On a freezing night in January 1941, a little Jewish girl is found on the steps of an apartment building in Bucharest. With Romania recently allied with the Nazis, the Jewish population is in grave danger, undergoing increasingly violent persecution. The girl is placed in an orphanage and eventually adopted by a wealthy childless couple who name her Natalia. As she assimilates into her new life, she all but forgets the parents who were forced to leave her behind. They are even further from her mind when Romania falls under Soviet occupation.
Yet, as Natalia comes of age in a bleak and hopeless world, traces of her identity pierce the surface of her everyday life, leading gradually to a discovery that will change her destiny. She has a secret crush on Victor, an intense young man who as an impoverished student befriended her family long ago. Years later, when Natalia is in her early twenties and working at a warehouse packing fruit, she and Victor, now an important official in the Communist regime, cross paths again. This time they are fatefully drawn into a passionate affair despite the obstacles swirling around them and Victor’s dark secrets.
When Natalia is suddenly offered a one-time chance at freedom, Victor is determined to help her escape, even if it means losing her. Natalia must make an agonizing decision: remain in Bucharest with her beloved adoptive parents and the man she has come to love, or seize the chance to finally live life on her own terms, and to confront the painful enigma of her past.
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PRAISE for The Girl They Left Behind
“Even readers saturated with Second World War dramas will be enthralled by this moving tale of two ferociously-devoted mothers, the daughter they share, and the sacrifices they are willing to make for a new future. Gripping, tragic, yet filled with passion and hope—I couldn't put it down!”
—Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network and The Huntress
“The Girl They Left Behind, written with flawless historical detail, is a page-turner. In its first pages, it narrates the desperation of a young couple as they leave their four-year-old daughter on the steps of a building. The tale of that girl's destiny, like those of thousands of others, are a necessary testimony for humanity.”
—Armando Lucas Correa, internationally bestselling author of The German Girl
“Based on the life of Roxanne Veletzos’ grandmother, The Girl They Left Behind is a vividly told, beautifully written, impossible-but-true story. This novel is a moving testament to the power of the human spirit and to those who defied impossible odds to allow the light of humanity to shine in the darkest of times.”
—Helen Bryan, internationally bestselling author of War Brides
"Love in all its forms – parental, filial and romantic – renders each character's life through a prism of deeply felt humanity in The Girl They Left Behind as unforgettable men and women face devastating choices during WWII and its aftermath. The political is personal, and Roxanne Veletzos shows us how lives shatter when ideology devolves into chaos and brutality behind the Iron Curtain. This is an important book for these times.”
—Laurie Lico Albanese, author of Stolen Beauty
“Veletzos expertly weaves historical detail into a rich story about the endurance of the human spirit in the face of adversity.”
“Written in the gripping style of Thomas Keneally's Schindler's List and Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, Veletzos's powerful, heartbreaking story and fluid writing style will transport readers.”
“Never flinching from the bleak, this sweeping historical romance pieces together hope from the ruins.”
“A gripping story of endurance; of a childhood lived under a state of relentless war; and of goodness, courage, sheer will, and the fierce, selfless love that binds parent to child. Highly recommended.”
—Historical Novel Society
“An emotional, intense, and eye-opening portrayal of life in Romania during WWII.”
—Woman's World Magazine
“A beautiful story.”
“Filled with strong female characters, this book is a strong portrait of the human spirit.”
—The Canadian Jewish News