Surrey’s Rose Seiler Scott has written a novel about German refugees in Poland around the time of the Second World War – a story that parallels her own family’s history.

‘The plot was all there’

Rose Seiler Scott uses a novel way to tell her family's story.

The next morning Liesel and the boys waited at the station platform with dozens of others.

A notice on the wall read:

The German population of Łódź will be resettled to an area west of the river Oder.

Each German is allowed to take no more than 20kg of luggage.

Inventory of all dwellings and farms Houses and farms (sic) in an undamaged state are the property of Poland.

Apartment and house keys must be left outside. Dwellings to remain open.

Those who are not in compliance with these orders will be executed.

Excerpt: Threaten to Undo Us, by Rose Seiler Scott

When Rose Seiler Scott was 10 years old in the early 1970s, her grandparents were about to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in Surrey.

The pair had just had portraits taken, and Rose’s mother Dorothy was having trouble deciding which of the small proofs she would have enlarged.

In some of the photos, her grandparents looked happy, in others, stern, gazing into the distance.

Rose’s mother sought a neighbour’s assistance in choosing and the neighbour pointed to one photo which had serious faces and declared “that one tells a story.”

The young girl began to ask questions, which over the years amounted to an incomplete, but interesting family history.

A typical family, in theory.

But the Seiler family, on her father’s side, was ethnic German, and farmed in central Poland as far back as the mid-19th century, until they were broken up and uprooted at the end of the Second World War.

The Seiler family story is told by Rose in fictionalized form in her first novel, Threaten To Undo Us, which was published in May.

“I tried to make the family history as accurate as possible,” she says.

There are parallels in the story with the real family, including a mother of four children in the midst of the war (the real one had five children in tow) and the gradual unravelling of the life she knew.

The character Liesel – an alternate version of Scott’s grandmother Eugenie – struggles to get to the Oder River, the new western border of Poland as the Soviets re-took the country from the Germans.

At left: Eugenie and Gustav Seiler, Rose Scott’s grandparents, at their wedding in 1933.

The civilian history of the region is seldom told, or even discussed – victors tend to write history – but involved the migration of millions of ethnic Germans from the “East.”

Scott struggled though official histories written in German – “it takes me an hour to translate a paragraph” – and found few public accounts by those who emigrated that were written in English.

(Being German in the years following the war was not a source of pride or subject of sympathy in the West, so most new immigrants kept quiet).

Scott, 52, a part-time piano teacher and mother of four, researched the subject off and on for about 12 years.

But her family’s history, even when told her in bits and pieces over the years, was a catalyst for writing the novel.

“The plot was all there,” says Scott.

It’s important, she says, to remember where we came from.

Growing up, Scott learned about the war and the Holocaust, and felt that history included everyone – even that of her father Oswald, who was a seven-year-old German boy when the war ended.

Oswald currently lives in Surrey with his wife Dorothy.

Rose Seiler Scott will host a book signing of her novel on Aug. 9 from 1:30-2:30 p.m. at Black Bond Books, #1-15562 24 Ave. Threaten to Undo Us is available in paperback or for download at Amazon.ca, as well as in-store and online at Chapters and Black Bond Books.