Whispering Birches

Whispering Birches

Elena Prikaznova is one of the central characters of the book 'Whispering Birches'. She is Slovakian having grown up in Hummené which lies to the east of the country. She enters the camp in April 1942 and is initially assigned to Königsgraben where she works digging ditches. It is soul destroying work and life expectancy in the group averages three months. When she finds out about Kanada, she takes the opportunity to steal an identity to get in. She does so by assuming the identity of a sick inmate. When found out, she has to sing for her place. She succeeds and in the process inadvertently seduces Franz and Kapo Ruth. Franz is blindly in love with her and tells her so. Her revulsion of the SS officer almost leads her to suicide. Instead, she falls for fellow inmate Mihael Rosenthal, but when he discovers her connection with Franz, he rejects her as a collaborator. She is then persuaded by Ruth to lead Franz on as part of her deal to stay in Kanada. Against her intial disgust, Franz eventually wins her over with acts of compassion, particularly when he risks all to save her sister from the Gas Chamber. During the book, we see her grow up as a woman. 

She loses her family. Even the safety of her sister is only ensured through her collaboration with a Nazi guard. Her character is romantic, yet there is a cold hard survival instinct in Elena and we are never sure how far her calculation goes. We hear that Ruth is executed, while she walks free and throughout the book she has a strong sense of personal survival. Nevertheless, she is a tremendously seductive personality bewitching Franz, Mihael and Ruth with her violet eyes. She is capable of compassion and gives herself freely to love. Like Helen of Troy, her decisions create chaos about her.