wolves and translated by Romas Kinka). I shall hand you over to Alvydas to tell you about “The Wolf Children”…
Who Were the Wolf Children? By Alvydas Šlepikas
Although the Second World War ended years ago, there are still many untold stories associated with that conflict. One of these is the story of the ‘Wolf Children’.
Life was good in East Prussia (today the Kaliningrad District of Russia): the soil was fertile, people were hard-working, and families were large (the Third Reich needed its soldiers). As the war waged far to the East, women and children waited for letters from the front and continued about their lives as usual. But the war eventually engulfed them in a wave of bombardment and violence. Once the front had passed, people emerged from their cellars into a completely changed world of ruins, death, hunger and violence. People died from hunger in the streets and mothers told children bedtime stories about bread. Lithuanian farmers would cross the river Nemunas, selling their produce to hungry locals in exchange for whatever valuables they had left.
German children crossed into Lithuania to beg for bread and work as they were able, bringing home whatever they could get, gather or earn. Having found their way to Lithuania, the children never knew when they would come back or what they would find on their return – a mother succumbed to starvation, a sister tortured by drunken Soviets, or perhaps simply nothing – just the smouldering ruins of a once comfortable life.
Once in Lithuania, the children would walk from one farm to the next, sometimes finding shelter with a Lithuanian family willing to take in a German child at the risk of deportation to Siberia. As a precaution, Lithuanian farmers taught the German children to speak Lithuanian and gave them Lithuanian names. Some families took in the children as they would their own, but others saw them as a source of cheap labour.
In the Shadow of Wolves is based on the true stories told by surviving Wolf Children. It is a book about pain and hope. About a war that slithered past, like a giant snail, leaving behind a poisonous trail that sears the hearts of surviving Wolf Children to this day.