Stalin’s Feisty Guest
Felicia, her husband Simon, and their little son Teddy, enjoy life in Poland until nineteen thirty-nine when conscription takes Simon into the battlefield and Felicia and Teddy leave for the neutral city of Lvov, Poland. Unfortunately, the safe haven experience in Lvov is short-lived when Soviet troops arrest her and Teddy, and the two are transported to a prisoner work camp in the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan. For the next six years, Felicia’s only goal is to save her child from war. Felicia’s determination for her and Teddy to not remain as Stalin’s guests becomes a reality when Hitler breaks a non-aggression treaty in 1941. His blunder results in an astonishing, as well as highly uncommon, moment in World War II history: granting amnesty to the Polish prisoners.
Marjorie Hope shines a light on an unprecedented moment in Europe’s dark history in her debut memoir. Although filled with “a bit of embellishment to make the stories more lively and readable,” Hope presents an authentic retelling of her mother-in-law’s WWII survival experiences while raising a young child in the Soviet work camps, as well as their transition into everyday life after their release. While the underlying theme of Felicia’s stories earmark her determined spirit and her refusal to succumb to Stalin’s authority, Hope highlights doctors who helped Felicia and Teddy get through times of emotional and physical sickness. Top on that list is Felicia’s invaluable friendship with Polish doctor and fellow camp prisoner, Dr. Anna.
Hope’s writing style resembles the oral traditions of storytelling in its basic format of information, punctuated by dramatic dialogue. While sticking to the facts surrounding Felicia and Teddy’s lives, Hope keeps her third-person narrative constantly moving with a balanced combination of short chapters and aptly laced photographs. Closing on an uplifting note, Stalin’s Feisty Guest is not only a remarkable story, but also is a significant addition to WWII history.