‘With characters inspired by the real female pilots who flew for Air Transport Auxiliary, as well as the only female victim of the Katyn massacre, who was also a pilot’
– When We Fall
When We Fall by Carolyn Kirby will be published in paperback format with No Exit Press on 7th May 2020 to coincide with the 75th Anniversary of VE Day (early release in digital on April 10th). April-May 2020 marks 80 years since the Katyn massacre and 10th April 2020 marked the 10th anniversary of the airline crash that killed top Polish dignitaries on their way to Russia to commemorate the atrocity.
I had heard of the Katyn massacre but not in any great detail. On picking up When We Fall, I immediately did some research and was horrified by what I read.
‘Sometime in the spring of 1940, thousands of Polish military officers were rounded up by Soviet secret police forces, taken to the Katyn Forest outside of Smolensk, massacred, and buried in a mass grave. In 1943, with the war against Russia going badly, the Germans announced that they had unearthed thousands of corpses in the Katyn Forest.’
Source – history.com
Carolyn Kirby made the discovery during her research that one of the victims was a woman, a Polish pilot, which became part of the inspiration behind her writing this very touching novel.
“All of the victims of the Katyn massacre were men, except, remarkably, for one woman. And when I discovered that this woman, Janina Lewandowska, was a pilot, I knew that the Polish experience would become the heart of my novel….
The story is fiction, but it is one that I could not have begun to imagine without the remarkable life and death of Janina Lewandowska”
[ About the Book ]
England, 1943 Lost in fog, pilot Vee Katchatourian is forced to make an emergency landing where she meets enigmatic RAF airman Stefan Bergel, and then can’t get him out of her mind.
In occupied Poland, Ewa Hartman hosts German officers in her father’s guest house, while secretly gathering intelligence for the Polish resistance. Mourning her lover, Stefan, who was captured by the Soviets at the start of the war, Ewa is shocked to see him on the street one day.
Haunted by a terrible choice he made in captivity, Stefan asks Vee and Ewa to help him expose one of the darkest secrets of the war. But it is not clear where everyone’s loyalties lie until they are tested.
[ My Review ]
When We Fall is the tragic story of three lives, three people whose stories were inextricably linked together during WW2. Vee Katchatourian, Ewa Hartman and Stefan Bergel become tied up in a tale that exposes the fear, the terror and the pure horror experienced by so many during those terrible years of the Second World War.
Vee Katchatourian works as a pilot with the ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) Vee is impetuous in many of her actions which causes consternation and impatience among her superiors but Vee just wants to be up in the air doing her bit for the war effort. As a female pilot with an Armenian surname, Vee takes a lot of flak from her colleagues, but unfazed, Vee’s drive and determination keep her motivated and focused.
Ewa Hartman runs a guest house with her father in occupied Poland. On a daily basis Ewa serves breakfast and makes up bedrooms for German officers but Ewa is also part of the resistance, gathering any intelligence she can and passing it discreetly into the right hands. Ewa fears for her safety and especially that of her father, but she loves her country and her people and feels it is her duty to serve in any way she can, not just at breakfast sittings.
Stefan Bergel is an RAF pilot with a secret, one that is clawing away at him daily, one that possesses his every thought. When Vee Katchatourian is forced, due to weather conditions, to make an unscheduled landing at RAF Bradwell Bay, she meets Stefan Bergel. There is something about him, some aura that catches her attention and as the following days pass in a blur, Stefan Bergel is always in the back of her mind.
Life goes on for the ATA and Vee’s days are full of the daily dangers of flying and the hectic schedule she keeps. For Ewa Hartman in Poland, her days are fraught, as she handles sensitive information and is alert at all times for snippets of information, anything that will give the Polish Resistance something to work with.
Ewa carries the memory of her lost love, Stefan, everywhere with her. She craves his arms around her one more time but knows that these longings are fruitless. Stefan is gone. But one day she is confused, bewildered, shocked to see Stefan beside her on the street. But Stefan has changed. Slowly he reveals his story to Ewa. She is horrified with what she hears but, when Stefan asks for her help, she cannot refuse, although the price she would pay, if caught, would be of an unimaginable horror.
In gathering my thoughts to write about When We Fall I struggled immensely to put the words together. The stories of these characters, although fictional, struck me to the core. The bravery, the selflessness of their actions astounded me. There is a strength in the human body, a resilience that comes to the fore in times of stress and terror.
Vee, Stefan and Ewa brought to life a time that we must be sure to never forget. Their story, their lives, their destinies shocked and saddened me. Carolyn Kirby has taken her inspiration behind this book and created a stunning piece of literature that just unexpectedly blew me away.
When We Fall is a book haunted with the ghosts of the brave men and women who fought for our freedom with their lives. It is an evocative and very affecting tale. It is a beautiful and eloquently written story that everyone should take the time to read.
When We Fall is a richly atmospheric book, a novel that brings right to the reader’s door the crimes of the past. It is a truly stunning and heart-aching tale inspired by a shocking, disturbing and heinous period in history.
Highly recommend to all.
[ Bio ]
Carolyn Kirby is the author of The Conviction of Cora Burns which was longlisted for the Historical Writer’s Association Debut Crown Award.
Before being a full-time writer, Carolyn worked in social housing and as a teacher.
She has two grown-up daughters and lives with her husband in Oxfordshire.
Twitter ~ @novelcarolyn
Website ~ https://www.carolynkirby.com/