The simple and powerful life of Maria Zeitner Linke from her childhood through her release from the Russian gulags is plainly and honestly conveyed in Ruth Hunt’s East Wind.
Mrs. Linke’s story opens in Germany in 1945, as the Russian army rolls into the shambles of Hitler’s fatherland. A Russian-born German, she finds herself an outcast in Germany and Russia as each government rejects her as a traitor or a spy. Captured by Russian soldiers and brutally raped, Mrs. Linke finds herself standing on the tailgate of an army truck, one end of a heavy rope tied around her neck, the other end lashed to the overhanging branches of a sturdy tree. Moments before her death, she remembers her broken promise to God, made as a young girl, to be a faithful witness to others of the truth and grace of God which she had experienced and received.
East Wind is a story of the grace of God, and Mrs. Linke’s steadfast witness to its life-changing power. Her moment of truth on the tailgate of the Russian truck is the first spark that ignites a powerful fire in her soul, enabling her to endure years of torture, cruelty, and lies from the Communist governments that sentenced her to prison. Even greater than her own resilience however, is her powerful witness to the women joining her in the gulag. Often times her experiences of God’s grace in the midst of suffering provide the hope and encouragement needed to revive the flagging faith in the weary souls she meets.
Many books have been written about the saints. A good deal of those that I have read tend to elevate the saint to superhuman glory by emphasizing their virtues and strengths without adequately explaining the weaknesses and sins that beset them. The result is a paean to an idealized portrait of a fellow pilgrim, which creates a deep chasm between the reality of the reader’s experiences and struggles and the untouchably glorious life of the saint who could do no wrong. East Wind is not one of those books. Mrs. Linke’s sins, weaknesses, and struggles are presented just as simply as her faith, trust, and resilience. The result is powerful in pointing the reader to the grace of God, rather than the indefatigable human spirit, and glory is given to the One who makes all things possible.