I read Eva Stachniak's novel Necessary Lies with a great interest. This book attracts attention almost immediately, it is interestingly written and it also talk about important issues. I also could identify with the main character of the story since their life stories were similar to mine.
Eva's novel has several layers which are mutually interwoven. The main character of the story -Anna leaves Wroclaw and Poland to Canada in a very turbulent time soon after a creation of Solidarity Workers Union , shortly before a martial law was established. Anna is awarded a stipend in McGill University in Canada. The memoirs of Anna's life in communistic Poland are contrasted with her life in rich and capitalistic Canada. This trip to Canada had lifeling consequences for Anna and her family. As the story develops we learned that Anna left Poland not only temporarily. Eventually she is leaving her personal life behind and her husband, the activist of Solidarity and a long-time anticommunist. Through Anna's memoirs the reader is familiarized with the students' revolts of 1968 as well as the times of Solidarity, political hopes, economical crisis and empty stores.
The story is becoming more complex after Anna meets William, a composer - accidentally born in the same city like Anna although during a different epoch. William was born in Breslau when it was still an important center of German culture. Anna was born in Wroclaw, the same city after the Second World War when its original German population was replaced by Polish resettlers from the East and other parts of Poland. Both of them try to understand their heritage, their cultures.
This fragment of story is partly auto-biographical since the author of the book, Eva Stachniak is originally from Breslau. She had a hard time to identify herself with this city which does not have a deep Polish heritage like Krakow or Warsaw. Read Eva's memoirs about Wroclaw (Breslau) in the article Wroclaw and Breslau - in Memories of Eva Stachniak, the Author of "Necessary Lies". Eva, the author, indeed found herself living across the street from a Breslauer named Jutta.
Anna and William are just fascinated with each other at least partly due to their similar but also so different background. Eventually their friendship became a love affair. There is a moral issue, Anna decides to end her marriage to Piotr, without finding any good excuse except ... that she just felt in love with somebody else. Anna's mother in Poland cannot agree with her decisions, not only because she cannot find anything against Piotr, she also has a hard time to accept William, as a German and a Breslauer in Anna's life.
The story is getting more and more complex after William's death since Anna bitterly realizes that there was another woman, Ursula, in William's life. Anna finds Ursula's letters and articles among William's papers. Ursula, a Berliner and a journalist is an ardent anti-Nazi advocate. She researches historic documents from the times of war. A meeting takes place between Anna and Ursula, a difficult one, since both women shared the same men but since the also share similar ideas they are willing to overcome their mutual superstitions.
Eva Stachniak's story was a fascinating reading, not only for me but for many of my friends. In spite of many interwoven threads it was really easy to follow. The reader is learning a lot about Polish and German difficult history in different historical epizodes - from the war times and also the times of Solidarity. I could personally identify with Anna's and her creator - Eve's experiences since my personal story is similar in many aspects. My family comes from Silesia where the clash between German and Polish cultures was the most visible. My mother learnt German language in the German school during the war and although many people from my family had a hard time to get to terms with Germany and German people, my mother made a big effort to overcome mutual suspicions and had great German friends. I also remember the times of communism, its different stages, collapse of the economy. I also came to the USA for a stipend leaving Poland behind.
You can order the book written by Eva Stachniak from Amazon: Necessary Lies
Garden of Venus (Hardcover), by Eva Stachniak