In August 1939, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact in Moscow to divide Poland between them. In The Polish Girl (“La niña polaca”), Mónica Rojas tells the story of Ania’s family, deported from their native village of Komarno, in eastern Poland, to a Siberian gulag. Suddenly everything they had known, all the rituals of life, a happy and intimate environment, are lost and replaced by hunger, forced labour and death. Ania turns 15 on the train that takes them to Siberia, where they spend almost two years felling and stripping trees in winter, working in temperatures as low as minus forty degrees, sleeping in barracks where no one knows if the person sleeping next to them will survive the night, and always exposed to the violence and malice of the guards.
It was in this hell that Ania meets again the image of Cezlaw, her first love, dissipated between reality and imagination. And where she meets the serene Olga, an old woman enslaved in the gulag, who spends her days telling stories and reciting poems. Thanks to these two people, Ania is able to endure life until the liberation of the Poles following the amnesty signed at the leather and mahogany desks of the world’s leaders.
And now? And afterwards?
After crossing deserts and oceans, Ania and her family find a new homeland: Mexico. What does Poland have to do with Mexico? For them, everything and nothing. More than eight decades later, Ania and the Polish survivors of the gulag give voice to those who did not survive, to those who lost their homeland forever. And they convey a vital and hopeful message: a new homeland, a new future, can be found by preserving the memory of that loss.