Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It Was Worth It All

I have a well-documented addiction to books about Eastern Europe and a bad habit of buying self-published (or excruciatingly small-published) books on the subject (e.g., A Train to Potevka and Assumptions and Misunderstandings). Though I have yet to find a good small-published book (hence the small publishing), I fell into the trap once again with Elly Matz’s It Was Worth It All.

I bought Worth It off eBay for a few cents based solely on my magic word, Ukraine. As usual, I was intrigued by the premise: a Ukrainian woman escapes from Stalinist Russia and the invading German army. This memoir should have been thrilling.

And Matz does have an interesting story. I particularly appreciate her honesty. She feels extreme guilt over escaping the Stalinists when the rest of her family is sent to Siberia. She spends years in a debilitating depression—a depression so strong that she misses most of her children’s lives—but this part of her life is quickly glossed over in favor of a treatise on her religious beliefs. In fact, Matz often interrupts her narrative so she can preach about Christianity.

Not surprisingly, Worth It is published by a Christian ministry. I know very little about this ministry, but according to its website, it “has had a great burden for the suffering, persecuted brethren in Communist nations.” I have no intention or desire to criticize this ministry, but I do suspect Worth It's narrative is influenced by this Christian backing.

In fact, the book ends (stop here if by some freak chance you plan to read the book) with Matz overcoming her depression and guilt when she decides God saved her (and not her family) because she asked him to send her to the U.S. (and her family did not). I was so dumbfounded by this statement—by this heresy—that I forgot about anything meaningful in the book. Surely, no true Christian could believe in such a fickle God.

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