Twelve year old Nadia Kravchuk arrives in Canada in 1950, confused and afraid. She is travelling with the only person she knows, Marusia who calls herself her mother. They have spent the past 5 years in a D.P. (Displaced Persons) camp in Austria. Once they arrive in Canada, Marusia and Nadia travel by train from Halifax, NS to Brantford, ON where they are met by Marusia's husband, Ivan. Ivan has purchased land and is building a house for them so they can start a new life together.
For Nadia, it is all so overwhelming. Nadia remembers almost nothing about her past. As she settles into life in Brantford and becomes accustomed to living in a city without bombed-out buildings, Nadia begins experiencing troubling nightmares and flashbacks. These fragmented memories are often triggered by familiar sensations such as smells, tastes and even visual reminders.
When Nadia starts attending classes at Central School in Brantford, she is taunted by classmates who call her "Hitler Girl" and believe she is a Nazi. Because of this, Nadia experiences shame and guilt because her memories are incomplete and seem to suggest a past that includes Nazi rallies, Hitler, black limosines with swatika flags and a family she doesn't really know. This causes Nadia to begin to question who she really is and to try to remember her past. Who is she? Will she ever remember?
The reader gradually learns the answers to these questions along with Nadia through flashbacks which appear as italicized text in Stolen Child. The flashbacks are done realistically because they often lead to more questions.
Skrypuch has written a touching novel about a very unusual and not well-known aspect of Nazi Germany - the Lebensborn program. Meaning Fount of Life, the Lebensborn program initially focused on having German people produce Aryan children but was eventually expanded to include the poaching of blond blue-eyed children from other ethnic groups, especially Poland and the Ukraine. It is estimated that at least 250,000 children from these two countries alone were stolen. These children underwent a rigorous physical assessment and if they passed they were placed with German families to be raised as Germans.
What makes Stolen Child so effective is that it tells two stories; that of "Nadia" in 1950 trying to adapt to life as a new immigrant and that of "Nadia" the child struggling to survive the destruction of her family in war-torn Europe. Skrypuch accurately portrays the trauma Nadia has experienced; it's obvious to the modern reader that this child is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Marsha Skrypuch succeeds in educating young reader's about one aspect of the Nazi eugenics program, all the while telling a great story.
Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch is an exceptional children's author. Based out of Brantford Ontario, she has written numerous historical fiction books focusing on situations involving people marginalized by society as well those relating to the Ukraine.
To learn more about the Lebensborn program check out the Jewish Virtual Library
Stolen Child by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
Toronto: Scholastic Canada Ltd 2011