What happens when a thirteen-year-old learns the father she always knew is not actually her father? For Maria Sutton, it sent her on a forty-three-year quest. She relates that story in her dramatic account, The Night Sky: A Journey From Dachau to Denver and Back.
Maria knew her mother was from the Ukraine, and had been sent to Dachau Death Camp. Her mother survived, to end up in a displaced persons camp with her two daughters, and, finally, in Colorado with her husband, Paul Venckus. But, it was only when she was thirteen that Maria overheard a conversation at a picnic, and learned that a Polish military officer, Josef Kurek, was her real father. The search for Josef Kurek became an obsession for Maria. For years, she collected bits and pieces of his life, storing information in a shoebox she carried with her whenever the family moved.
Sutton had only a few clues, and the information her mother slowly revealed, but she was determined to find her birth father. Her job as an investigator for the federal government provided her with skills and a will to succeed. Without even the actual spelling of her father’s name, or his place of birth, she followed her mother’s war-time trail to uncover the truth.
In the years Sutton searched for her father, she romanticized him as a gorgeous, strong and defiant prisoner of war. What she learned devastated her. But, in the end, she found her family. And, she learned to appreciate her mother as a strong, courageous woman.
Sutton’s account is one woman’s story of a search for her father. But, it’s also the story of Catholics sent to death camps. It’s the story of displaced persons, and families long separated with no knowledge of the fate of loved ones. It’s a story of the Ukraine and Poland. These are not the frequently told stories of World War II, but important facts that shouldn’t be forgotten. In relating the story of her search, Sutton has introduced readers to history. The Night Sky: A Journey From Dachau to Denver and Back is a compelling, fascinating memoir that is so much greater than one woman’s search.
The Night Sky: A Journey From Dachau to Denver and Back by Maria Sutton. Johnson Books. ©2011. ISBN 9781555664466 (hardcover), 226p.
FTC Full Disclosure – The author sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.