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How did you have the idea for Ludwika?
I was contacted by Ludwika’s family to help them with their ancestry research. I learned a lot about the woman through contact with her children and through the documents my sister and I came across. My sister suggested I could make this into a novel but I was not convinced. Re-telling a life story seemed like painting by numbers.
The tragedy of Ludwika’s life, however, stuck with me the longer I engaged with it. The gaps in our knowledge about her life continued to bother me and eventually I felt the story within the story.
You could say I fell in love with a woman so devoted to her children and so full of determination.
What is the tragedy of Ludwika’s life?
Ludwika was one of many Eastern Europeans uprooted by Hitler’s and Stalin’s policies. She was taken from her home and forced to work in Germany all through the war. She was separated from her loved ones and lived in constant fear; the end of the war then brought some more tough choices for her.
While many argue that these so-called Ostarbeiters were lucky (since they were neither Jewish, nor interned in Auschwitz), their lives were destroyed by what happened to them. Poland is a victim of the war, too. Even though its fate pales in comparison to others, this isn’t really a contest. There are some heart-breaking stories to be shared.
What are the gaps in your knowledge about Ludwika?
Without ruining the reading experience and giving away what is ‘entertaining plot’, documents and Red Cross Research have confirmed Ludwika’s location at different times. How she ended up there hasn’t always been possible to determine. There are also some family secrets that Ludwika chose not to share with her children before her untimely death.
What is your aim with this novel?
I want to share the story of a remarkable and courageous woman, to honour her and those who have suffered badly throughout and after WW2. Many of their hardships are often belittled or even denied, which is a disgrace.
Most of all, however, I hope that people who knew Ludwika in Poland or Germany are still alive and can connect with her descendants. The family have lost touch with Ludwika’s Polish relatives and would like to re-connect. They would also love to meet people who shared Ludwika’s fate in Germany, either where she worked or where she stayed after the war was over.
Please tell us about the book.
It’s World War II and Ludwika Gierz, a young Polish woman, is forced to leave her family and go to Nazi
Germany to work for an SS officer. There, she must walk a tightrope, learning to live as a second-class citizen in a world where one wrong word could spell disaster and every day could be her last. Based on real events, this is a story of hope amid despair, of love amid loss . . . ultimately, it’s one woman’s story of survival.
Please share an Editorial Review with us:
“This is the best kind of fiction—it’s based on the real life. Ludwika’s story highlights the magnitude of human suffering caused by WWII, transcending multiple generations and many nations.
WWII left no one unscarred, and Ludwika’s life illustrates this tragic fact. But she also reminds us how bright the human spirit can shine when darkness falls in that unrelenting way it does during wartime.
This book was a rollercoaster ride of action and emotion, skilfully told by Mr. Fischer, who brought something fresh and new to a topic about which thousands of stories have already been told.”