The Last Daughter of Prussia
Published by Wild River Books
When I was a child growing up in the Bahamas, my grandmother came to visit from Germany. One day, while we were building sandcastles on the beach, she paused to tell me about East Prussia – a place of great beauty where Trakehner horses pranced across dandelion meadows and elk herds swam in green rivers.
“Ost Preussen,” she said, with a soulful sigh.
Hearing the sadness in her voice, I glanced up sharply.
“Where is East Prussia?” I asked, as the sand slipped through her fingers.
“Gone, child. It vanished in the last bitter winter of World War 2.”
As I grew older I realized that East Prussia truly is a vanished land. Most people I’ve met, even educated ones, have never heard of it. They don’t know that the largest mass exodus of civilians ever recorded in history took place in that tiny province during the winter of 1944-45, just as the Russian Army was invading. An estimated 2.5 million women were raped. Many died – travesties that could have been avoided had Hitler allowed the East Prussians to evacuate earlier. But he refused, and between the threat of being shot as traitors and the dire warnings of a fast approaching Red Army, the East Prussians were trapped.
Finally, the people defied Hitler’s orders and fled their homes. Loading whatever of their lives they could fit into their carts, they marched in a long column through the snow, trekking across a frozen and treacherous part of the Baltic Sea, which was the only escape route open at the time.
Their story was never told. Why? Because in the face of all the atrocities committed by the Nazis, the East Prussian Germans were too ashamed to talk. Many felt their suffering was deserved. Perhaps too, the world did not want to know.
My grandparents were part of that great trek. Years later, after both of them had passed on, I found their diaries. As I huddled over those yellowed pages, poring through my grandmother’s crisp handwriting, I remembered our conversation on the beach. Ancestors have a strange way of calling the soul to a task. Urged on by voices from the past, I began to research my roots and write my latest novel –The Last Daughter of Prussia.
I wrote so that the story lying hushed in German bones could be heard. I wrote knowing that all of humanity needs to be held in the heart of compassion; every side of the truth must be told. Only then can healing occur. Only then can both the dead and the living find peace.
-Marina Gottlieb Sarles
Wild River Books published The Last Daughter of Prussia on April 2, 2013. To download a copy of The Last Daughter of Prussia Media Kit, click here.
Marina Gottlieb Sarles grew up in The Bahamas. Her stories draw inspiration from her childhood in the islands, where her parents who emigrated from East Prussia were the village doctor and nurse. Formally trained in Europe and the United States, Marina studied physical therapy and energy healing. A former faculty member of the Barbara Brennan School of Healing, she has conducted personal enrichment seminars in Japan, America, and The Bahamas. ESPN produced a special feature segment for their True Outdoor Adventures series based on her short story Peter and The Shark. Her short story, The Circumstantial Dentist, was published by Macmillan Caribbean in the collection, Under the Perfume Tree. She is a regular contributing writer of feature stories for Grand Bahama ISLAND Magazine, and a contributor to the online magazine, Wild River Review. After spending time abroad, Marina has returned to her roots in the northern Bahamas where she lives with her husband, James, and their son, Nikolai. She is currently completing a novel set in her family’s homeland, East Prussia, during WWII.