Book review by Carol Just
Kreiser, Maria. Though my Soul More Bent: Memoir of a Soviet German. Edited and Translated from German by James T. Gessele. Bismarck, North Dakota: Germans from Russia Heritage Society, 2003
Maria Kreiser's memoir of her mother, Magdalena Hecker, is the story of the children of the Germans in Russia who opted to stay on the Steppes when their wandering peers immigrated to America. This fifty-year odyssey is not a journey for the faint of heart. Magdalena leads the reader through famine and collectivization, German occupation and the Great Trek to Poland. As a teen, Magdalena lets her instinct lead the way from Poland to Germany only to be caught in the crossfire of war during the final weeks of bombing in Brandenburg. During the months of flight, her account is counterbalanced with amazing twists of fate and occasional acts of kindness from strangers. Magdalena emerges as an incredibly resilient young woman. Ever practical and gifted with an amazing will and determination, Magdalena battles her own demons and describes the next decades of life for "repatriated" Germans trying to survive in the Urals. Magdalena's story doesn't suffer in translation because James Gessele's work is flawless. This sobering account of a family's journey connects the reader with the voice of one who witnessed and survived the unthinkable. Her soul was bent, but did not break. Magdalena's inner strength and determination to give her children the opportunity to realize their purpose as human beings on this earth sustained her on the journey and as she said, "Who could estimate the value of that?"