The Last Green Valley

The Last Green Valley
Published: 2021-05-04

Fleeing one dictatorial, evil regime to live under another dictatorial, evil regime.  Trying to decide whether life is worse as an ethnic German under Adolf Hitler or a native Russian under Josef Stalin, a family will go to desperate lengths to stay together and survive some of the darkest years of world history.

The Martel family, with German ancestry but Russian ties, knew that their lives in Ukraine were doomed as Stalin’s forces moved in to occupy the area.  They had a choice to make; they could stay and continue farming under the control of Stalin who was famous for spying on, starving, and murdering his own people, or they could flee and claim their German lineage to live under Hitler who, up until the summer of 1944 seemed to be unstoppable in his military victories and territorial takeovers.  With heavy and reluctant hearts, they packed up everything they owned and joined a wagon train of Ukranian refugees to attempt survival under the watchful eyes of the German SS rather than the equally evil Soviet regime.  Their journey to German territory was nothing short of unbelievable, horrifying and, yet, truly inspiring.  Just when you think they can’t endure another atrocity on their quest for freedom, another unthinkable thing happens to them, and they must somehow muster up enough strength to overcome the newest obstacle.  They know they are better together, but staying together might get them all killed.

Why I read it:  Recommendation in a Facebook book group

Trigger warnings: language, rape, violence, young death

This book is based on a true story, so I was automatically intrigued.   After I finished, I ended up Googling the family and went down a rabbit hole for the next few hours reading about them.  I have not read as much in this genre about the Soviet side of World War II, so I always feel like I learn something new when I read about this subject.  The author does such a good job telling their real story and not adding anything.  It made me incredibly grateful for basic freedoms that we enjoy and never think twice about.  This is such an incredible story, and I could not recommend it more.

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