Ashes and Miracles: A Polish Journey

Part memoir, part history, part social commentary, Ashes and Miracles is an enriched travelogue, detailing the author’s journey through post-Communist Poland, as well as her own family’s complex past. Crisscrossing Poland, Karafilly visits illustrious towns and remote border hamlets, shedding light on the country’s tumultuous history, as well as its highly challenging present. As intrigued by Poland as by the surge of her own childhood memories, the author probes all the major issues of Polish life, making for an informative, reflective, and engaging journey. Nominated for the QSPELL Award, Ashes and Miracles is referenced in The Cambridge Companion to Canadian Literature and Reluctant Witnesses: Survivors, Their Children, and the Rise of Holocaust Consciousness​.

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Critical Acclaim for Ashes and Miracles: A Polish Journey

A brilliant, beautifully written, deeply moving book.Josef Skvorecky

Ashes and Miracles is a sparkling and profound portrait of 1990s Poland. It is all here – the weariness, the hopes, the paradoxes, the layers of hatred and suffering, the unavoidable glare of history – all the elements struggling for harmony in a post-Communist world. Karafilly has a sharp eye and has used her considerable research with imagination.Philip Marsden

… part memoir, part history, part social commentary … Ashes and Miracles is a truly remarkable achievement.Robert Weaver, CBC

Karafilly’s Poland is a fascinating, unexpected place. She brings to her journey a passionate engagement, a keen eye, and a commitment to letting the people she meets come wonderfully alive.Charles Foran

Ashes and Miracles is an engaging and reflective journey; a moving personal quest and a deft untangling of a country’s historical and ethnic skeins.Ronald Wright

Ashes and Miracles is a splendid book. I particularly admired the way the author’s descriptions of her encounters with Poles in many walks of life were seamlessly blended with glimpses of Poland’s troubled history and vivid depictions of cities and countryside. It’s all done with great elegance.William Weintraub

Combining elements of both travelogue and autobiography, Ashes and Miracles seamlessly bridges the boundary between belles lettres and documentary … (A) subtle, sophisticated, and beautifully crafted book.Elaine Kalman Naves

I read Ashes and Miracles with great pleasure. (Karafilly) chronicles not only the physical landscape of her childhood homeland, but also its tragic history and the moral ambiguities of a s society undergoing tumultuous change. She does so with insight and a warm, human sympathy.Christopher Hum, British Ambassador to Poland

Chapter III

The sky is the first of many surprises: cloudless and blue as a peacock’s neck when my inner script apparently called for the leaden sky of wartime photographs: I am on my way to Auschwitz. Having decided against an organized bus tour, I head toward Krakow’s old railway station, unreasonably jolted to find my destination – a name haunting millions – printed above a Polish ticket counter …