Biking along the Baltic near Svetlogorsk (former Rauschen) in Kaliningrad Oblast in 2019. The characters of my new novel might have wandered along these beaches.
My mom attended this school in former Kreuzburg, East Prussia (now Slavskoye, Russia) in 1932 after fleeing the Soviet Union. It was an unhappy time for her which I explore in Broken Stone.
When I visited in 2019, bullet holes from the final battles of the Second World War, still scarred the partially inhabited building. Through research, I'd learned that the Wehrmacht had sought shelter in the school during the Red Army's advance.
Found it! This would have been the family house that my mom and her siblings lived in after their escape from the Soviet Union in early 1932. Orphaned during collectivization, East Prussian relatives took them in.
When I visited back in 2019, a friendly, retired man from Kazakhstan lived there. The house was well maintained and his yard filled with flowers, in spite of pockmarks of long-ago bullets.
Here I am in Kaliniwka, (once Federofka) Ukraine, in my mom's home village, talking to Frau Helene Nickel. As the oldest woman in the tiny place, she was the historian of the area. She actually remembered where our family's windmill once stood and directed us to the now empty field where I found its foundation—a pile of granite.