Reasons to read ‘We Are Wolves’ by Katrina Nannestad (synopsis included at end):
- This is a story based on real events about the Wolf Children or Wolfskinder, German children who were orphaned after fleeing East Prussia when the Red Army invaded towards the end of World War 2. These children survived in the forests, scavenging, stealing, hiding from the Russian army and doing what they needed to do to survive such unimaginable and hostile circumstances.
- Even though the children’s story is tragic and there are heavy themes in this book, this book highlights the qualities that are universal in overcoming adversity. The children display such tenacity, resilience, courage, hope, resourcefulness and above all love. They find and create joy, often when all hope seems lost, they do this through simple pleasures that present themselves in unexpected ways, for example, one bitterly cold evening, while huddled together in a barn with other families who had fled their homes, three musicians play music for the group, or another time the children enjoy a small chocolate bar that was gifted to them, on another occasion they pretend that eating slugs is the most delicious food they have ever eaten.
- This story is captivating and explore many interesting issues to learn more about.
- So many discussions are inspired by this book – the plight of refugees, the complexities and horrors of war, these children were victims of war, how German youth were targeted for propaganda messages, power of kindness, empathy, forgiveness and love.
Synopsis: This story begins when the German Wolf family suddenly learn that their father is to fight for Germany. Eleven year old Leisl, who is the narrator of this story and her younger siblings, her brother Otto (7 years old) and baby sister Mia (2 years old) together with their Mother, Oma and Opa watch as their father/husband/son limps away (he sustained an injury in his childhood) from their village to fight in the war. The Wolf family debate whether they should leave their home. Soon the decision is made for them as the Russians arrive and the five of them are forced to flee in blizzard conditions with blankets, the clothes they are wearing and some select possessions that can be carried in their horse driven cart. Together, with many other Germans, their treacherous journey sees them discover the loss and senseless devastation that the Russians have inflicted. Leisl, Otto and Mia end up being separated from their Oma and Opa due to heart breaking circumstances and later from their mother through dramatic and a horrifying course of events. The children do what they must to survive, living in abandoned farmhouses, stealing possessions and eating whatever they can source to stave off hunger. Eventually the children seek refuge in a forest, foraging, scavenging and living wild. Everything they know and believe is challenged as they struggle to survive – they beg, steal and do things that go against human nature. Leisl is driven to protect her siblings and keep them safe, just as she promised her mother she would do. This story led us to have many discussions (some very solemn and others uplifting) about the moral dilemmas and issues in this book – the complexities and horrors of war, how German youth were targeted for propaganda messages, the plight of refugees, the human face of war, these children as victims of war, that there are no winners in war, befriending the enemy to name a few topics of conversation. This is a powerful story about our shared humanity, and highlights the power of hope, courage and love.