31 Days Of Great Nonfiction Reads {Day 17} The Endless Steppe

The Endless Steppe: Growing Up in Siberia by Esther Hautzig. Day 17 of 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Books / Great Nonfiction Reads by The Deliberate ReaderThe Endless Steppe: Growing Up in SiberiaThe Endless Steppe: Growing Up in Siberia by Esther Hautzig. Day 17 of 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Books / Great Nonfiction Reads by The Deliberate Reader by Esther Hautzig

Technically a children’s book, this is still an excellent account of Hautzig’s childhood. I’ve read a lot of World War II memoirs, but this one takes a different approach; instead of facing the Nazis, the Polish Hautzig and her family were arrested and sent by the Soviets to the steppes of Siberia, accused of being capitalist enemies of the people.

For five years, Hautzig’s family struggles to survive in the cold and isolation as they are put to work in forced-labor camps. The details of their struggle are gripping, and bring to life their grueling experience.

There are a lot of children’s and young adult books on the topic of World War II, but very few that are focused on life under Russian oppression during and after the war. I’m very glad that I stumbled across this book to begin to fill in this often neglected area of history.

Publisher’s Description:
In June 1942, the Rudomin family is arrested by the Russians. They are “capitalists — enemies of the people.” Forced from their home and friends in Vilna, Poland, they are herded into crowded cattle cars. Their destination: the endless steppe of Siberia.
For five years, Ester and her family live in exile, weeding potato fields and working in the mines, struggling for enough food and clothing to stay alive. Only the strength of family sustains them and gives them hope for the future.

31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads

For another account of growing up in Stalinist Russia (but written for adults), try And the Winds Blew Cold: Stalinist Russia As Experienced by an American EmigrantAnd the Winds Blew Cold: Stalinist Russia As Experienced by an American Emigrant. It’s an amazing account of an idealistic American family that emigrated to Russia in 1931s, only to be disillusioned by what life was really like under communism. I only chose not to highlight it as the featured book because it can be hard to find in libraries, and while it is still in print and available, it’s pricey.

To see all the books featured in 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads, go to the series page.

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Comments

  1. I actually know very little of the Russian side of WWII. I think because I grew up in Europe and the remnants of the war were very visible I have a pretty good understanding of the Nazi/European front. But both the Japanese and Russian parts are a little sketchier for me. I love reading children’s books, too 🙂

    • I definitely think you should read this one then, or at least give it a try. It’s fairly common to find it in libraries so you should be able to find it. I’ve got one coming up later that focuses on the Japanese front, although it’s not a children’s book. If you ever want more suggestions though, I’ve read a ton of WWII-focused books, both adult & kids, from all different perspectives.

  2. I enjoy reading historical accounts from the “opposite” side (ie, a British take on the Revolutionary War). May look at this one. Sounds interesting.

    • It’s such a short, easy read (especially compared to the last two days). Not that the topic is easy, but the way it’s handled is appropriate for the target age I think.

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