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Last Witness: An Oral History of the Children of WWII

Last Witnesses - Svetlana Alexievich
These stories lives came with a punch, they struck viciously against my heart as I read them. To think that all of these individuals were children, innocent little people, who did nothing yet they received such a life-altering experience, that still haunts them today. I didn’t and I couldn’t read this book, all in one sitting. From the beginning, I wanted to appreciate each chapter: each individual’s situation and account. Upon reading, I realized that this is not a book that I could read straight through. The emotions and the energy in each of their stories lives, makes it a book that needs space.
 
From the voices of Russian children, we hear their side of what occurred to them during WWII. From a few pages to up to six pages, they tell us what they remembered. The children were affected in a variety of ways by the war: many had to leave their homes, some watched their fathers leave to fight in the war hence leaving them with lots of questions running through their minds, some children had to prepare for the war themselves and some even tried to stay in their own homes while the war ragged outside. They told their account and it was translated but the tone and the feelings are still in the words on the page. It’s as if these survivors were sitting with me, telling me how they reacted to a world that had turned upside down on them.
 
I could tell you about many of the individuals in this book as every story life in this book is worth mentioning. Their stories are different but every single one of them, are forever changed. How many times I read the word, “Mama!” I cannot count them all. How many times I read, “I was hungry,” I cannot count them all. How many times I read about death, how it had become part of these children’s regular, daily schedule, I cannot count them all.
 
There was Marlen, age 11, who is now a member of a town council. Marlen remembers always being hungry while living in the orphanage. He remembers needing to be first in line or you might not get anything to eat. With it being -20 degrees outside, Marlen takes off his hat and had a soldier ladle some soup into his hat instead of finding a metal tin. Marlen quickly runs back to the orphanage. He now has frostbite on his ears but he has supplied frozen soup to everyone there. Now, this adventure puts a smile on my face.
 
This is a book worth reading. I enjoyed this book and I appreciate the individuals who shared their stories lives with me.