Author(s): Allan Marriott
Juliana Witzke, the mother of Len Coley who features in Mud Beneath My Boots, is the heroine of this novel which gradually knits together the trauma of her early years with her last ones. In 1876, nine year old Juliana Witzke arrives in New Zealand from Poland on a German immigrant ship. She is quarantined on Somes Island before landing in Wellington. Juliana is lonely as her beloved mother has not travelled with her. From her mother she has acquired a great love of Poland and its history and poetry. It is this that sustains her through her losses. And as a child, Juliana dreams of climbing the stairs and influencing the world a little. At the end of World War II, Juliana Collins, now elderly, is desperate to keep her links with her homeland. Its devastation through two world wars fuels her dreams to return. Despite 70 years in New Zealand she has never lost her love of Poland. Confined to hospital, Juliana plans for at least something of herself to return there. As an adult, Juliana is belittled because of her passion for Poland and its poetry. But she refuses to be a 'common Polish sparrow'. She holds on proudly to her heritage, uncovers a reason for an imagined link with the Polish resistance and discovers how close she can come to killing. Juliana finds friendship and support from two very different women friends and two of her younger sons, especially Len, the war veteran and her special confidante in the last days of her life. The Witzke Woman is an historical journey through which strength faces betrayal, passion meets prejudice, and hope lies among promises. It draws on events from opposite sids of the world as it brings Poland into a New Zealand landscape.
Allan Marriott has an extensive background in education, community development and primary health. He is the author of A Bridge Over: The story of John Masters, veteran fighter, (non-fiction 2009 and 2nd edition 2010) and Mud Beneath My Boots: The poignant memoir of the effects of war on a young New Zealander, (non-fiction 2005), both highly acclaimed; and Joshua, (fiction 1992), and The Prance of Men, (non-fiction 1988).