Winner IAN 2016 Book of The Year, Non-fiction/History
“A memoir that offers a rare, underrepresented perspective of World War II.” -Kirkus
A sweeping story of a Romanian family’s miraculous survival of WWII, becoming refugees, fleeing communism, starving after the war, and coming to the USA to live the American Dream.
Life in rural Romania was full of promise for the young Maroscher family. Gustav loved teaching and Helene was busy raising two boys and managing their small farm.
WWII changed everything. In September, 1944, Gustav was on the front when the Russians broke through. Knowing their army’s reputation for brutality, Helene fled with her sons to her sister’s house in Weimar, Germany.
During the three-week train trip they faced hardships, including numerous air attacks. Helene transformed from a shy young mother into a lioness, “negotiating” with a Nazi refugee camp director, pistol pointed at his head, to save her younger son. They faced frequent bombing raids until the end of the war.
Conditions under American occupation were tolerable, but worsened when the Russians replaced the Americans. Gustav became a POW. He was released in poor health and returned home, only to face certain arrest and a slave labor camp in Russia. He was saved by a Jewish friend, now the communist police commissioner, whom Gustav had helped years before, at considerable danger to himself. Eventually his friend could protect him no longer, and Gustav fled to the West.
Hoping to reunite the family, Helene and her sons made a dangerous nighttime border crossing from communist East Germany to the West. After being reunited in West Germany they faced more deprivation and hunger. The family immigrated to the USA and embraced the freedoms and opportunities of America. Through diligent work and study, Gustav became an engineer who worked on the Moon Shot. Helene also worked hard, raised her sons, and became an independent business woman after Gustav’s death.