The author tells a story from the Central Bohemian town of Příbram, which takes place between 1938 and 1991. The focus is on a strong woman: Ema Dolejšová. At the end of the Second World War, she took in a deserter from the Russian Vlasov Army and hid him for decades. Ema lives in the grand home of a Jewish family that was deported. She used to work in the family fabric store before.
A tender love affair develops between Ema and the deserter Oleg against the background of the recent history of the former mining town of Příbram. Readers experience the communist dictatorship coming to power at the local level as well as the beginnings of uranium mining in Příbram in 1949. The end of the Second World War, the arrival of the Vlasov army, the confiscation of private property by the communists, but also a local revolt against the Soviet occupation form the historical background of the novel. The town of Příbram, located southwest of Prague, has around 40,000 inhabitants. It is not only known as a former mining town, but also as a Marian pilgrimage site that has attracted religious people since the Middle Ages. The heroine of the novel, Ema, has also internalized the Catholic tradition of this place. Like her father, a miner, she also repeatedly brings her worries and fears to the Blessed Mother. The novel shows the spiritual significance of the place, which sits jarringly with the ideological materialism of the new rulers.
Marek Toman’s novel is based on a local legend, a detailed study of sources and conversations with contemporary witnesses.