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Wanda's War

Wanda's War

256 pages
Published:   February 21, 2023
Non-Fiction  /  Biography & Memoir
Paperback:   9781773102757    $24.95

Shortlisted, Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize (Non-Fiction)

What does it mean to be exiled? For the landmarks of your past to disappear?

In 1943, Wanda Gizmunt was ripped from her family home in Poland and deported to a forced labour camp in Nazi Germany. At the end of the war, she became one of millions of displaced Europeans awaiting resettlement.

Unwilling to return to then-Soviet-occupied Poland, Wanda became one of 100 young Polish women brought to Canada in 1947 to address a labour shortage at a Quebec textile mill. But rather than arriving to long-awaited freedom, the women found themselves captives to their Canadian employer. Their treatment eventually became a national controversy, prompting scrutiny of Canada’s utilitarian immigration policy.

Wanda seized the opportunity to leave the mill in the midst of a strike in 1948. She never looked back, but she remained silent about her wartime experience. Only after her death did her daughter-in-law assemble the pieces of Wanda’s life in Poland, Nazi Germany, and finally, Canada. In this masterful account of a hidden episode of history, Faubert chronicles the tragedy of exile and the meaning of silence for those whose traumas were never fully recognized.
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Marsha Faubert is a Toronto-based lawyer with a lengthy history of public service in the administrative justice system in Ontario. She has worked as a litigator, an arbitrator, an adjudicator of appeals in workplace injury and disease claims, and as the director of a provincial tribunal. Wanda’s War is her first book.


Shortlisted: Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize (Non-Fiction)


“Silence is an elusive topic, as Marsha Faubert discovers. Why did two Polish post-war refugees, Wanda, a slave labourer in Nazi Germany, and Casey, who spent his war first in a Soviet gulag and then fighting in the Polish army, never talk about their experiences? Why did their children show no interest? The answers to these questions proved elusive too. This book should be a conversation starter.” — Irene Tomaszewski, editor and translator of Inside a Gestapo Prison

“A timeless story of resilience and survival in the face of unimaginable hardship and unspeakable evil. Armed with a cache of faded photographs and a few clues, Faubert has painstakingly unearthed a lost family history that transports readers from the labour camps of Siberia and Nazi Germany to a new life built in Canada after the Second World War. A masterclass in how to reconstruct the past and a remarkable, haunting book.” — Dean Jobb, author of The Acadian Saga

“Piecing together the previously shrouded story of her Polish immigrant in-laws’ past, the often-pained story of ordinary people denied ordinary lives, Marsha Faubert has created a thoroughly researched, artfully written, and deeply moving work that is almost impossible to put down.” — Harold Troper, co-author of None Is Too Many

“With so many refugees facing similar hardships today, Wanda’s War sheds light on past periods of turmoil and dislocation. As survivors pass away it falls on this generation to recover and bear witness. Faubert is a witness to the witnesses, to the many who could not speak or chose not to speak. A powerful and moving story.” — Gwen Strauss, author of The Nine

“By recounting her in-laws’ stories, Faubert has humanized the suffering and tragedy of Poland’s war. She evokes the nightmarish conditions of Nazi and Soviet occupation. Her readable narrative raises universal themes of memory and silence, freedom, justice and forgiveness: it is a book packed with meaning.” — Winnipeg Free Press

“Indeed, Marsha Faubert offers readers a tale of determined excavation and reconstruction: her quest to discover her in-laws’ untold past is an extraordinary undertaking given that the couple led a life of near-miraculous endurance and incalculable loss, followed by the immeasurable luck of finding their feet far from the charnel house of Europe, far from the caprice of tyrants, far from the ceaseless waves of clashing ideologies and remorseless violence.” — Literary Review of Canada