I read Mark Sullivan’s earlier “true story” – Book Review : Beneath a Scarlet Sky and was deeply moved by Pino Lella’s life story. I had chanced upon that book and similarly I chanced upon this one – The Last Green Valley. What a beautiful true story again !
This book is also from the same time period of WWII. We get to read about how a German family not only escapes the oppressive Stalin regime but also thrives. I never knew that several German families had relocated to Ukraine a 100 years before WWII. They were largely farmers who put Ukraine on the map as the bread basket for Russia.
I also didn’t know that Stalin had starved his own people unlike Churchill, who starved Indians and is responsible for the Bengal famine.
This book also reinforces many cardinal beliefs that Krishnan and I hold. For instance, we get troubles only when we can deal with them – Inconvenienced, When Convenient !. Similarly, the Universe being a large ordering system … ask and you shall receive. So the importance of believing in good things so that the Universe can bring them to you.
There is a hat tip to the Author Mark Sullivan’s time spent in India in Corporal Kumar’s character. Glad to see Sanatana Dharma working its way across the world, making it a better place to live.
The Last Green Valley – a summary
The novel starts in March 1944 when a young Emil and Adeline Martel have to make up their minds whether to risk staying in Ukraine or follow the Nazi officers who have pledged to protect them and other Germans.
Emil calls Stalin the bear and the Nazis as Wolves. They finally decide to make the “Long Trek” with the Nazi soldiers protecting the “pure blood” German caravan making their way from Ukraine to Germany through Romania. They are caught between the Soviet and Nazi armies, escape storms and bullets, and starvation.
Adeline’s mother Lydia and her elder sister Malia, Emil’s parents and his sister Rese join Emil, Adeline and their two young boys on the Long Trek.
Everyday on the trek, they bury somebody, sometimes more than 5 or 10 people die each day. In fact in a terrible accident, Emil’s sister Rese loses both her legs :(. Emil also meets the Nazi Captain turned Major Haussmann who had made him do the unthinkable in Dubossary, Moldova. The Martels endure all kinds of trials and tribulations till they reach Poland.
The Martels get a house to live in which was occupied by Jews and they get to wear clothes worn by the Jews. The same Jews that the Nazis had sent to the concentration camps. While both Emil and Adeline are deeply disturbed by this, they have little choice but to accept it and move on.
From Poland when they were just about to start for Germany, Soviet secret police captures Emil and he is marched off back to Ukraine. Adeline manages to reach East Germany with her sons. Her in-laws decide to go back to Ukraine and her mother and sister decide to stay back in Poland. Adeline keeps working at different places and finally manages to register about Emil with the International Red Cross.
Emil in the meantime escapes from his “work” prison and reaches the British occupied part of West Germany. He manages to get in touch with Adeline and they plan on how Adeline and the boys could escape to West Germany. Adeline often uses the phrase “The traveling Martels are off on another adventure”, throughout the book. The biggest adventure is how she and the boys cross over to West Germany and to freedom.
From West Germany the Martels finally make their way to the US and live long productive lives as free people. Adeline does find her Green Valley in Montana, just as she had seen in a picture book at her employer’s place.
You need to pinch yourselves at times to believe that this is a true story … the words may be the author’s but the story is true. A beautiful excerpt that sums up the Martels life story –
Mrs. Kantor’s advice to Adeline just before she marries Emil. “I have come to believe after eighty-one years on this earth that our job in life is to endure, to be kind, and to constantly put the past behind us and not dwell too much on the future. If you must look back, try to find the beauty and the benefit in every cruelty done to you. If you must think about the future, try to have no expectations about it….”
Highly recommend this book. It’s motivating and hugely inspiring. Do read.