Welcome to Maria Sutton author of The Night Sky: A Memoir: A Journey From Daschau to Denver and Back. One Woman’s Story of Quiet Courage and Love.
Maria Sutton was born in the barracks of Germany’s former Wehrmacht command center, which had been converted to house Europe’s Displaced Persons after WWII.
In 1951, Maria, along with her Mother, Step-father, and sister immigrated to America and she has lived in the greater Denver metro area since that time. Her book, The Night Sky: A Journey from Dachau to Denver and Back is the culmination of her 43-year search for her biological father, who disappeared shortly after her birth in war-torn Germany. Without knowing the spelling of his name, nor his date and place of birth, Maria was able to find him – proving that with unwavering determination, anything is possible.
Maria graduated from the University of Colorado with a Bachelor of Science in Finance and Accounting and has also attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She has been employed by the U. S. government in several capacities throughout her Federal career, receiving many awards for her writing and investigative skills. Maria and her family reside in Golden, Colorado.
1. What are your first memories of your arrival in America?
I remember that warm August night in 1951 as vividly as if it were last night. It was the first night in our new home and as I sat on the stoop of the shack, staring at the stars of the night sky, I marveled at the peaceful quietness. No loud conversations, babies crying, toddlers shrieking – no back and forth swaying as our ship crossed the Atlantic, and no one retching from seasickness. As I contentedly chewed the fried chicken drumstick I had no idea of the extraordinary circumstances that had brought me to America. I wouldn’t know until 1961, when I overheard a conversation between my mother and her best friend that forever changed my life.
2. What was the deciding moment when you knew you wanted to begin the search for you father? And how old were you?
From the time I first heard of the existence of Jozef Kurek, at age 13, I knew someday I would try to find him, but back in the 1960s, the Internet hadn’t been invented yet, so I was limited to looking through telephone directories and scanning movie credits looking for a name that sounded like his. Obviously, I didn’t get very far in my search. When my son looked into his father’s eyes for the first time at birth, I realized my son would know his father – something I didn’t have. I knew my husband would someday proudly show our son his grandfather’s Certificate of Honorable Discharge from the Union Army, and would tell him stories of courage and braveness in their fight for America. I wanted my son to know that my family had also died for freedom, and that they had lived in a faraway land, and that they had to leave their homelands. But I had no family stories to give my son, nor could I even tell him anything about his maternal grandfather. The birth of my son was the defining moment in my 43-year quest to find my father and my mother’s lost family. I did it for my children, but I also did it for myself.
3. Emotionally what was the most difficult part when writing your book?
Without a doubt, the most difficult part when writing my book was describing the scene when I found my father and went to Germany to meet his family. I didn’t want to include the specific scene in detail, and just glossed over it, but my editor, who normally just sent me email comments, actually picked up the phone and telephoned me, saying I must include that scene, no matter how painful. Otherwise, readers would be angry with me and throw the book away, without finishing it. I didn’t want that to happen because finding my father was not the end of the story. I wanted readers to know that, in the end, I found something better…something that changed my life forever and made me a stronger person.
4. Name one person that you feel supported you with your quest outside of family members?
Dealing with the KGB agent was a little scary, especially when I didn’t hear from him for a few days after sending him quite a bit of money. When he sent me the contract, the two contingencies were that I not disclose his name, nor his methods of getting the information. Initially, I was a little concerned about what his methods might be, but then realized getting information about the whereabouts of my family was not a national security issue, so there was no reason for him to use corporal methods to get the information. Besides, it wouldn’t be good for his business to have an unhappy customer.
Many readers have stated, “Please write more books,” so I’ve thought about it and conceptualized my next book to be titled The Magic Wand. I’ve heard many people say they wished they had a magic wand to make something unpleasant go away. What they don’t realize is that they do have that magic wand, and my book will be about how to use it in all aspects of their lives: careers, relationships, money, education, and a myriad of other things they want to change in their lives.
7. What is your favorite thing to do with your free time?
I love drinking lattes at Starbucks on cold winter nights and working in my garden on warm summer days. I love watching my grandchildren grow and plan on taking them to their ancestral homeland someday, so they can get a perspective of how they came to be Americans and how ordinary people can do heroic things.
8. Are you currently reading anything? If not what was the last book you remember reading?
I’m into the classics and read a lot of Tolstoy, Pasternak, and Hugo. I generally don’t like fiction, but Tolstoy, Pasternak, and Hugo developed their characters so well that you could feel their emotions and they became real people, feeling their joy, but also suffering when they suffered.
9. If you could travel back in time, where would you choose to go and what year?
This is a difficult question! I like the here and now and am not one to want to go back to the good ol’ days. I like the modern day conveniences of plumbing, electricity, computers, and fast food. World War II changed the course of history, and although it’s odd that I would want to go back to that horrific time, sometimes I think that I would not have had the courage to endure some of the things my parents had to live through, and would like to test myself (but I’m not a masochist). The only reason I would want to go back to that time would be to tell my family that “everything will turn out OK.”
10. Please tell us in a few sentences why we should read your book.
Despite it’s ominous title, the book is inspirational. It will make you feel real emotions and learn about resiliency of the human spirit. It will take you on an unforgettable journey.
A Journey From Daschau to Denver and Back. One Woman’s Story of Quiet Courage and Love
by Maria Sutton
This extraordinary and unflinchingly honest memoir takes us on a riveting journey into the hearts and souls of three enigmatic people whose destinies are forever changed by the events of World War II. The secrets of misguided love and passions are revealed as the author journeys between the past and the present to solve the mystery of a handsome Polish officer with piercing blue eyes and sun-colored hair. Maria Sutton takes us to the dark green hills and valleys of the ancient Carpathian Mountains in Ukraine, where the woody fragrance of birch trees and new-mown hay fills the fresh, crisp air after a heavy rain. Vicariously, we see a sunrise over Poland obscured by brightly colored swastikas on warplanes and then we will be taken into suffocating cattle cars, lice-infested stalags, and to the Dachau death camp. Further down a country road, the hearty laughter and beer steins clinking with each salute to the Fuhrer’s astonishing victories can be heard.
As Maria takes us on this odyssey to solve a decades-long mystery, she learns the family secrets of untold heroism, quiet courage, and a mother’s love—and of tragedy, disillusionment, and heartbreak. At the end of her long journey, Maria uncovers a shattering and painful truth. But the secret, however heartbreaking, would also become the greatest gift she would receive.
Win a Copy:
Maria Sutton is allowing me the opportunity to giveaway one copy of her book The Night Sky: A Memior to one lucky reader of this blog. Enter below via Rafflecopter.
Giveaway Ends Sunday March 10 at 12:01 am EST. Giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. No PO boxes please. Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter and have 48 hours to get back to me, before another winner is chosen. Be sure to add email@example.com to your inbox. As this is the only way you will be contacted should you win.
No compensation was received for this post. A thank you goes out to the author for sharing this interview and giveaway with my readers.
~ Master Yoda