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From Gulag to Freedom

From Gulag to Freedom: the Volga Flows Forever ~ Book Three

By Sigrid Weidenweber

Center for Volga German Studies at Concordia University, Portland, Oregon, 2009, 425 pages, hardcover.

Catherine: The Volga Flows Forever, Book One

The Volga Germans: The Volga Flows Forever, Book Two


In my darkest hours, when worry and despair about the future of my family blankets my soul, I hear my father's voice, giving me hope. On the day they dragged him to the gulag, he had looked at my mother with courage in his eyes, and said, "We are eternal; our faith, like the Volga, flows forever."

The heroine of this powerful work, Katya, is a bright, energetic and resourceful Volga German girl, a worthy descendant of those first pioneers of the steppe we learned to know in the second volume. Katya is free to reveal, through her feminine creator, thoughts and circumstances often hidden to men. Sigrid artfully illuminates dress, colors, textures, foods and challenges as Katya embarks upon an adventurous escape from a gulag on the arctic tundra.

From Gulag to Freedom is the third volume in Sigrid Weidenweber’s trilogy "The Volga Flows Forever." Catherine, the first volume, brings to life the fascinating historical character of Catherine the Great who invited her native countrymen to settle the Russian frontier. The Volga Germans, the second volume, continues the story of the German immigrants and their descendants who civilized the bleak Russian frontier of the lower Volga River Valley. They survived an unpredictable and often harsh climate and the vagaries of tsarist edicts to build a culture that was uniquely their own.

About the Author

Born in Germany in 1941, Sigrid Weidenweber remembers firsthand the horrific aftermath of fascism. At the end of the war, she found herself living under communism. Both of these totalitarian regimes left indelible marks on her psyche. After the Berlin Wall was built, she finally escaped this repressive environment with the help of friends and a French passport. Sigrid holds degrees in medical technology and psychology. Her first book, Escaping the Twilight, deals with aspects of medical anthropology in an Islamic culture. Her wide range of interests led to the writing of the trilogy, The Volga Flows Forever. She has been married 44 years, has two children and two adorable grandsons. They live on a mountaintop outside Portland, Oregon, with a panoramic view of the Cascades.

Comments about the book:

"People everywhere have heard of the illustrious Catherine the Great. Now readers will learn about the indomitable Katharina Grushova and how her engrossing story mirrors the sorrows and struggles of the Volga German people. This third book in 'The Volga Flows Forever' trilogy is masterfully and superbly done."
Timothy J. Kloberdanz
North Dakota State University

"This is a searing portrait of individual determination in the face of overwhelming political and social forces. Weidenweber vividly conveys the reality of life in Stalin's USSR, the tragedy it inflicted, and the culture shock of encountering the Western capitalist world in the aftermath of the Second World War."
Brian J. Els
University of Portland

"Using a subtitle 'The indomitable Spirit of the Volga Germans' Sigrid Weidenweber weaves a narrative of the 'impossible' struggle the Germans in Russia endurred through the intended famine of the 1920s, the capricious and sadistic Stalin years of collectivization during the 1930s, deportation and imprisonment to the gulags in the 1940s, and to the riches of California in the 1950s–a beautiful, correct, thrilling exposé."
LaVern J. Rippley
St. Olaf College

"Weidenweber's accounts of Volga German suffering under the Soviets brings to life for the reader an often, and wrongly overlooked tragedy of the 20th century–the massive ethnic cleansing / genocide of non-Russian minorities in the USSR. For this reason alone the book is a valuable contribution to the growing literature on these subjects."
Jon David K. Wyneken
Grove City College

"This historical novel combines the essential elements of the gulag narrative–the innocent, enterprising Volga German family subjected to Bolshevik ignorance, exile, mind-numbing cold, followed by separation of family members–in the foreground of a childhood and adolescence lost. The reader will marvel at Katya's resilience and will find her an icon of the 'indomitable spirit' of the Volga Germans. It is an important tale, based upon irrefutable history and the author's close acquaintance with her topic."
Dona Reeves-Marquardt
Texas State University

From Gulag to Freedom

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