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Secret letters lead to surprising discovery


I’m starting this New Year with a strange sense of loss. Just about every day for the last 12 months I’ve headed into my office and wept, laughed and agonized as I wrote my memoir, The Golden Daughter.


It’s based on my discovery, after she died, of my mother's secret letters. I learned my mother was part of 12 million people who were forced into slavery by the Nazis. The stories of these WW2 slaves, many of them called Ostarbeiters, (workers from the East), have been mostly forgotten. 


In my book I write about their resilience, the inter-generational trauma unleashed by their suffering, mother-daughter relationships, and the power of forgiveness and love. These are the lessons I learned from my mother’s secret letters.


But after I sent my manuscript to my editor at the House of Anansi Press in Toronto, I felt depressed. A friend said, “Halina, you’ve given birth to a book and now you have postpartum blues.” How true.


My editor said, “I’ll get to your manuscript in deep 2024.” I don’t know what that means exactly, but I suspect it will involve waiting. Much waiting. And patience is not one of my virtues.


But optimism is. I got over feeling blue when I realized 2023 has been an incredible year - finding my father and his family, discovering his family is rooted in Polish nobility, plus finishing my book. 


There were so many discoveries as I researched my mother's story. And the greatest find has been writing. The author James Baldwin wrote, “ The terrible thing about being a writer is that you don’t decide to become one, you discover you are one.”


I have discovered I am one. Writing fills me with joy. So I will continue writing in 2024. Writing what? Well, I suspect it will start in Poland where I will be going in May to meet my noble Polish family. 


Another journey of discovery beckons. I'm excited.

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