Labor Pains — Ukraine 1918

by MJ Krause-Chivers

Book Cover: Katarina's Dark Journey
ISBN: 9781775189558
ISBN: 9781775189558
ISBN: 9781775189558
ISBN: 9781775189558

As the Bolsheviks set fire to their village, seventeen-year-old old Katarina and her pregnant sister, Anna, flee for safety.


Katarina's Dark Journey takes readers on a haunting journey through war-torn Ukraine in 1918 with a parallel story set in post-war Munich.

When darkness falls, faith prevails.

1918: Southern Ukraine. When the Bolshevik Army sets fire to the German Mennonite villages, seventeen-year-old Katarina and her wealthy pregnant sister, Anna, flee across the barren lawless steppes. Thrust into an adult world with sinister characters and a rapidly changing political landscape, Katarina learns to use her strength and wits to protect Anna and her unborn baby. But the enigmatic environment forces Katarina to grapple with her pacifist beliefs and face the darkness within herself. When there’s nowhere to hide, can she trust God to save them?


1952/3: Munich, Germany. As Peter faces the scary prospect of becoming a father, he struggles with closure to his mother Katarina's death. Fuelled by painful memories, he searches her diaries for answers but finds more questions. Will Peter spiral down into the darkness of the past, or will the burgeoning new life bring hope for the future? Inspired by true events, Katarina’s Dark Journey is a faith-based coming-of-age mystery that offers a gripping exploration of family, survival, and the human spirit in times of war. With page-turning suspense, this epic saga is a must-read for historical fiction fans.

Reviews:Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Reader Views (06/2023) on wrote:

Katarina’s Dark Journey: Labor Pains – Ukraine 1918 (Russian Mennonite Chronicles Book 2) by award-winning Canadian author MJ Krause-Chivers, is an important and thought-provoking work of Christian historical fiction that focuses on 1918 Ukraine in times of war, with an additional story that takes place in Munich after the war. The story unfolds in dark times, but this book shines with themes of faith, loyalty, and love. The German Mennonite villages are set ablaze by the Bolshevik Army, and Katarina is a 17-year-old girl who tries to escape along with her sister Anna, who is wealthy and pregnant. They enter a world of adults populated by nefarious people and clouded by a political climate that is ever-changing. But Katarina is both smart and strong and uses those assets to take care of Anna and her unborn child. The circumstances cause Katarina to take a look inward at her pacifist views and deal with her own values. The question is, is her faith strong enough to believe God will help them in this time of uncertainty and unrest?

The additional story is set in Munich, Germany, 1952-53. The character Peter is going to be a father, and wrestles with putting to rest his mother Katarina’s passing, which seems to be a puzzle. To get to the bottom of it, he reads her diaries for clues, but they don’t satisfy him. He is on the verge of sliding down into the shadowed hallways of the past, but maybe there is hope in the new life about to be born.

If you appreciate epic stories based on true events, and like reading faith-based mysteries about families, history, and hope in a time of war, this heart-stopping book will leave you richly rewarded. The story is finely detailed, the settings ground you for the plot that unfolds, and the characters are empathetic and all too human. I especially like the scenes where the characters’ faith is challenged by circumstances, and of course the elements of mystery, including Katarina’s diaries. At its heart, this novel is about survival, faith, freedom, and rising above trauma. This novel isn’t sugar-coated. It describes the harrowing ethnic cleansing that took place against the German Mennonites and the aftermath of those it affected. But it is also a reflection of how faith operates under such duress. For a faith-based work of historical fiction, “Katarina’s Dark Journey: Labor Pains – Ukraine 1918 (Russian Mennonite Chronicles Book 2)” by MJ Krause-Chivers is definitely one you won’t forget."

D K Marley Aug 4, 2023 on Historical Fiction Company: wrote:

Katarina’s Dark Journey - Ukraine: Labor Pains - 1918 is the second book in author M. J. Krause-Chivers’ Russian Mennonite Chronicles series. It follows a dual timeline set in 1918 during the conflict in Russia and Ukraine as well as in 1951 post-war Germany. In 1951, Peter is preparing to become a father and grieving the death of his mother, Katarina, while also battling the guilt surrounding his father’s death. Peter’s grief leads him to read Katarina’s diary where she details her experience fleeing Russia with her pregnant sister after the Bolsheviks take control and begin to burn down German Mennonite villages. It is a tale of resilience that spans decades and is beautifully written. Readers will instantly connect with both Peter and Katarina as they navigate their struggles. While the book is the second in a series, it works well as a stand-alone, and readers should have no problem picking it up without having read the first book in a series.

“Overnight, civil disobedience spread like wildfire on a wheat field. While the imperial army struggled to regain control, the Bolsheviks took charge. Now the Reds were blazing across the countryside, killing the loyalists of the old guard.”

The time period, setting, and historical events are not often seen in historical fiction. It is an incredibly unique book that historical fiction readers will love. It is a nice change of pace from so many of the mainstream historical fiction novels that are based on common topics such as World War II. The legal independence of Ukraine from 1917-1922 is also not well known by many readers so it also offered the author a chance to provide new insight and education to his readers. In particular, the plight of the Mennonite people in Ukraine is not one typically seen in fictional writing. It seems that the author understands the uniqueness of her novel and provides thorough information about this history at the end of the book which will better help readers understand the novel and events it references. This is also incredibly relevant and helps to paint a more clear picture of the relationship and events happening between Russia and Ukraine currently.

“His burgeoning Black Army was a darkening curtain hovering over the region, and his unpredictable actions were putting the Mennonites on edge. Were his acts of violence a necessary evil in the Ukrainian fight for independence, or was he simply carrying out a vendetta against the Mennonites for some perceived childhood injury?”

The author’s interest and research in Ukraine and Russia are evident. He also provided vintage maps at the beginning of the book that are dated 1921 and and 1943 that do a wonderful job of illustrating the changes in Ukraine’s and Russia’s relationship well. The author has spent significant time researching these events to be able to incorporate them into a fictional novel as well as he did.

“The outfit aside, Katarina was astonished that any woman could both dress like a man and direct a military team. It was even more surprising that these men respected their female leader. If she hadn’t seen it with her own eyes, she’d never believed it.”

The writing is well done and easy to read. While it is not deeply riddled with extended metaphors, similies, and imagery, it is readable and has the ability to appeal to the emotions of readers. Readers will find themselves engrossed in the story and developing a genuine concern for the characters portrayed throughout the novel.

“Not hers, but the men who chose to live a perverted life. They’d brought evil into their homes and infected her family. Now, it was up to the soiled women to purge the darkness from their souls so it wouldn’t destroy them. And for that, they needed God. And each other.”

The intended audience for this novel is those who are interested in historical fiction and enjoy exploring topics that are often not considered mainstream history. Those who love epic family dramas and dual timelines will also find this book enjoyable. The title, Katarina’s Dark Journey - Ukraine: Labor Pains - 1918, insinuates that the time period in this novel is both dark and difficult. Readers will learn about the Russian’s brutal treatment and attempted ethnic cleansing of indigenous Ukranians. The author has presented this information in a very eloquent way but some readers might still struggle with the content. The Civil War era in Russia was also a time when violence and brutality were prevalent. Child loss and miscarriage are also topics within Katarina’s Dark Journey - Ukraine: Labor Pains - 1918 that some readers may be sensitive to.

“Mutter said the Mennonites often planted common lilacs at the gravesites in Ukraine. She said if I ever go back there, I should look for the lilacs. Even if there aren’t stones, there will be trees.”

Excellent research, good writing, and a unique topic earn this book a five out of five rating. It is highly enjoyable and will open readers' eyes to history that is often forgotten and not studied. The book is very relevant to modern political events in Russia and Ukraine making Katarina’s Dark Journey - Ukraine: Labor Pains - 1918 a timely novel."


Katarina's Dark Journey by M. J. Krause-Chivers receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence by the Historical Fiction Company

About the Author

MJ Krause-Chivers is an award-winning self-published author who writes historical fiction about the Russian civil war in Ukraine. As a trauma survivor and a granddaughter of Mennonite refugees from the Russian Civil War in Ukraine, she incorporates both her personal experiences and her family history into her writing. The themes of faith, mental health, and cultural diversity are reflected by her background in social work, paralegal and tourism. Like her, the complex characters in her stories are driven by perseverance and hope as they encounter and overcome tragic circumstances. The author also writes Christian non-fiction as Miranda J. Chivers.