A sweeping historical romance that is “gripping, tragic, yet filled with passion and hope” (Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author), offering a vivid and unique portrayal of life in war-torn 1941 Bucharest during World War II and its aftermath—perfect for fans of Lilac Girls and Sarah’s Key.
On a freezing night in January 1941, a little Jewish girl is found on the steps of an apartment building in Bucharest. With Romania recently allied with the Nazis, the Jewish population is in grave danger so the girl is placed in an orphanage and eventually adopted by a wealthy childless couple who name her Natalia. As she assimilates into her new life, she all but forgets the parents who were forced to leave her behind.
As a young woman in Soviet Romania, Natalia crosses paths with Victor—an important official in the Communist regime that she used to know as an impoverished young student. Now they are fatefully drawn into a passionate affair despite the obstacles swirling around them and Victor’s dark secrets.
When Natalia is suddenly offered a one-time chance at freedom, Victor is determined to help her escape, even if it means losing her. Natalia must make an agonizing decision: remain in Bucharest with her beloved adoptive parents and the man she has come to love, or seize the chance to finally live life on her own terms, and to confront the painful enigma of her past.
The Girl They Left Behind “is a vividly told, beautifully written, impossible-but-true story” (Helen Bryan, internationally bestselling author of War Brides) that you won’t soon forget.
Inspired by the story of her grandparents, debut author Veletzos's excellent novel centers on the devastation of Romania by Germany during WWII, and the country's subsequent struggles under Soviet rule. During a pogrom in 1941 Bucharest, a young Jewish couple flees their home. Fearing their capture, they leave their three-year-old daughter behind in an apartment building, hoping that someone will take her in and care for her. Their daughter, Natalia, is brought to an orphanage and is later adopted by Anton and Despina Goza, an affluent childless couple. Despite the bombings and the food shortages, Anton, Despina, and Natalia survive the war with their family intact. When the Soviets invade Romania, the government takes over every aspect of their lives, including Anton's store, and the Gozas are forced out of their home and must live in communal housing. Through all of their trials, Anton maintains his friendship with Victor, a younger man who once lived above his shop and is now a powerful government official. Natalia, no longer the impressionable girl Victor once knew, is now a beautiful, spirited young woman, and Natalia and Victor's passionate romance becomes complicated by his allegiance to the Communist Party. Veletzos expertly weaves historical detail into a rich story about the endurance of the human spirit in the face of adversity.