Donna Urbikas

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General Information

Name: Donna Urbikas

Pen Name: None

Genres: Non-Fiction

Born: 1949 in Conventry, England



Illinois Connection

Urbikas immigrated to a Polish-American community in Chicago with her family when she was 2 years old. She has lived in Chicago ever since.

Biographical and Professional Information

Donna Urbikas graduated from the University of Illinois Chicago with a BS in Biology and from IIT with a MS in Environmental Engineering. After careers as a high school science teacher and environmental engineer, she now writes mostly non-fiction, focusing on WWII stories related to Poland and Polish-Americans.

Her book, My Sister's Mother: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Stalin's Siberia, is the unforgettable true story of Donna's Polish mother (Janina) who was forcibly taken with her five-year-old daughter (Donna's older half-sister, Mira) to work as slave laborers in Siberia. Even when freed, Janina and Mira were left to make their own desperate way across the Soviet Union. They reached Iran, then India, then England, where Janina remarried a Polish Army veteran and Donna was born. Traumatized refugees, they finally emigrated to the United States. Donna, as a Midwestern baby boomer teen, had trouble relating to this family that could not forget past horrors and losses. Only as an adult, when cancer struck her and her own child, did she begin to understand the strength it took her mother and sister to fight for survival. Watch the book trailer here.

Published Works

My Sister's Mother: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Stalin's Siberia, University of Wisconsin Press, 2016

Titles at Your Library

Literary Awards

Speaking Engagements and Upcoming Appearances

Speaking Engagement Availability: (Yes)

Urbikas has presented her story at museums, festivals, and bookstores. She is also an ideal presenter for libraries and book clubs, especially those with members who:

  • have taken to heart the stories of women in wartime as told in the bestseller The Nightingale or the beloved Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
  • are interested in reading about and discussing the experiences of refugees and immigrants.
  • include veterans, survivors of illness and trauma, immigrants, and their families.
  • are from a Polish population with a deep interest in the historical context of this book.

Please contact the author directly for any speaking engagements at She is available for most locations and to any groups interested in European WWII history, family sagas, memoir writing, Poland.

External Links

Donna Urbikas on WorldCat


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