My name is Marina Gottlieb Sarles. I would venture to say that although I currently reside in Grand Bahama, I am truly an Abaco girl at heart. Most Abaconians know me as “Mikki,” the youngest daughter of the late Dr Ejnar Gottlieb and his well-loved wife Owanta who both came to the Bahamas after WW2 as medical pioneers, taking care of the sick throughout the Abaco Cays, delivering countless babies and tending to any injured animal—potcake or parrot— that was brought to the old metal clinic that still stands in Marsh Harbour today and is now a community library.
As an author, I have written two books. The first—Sand in My Shoes—is a collection of short stories and authentic vignettes that paint, in words, pictures of what it was like growing up in the intimate island community of Marsh Harbour. My childish spirit blossomed on Abaco’s sun-kissed shores. A big-hearted woman known as “Mother Merle” Williams taught me important lessons about life while my adventures with dolphins and wild horses elicited a keen interest in nature and writing personal reflections. Abaco is really home for me. It is part of my soul. I love the island with its unforgettable reefs, blue holes and exotic smells, its kind and sometimes quirky people.
Recently, I published my second book—The Last Daughter of Prussia—a full-length historical novel that took seven years to complete. Had I known at the start what writing this book would entail, I might have had second thoughts. I spent many hours of each day researching WW2 and East Prussia where the novel is set. I delved into concentration camps, discovered what happened to the persecuted Romani Gypsies and followed the tragic fate of the famous Trakehner horses. The book is really about my mother—Owanta Gottlieb von Sanden’s—family. Searching for what really happened, I traveled back to find her home which is now in Poland as East Prussia vanished after the war. There is so much that occurred on this writing journey—strangers who appeared when I needed information—diaries of my grandfather that fell into my hands—dreams in which people handed me threads of history. All in all, it was an arduous journey but I am proud to say that the novel just won a Global E-Book award. I have been on speaking tours in libraries and other venues throughout the USA and will soon be traveling to Los Angeles to present the book to people in the television and film industry.
My novel, The Last Daughter of Prussia, published by Wild River Books chronicles through fiction the desperate final months of World War II in East Prussia. As Germany’s hold on East Prussia grows increasingly tenuous, a childhood friendship between Manya von Falken, the daughter of an aristocratic family, and Joshi Karas, a Romani doctor, blossoms into unlikely love. But the young lovers are torn apart. Captured by Nazis and sent to a concentration camp, Joshi fights for survival, while Manya and her family flee and embark on “The Great Trek” out of East Prussia.
Based on true stories passed down from my grandparents, both survivors of the trek, The Last Daughter of Prussia also tells the story of the brave Trakehner horses who led their owners across a dangerous frozen lagoon, the only open escape route.
Will the lovers find one another? For that you have to read the novel.
I wrote the book to bring consciousness to the untold stories that lie hushed in the bones of my ancestors and thus bring healing to my own lineage and to those who know the deep personal complications that result from loss of family homeland and the long-term legacies of war as well as the danger of generational silence and suppression. I believe that for healing to happen every side of every story must be told and held in the heart of compassion. My prayer while writing The Last Daughter of Prussia was to reveal a forgotten side of WW2 and shed light on:
—the silenced stories of East Prussian women (many of whom endured systematic rape) and many of whom did not speak about their suffering because they were German and felt that in a land where the corpse of Hitler’s genocide were pile so high, they had no right to give voice to their pain.
—the untold suffering of Romani Gypsies in concentration camps whose fate is a Forgotten Holocaust
—the grief of survival, for many, who finally escaped during the harrowing months at the end of World War II and who would never return to a land they loved—East Prussia
—the story of the “true heroes of the Great Trek” the famous Trakehner horses who struggled so valiantly to bring their human families to safety
I’m aware that the content of the novel is serious. However, at its core, The Last Daughter of Prussia is a moving love story—one that portrays the triumph of the human spirit and reminds us that we survive, most of all, for others and that love, faith and hope offer us transcendence during the worst of times.
For more information on the book: www.marinagottliebsarles.com
The book can be purchased in Marsh Harbour at Monkey’s Uncle and Island Treasures. It is also available on amazon both as hardcover and e-book version. I will be holding two book signings in Abaco on December.12th and 14th. Details can be found in the Abaco Buzz calendar.
I look forward to seeing my fellow Abaconians there and to hearing anything you have to say about the book.
—Marina Gottlieb Sarles