Surviving Stutthof: My father’s memories behind Death Gate
Author: Liisa Kovala
Publish: September 30, 2017
Publisher: Latitude46
Format: ebook, Paperback
Pages: 210
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As the first Russian bombs drop on Oulu, Finland, in early 1940 during the Winter War, Aarne Kovala is a young boy with a great love of the sea. While the war rages, Aarne takes fate into his own hands and joins the Finnish merchant marines. He spends his days delivering war materials between Finland, Poland, and Germany.

But when Finland’s ties with Germany are severed after the signing of the Moscow Armistice in 1944, Aarne and his fellow sailors are arrested by the Nazis and sent by cattle car to the infamous Stutthof concentration camp deep in the Polish forest.

And thus begins Aarne’s horrific struggle to survive amid dreadful living conditions, scarce food, and grueling work details. In the only letter he is allowed to send home, he prays, “I hope the day soon dawns that we again may meet.”  But after months of dark nights and even darker days, how long can his hope survive?

Based on actual events, Surviving Stutthof is a tale of survival, hope, and ultimately the triumph of the human spirit.

Surviving Stutthof was nominated for a Northern Lit Award in 2018. 

Author Details:

Liisa Kovala is a Finnish Canadian author and teacher. Her first book, Surviving Stutthof: My Father’s Memories Behind the Death Gate (Latitude 46, 2017), was shortlisted for a Northern Lit Award and published in Finland under the title Stutthofin selviytyjä (Docendo, 2020). Her work is inspired by her Finnish heritage and the northern landscape she calls home. Sisu’s Winter War (Latitude 46, 2022) is her debut novel. She lives in Sudbury, Ontario with her husband and two children.