It takes a special person and great effort to write an autobiography such as Oranges and Apparitions. A special person is the author in a most meritorious sense. The book is divided into six parts, marking the turning points in her life.
Stehlik lived her childhood with three sisters, parents and grandparents in the then Free State of Gdansk, on the Baltic Sea. It was an idyllic environment. She writes that on pension day her grandfather would bring home a bag of blood oranges. These oranges were a real luxury, as they were imported from warmer climates. Hence the Oranges in the book's title, symbolising the serene part of her childhood days.
First the Germans then, towards the end of World War II the Russians, occupied Gdansk. They looted, raped and killed innocent civilians. It is heart wrenching to read about the atrocities and appalling circumstances Stehlik and her sisters lived through. During those last days of the war she lost one sister, her mother and grandparents.
Stehlik is a deeply religious person. She could not have endured all the hardship and treacherous situations without having faith in God and His guidance. There is, for instance, the story of her amazing escape to the West, with her younger sister, and their meeting with the rest of her family - her elder sister and father.
In 1949 they all migrated to Australia, taking up residence in Melbourne. Here Stehlik's first marriage ended in divorce. Material security did not satisfy her yearning for that fulfilment called happiness. She took up university studies at Monash,, qualifying as a secondary school teacher, and met her second husband whilst at university. With him, she settled down in the bush and started teaching in nearby Ballarat. Stehlik had had a full life, but still there seemed to be something missing.
In a mysterious way Stehlik was led back to be a full member of the church, receiving the Eucharist for the first time in twelve years. I must mention Sister Della, a nun of the order of St. John of God, who was Stehlik's spiritual leader and instrumental in her finding Jesus' healing power and the healing of past hurts. In the following paragraph lies the key to her strength and the reason for to this book.
Before I started writing this book, I asked the Holy Spirit for guidance. He did guide me! Every time I wanted to put the pen down, He urged me on. It was Jesus who took me through all my situations, gently. Not having gone back to hard times, I could now write and think about them without aches and pains. This is not only my Testimony but also our Lord's way of healing.
Not surprising, the last part of Stehlik?s book reflects on her visit to Medjugorje, where she spent a week. There she met the visionaries and attended mass every day. Although I would have liked a more detailed account of events, this slender book contains much more than some larger works. It takes a special person to write an autobiography which is really a testimony of faith. Despite all the moving descriptions of events, this work is devoid of sentimentality.