Vera

“Vera” is a memoir written by the title subject’s son, Michael Socha, Jr., from Vera Socha’s perspective. Vera was the firstborn child to Vasili and Maria Samoylenko, in 1926, in the village of Podovoye, in southern Ukraine.

The book starts out with stories from Vera’s childhood and young adult life in Ukraine. The family’s life drastically changes with the spread of communism. Then, with the coming of WWII. The story telling chronologically follows her life. Eventually, Vera was taken from her family and forced to work in Germany.

With the end of the war, Vera found herself as an immigrant in Duluth. There, she settled with her husband and they started a family.

Finally, with her children grown, Vera eventually found her way back home where she was able to hold her mother, sisters, friends and family.

Vera is still living in Duluth.

The author’s introduction explains why he wrote this book of his mother’s memories. Although, what she experienced was not uncommon in Eastern Europe at the time, few have been able to pass these memories onto the world. With Vera’s increasing age, Michael Jr. knew someone needed to write down her story.

I loved this book — it was amazing! I couldn’t put it down but wanted to take it slow to savor the stories. With the divisions of the chapters, it was easy to pick up and put down with a toddler running around the house.

Growing up, I knew about WWII because my Grandpa Ryan was a glider pilot. I always saw that war through his eyes and the American perspective. As a child reading Anne Frank’s diary, I was able to understand the plights of Jewish people and those in concentration camps.

Never before have I heard the story of everyday men and women stuck inside Communism — this seems simple but it is true. Through “Vera” I was able to experience life under Communism, a different perspective to WWII and life in Eastern Europe.

The book is written in chapters, but each chapter is divided after each memory. The text is easy to read and would be appropriate reading for those learning about the topic in school.

While reading, I felt like a relative to Vera. A family tree is provided and family photos and Vera’s art is scattered throughout the book. When I finally put down the book, I so wanted to call and talk with her to continue our conversation.

I must admit that several of the ladies in my book club passed along my copy. They all enjoyed it and have insisted it be read by the group this year.

I am the third or fourth person to read this copy and I am so impressed with the quality of the book’s material. It is a paperback book but the spine shows no lines and the cover isn’t bent — even though I curled it back while reading.

The only “negative” comment was from one lady who said she didn’t like the violence. My view is that it isn’t gruesome but stated as a fact — it was a fact of her life and it receives the attention it deserves without overshadowing the rest of the book.

I am a very sensitive person when it comes to violence and am selective of my reading. I believe the violence discussed in “Vera” is handled in an appropriate manner, as is the whole book, and would say it would be fine for a child to read.

With that being said, I think this should be required reading in schools. The quality of the cover’s material means that it would last for several years, even with the rough use of school-aged students. This would be a great book to read and discuss with your children or alone. It is sure to spark lively conversation in my book club, and hopefully their stories.

For myself, I have a long list of family members and friends to whom I want to send copies of this book. I want to send it to Martina in the Czech Republic and ask if this is what her family experienced. I want to send it to my Aunt Kate and dad to discuss the minute details of WWII. I want to send it to Marlen, a refugee from Iraq and now American citizen. It would be at her reading level and might teach her about where I live, so close to Duluth.

But most of all, I want to talk with my Grandpa Ryan who passed away over a year ago. I want to say thank you. You didn’t always know how big the fight you were fighting was. Thank you for persisting.

I plan to keep a copy at home to read with my children.

“Vera” is available for sale from the author, at www.amazon.com, Fitger’s and The Lyric Center for the Arts. The cost is $19.99 and well worth the price.

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