Laura Starink studied Slavic languages and culture in Amsterdam and worked for the Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad for almost thirty years, among other things as a member of the editorial board and a correspondent in Moscow. She wrote two books about Russia: Een land van horen zeggen (A Land of Hearsay, 1991) and De Russische Kater (The Russian Hangover, 2008). For De schaduw van de grote broer (In the Shadow of Big Brother, 2015) Starink travelled to Letland, Russia, Poland and Ukraine in search of stories from the Second World War, observing how history still reverberates in the former empire and how the new war in Ukraine started. The book was nominated for the annual Dutch Libris History Prize. Duitse wortels. Mijn familie, de oorlog en Silezië (German Roots: My Family, the War and Silesia, 2013), about the fortunes of Starink’s mother and aunts during the Second World War, has been translated into German. De schaduw van de grote broer and Duitse wortels were nominated for numerous literary prizes.
Weissbooks Verlag, 2015
Translated by Marianne Holberg, Waltraud Hüsmert
Original title: Duitse wortels (Atlas Contact, 2013)
German title: Meine Mutter aus Mikultschütz
When she was young, the war was never a topic of conversation at the dinner table. “You wouldn’t understand,” her German mother, Eleanor, would say. She came from a mining town in Silesia, but left for Switzerland in 1944 after contracting tuberculosis. In January 1945 the Russians arrived. For the family who had remained in Silesia, that’s when the war really began. Fourteen million Germans were expelled from eastern Germany. Her parents died, her brother and sisters stayed in Poland for another five years. She herself married a Dutchman. Fifty years later, Laura Starink returned to the Heimat with her mother. Then came the stories: about growing up in Nazi Germany, fleeing the Russians, her parents’ death, her sister’s internment in Auschwitz.