The Second World War -- the worst thing that ever happened! For Poland, the War began in September 1939 when Germany invaded from the west, and Russia from the east. Among their victims was a five-year-old named Basia Deszberg, whose father and brother were shot in the Katyn Forest massacres. Meanwhile she, her sister, and their mother were loaded into a cattle car for a horrific three-week journey to the steppes of Kazakhstan, there to survive as best they could. Over the next eight years, Basia would escape through Persia, Lebanon, and Egypt to safe haven in England.
Meanwhile, Daniel Ford grew up in a United States mired by the Great Depression. Europe's agony was America's windfall! Dan went from hardscrabble poverty to a fellowship that took him to the English university where Basia was also a student. This is the story of their meeting, their travels, and their parting. "An extraordinary book, highly original, gripping, at once full of joy and of sorrow" (Irene Tomaszewski, Cosmopolitan Review, March 2014).
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About the Author
Daniel Ford has spent a lifetime reading and writing about the wars of the past hundred years, from the Irish rebellion of 1916 to the counter-guerrilla operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is best known for his history of the American Volunteer Group--the 'Flying Tigers' of the Second World War--and his Vietnam novel that was filmed as Go Tell the Spartans, starring Burt Lancaster. Most recently, he has turned to the invasion of Poland in 1939 by Germany and Soviet Russia. Most of his books and many shorter pieces are available in digital editions He lives and works in New Hampshire.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Emulating Plutarch, Daniel Ford has written carefully researched history and delightful biography using parallel lives; his own and that of a Polish refugee, Basia Deszberg. The mufti-lingual Deszberg family has given Ford a nearly unique opportunity to examine the non-English records of Poland's tragedy in World War Two and the years that followed. All this in addition to a romantic tale of a much younger Daniel and Basia's travels from England through France and into Italy.. As Ford says, for those of us who lived through the War, whether in the safety and prosperity of America or the terror and desperation of Eastern Europe, our lives were changed in ways that younger generations do not understand. A book for all seasons and generations.
I met Basia when we were students together at the redbrick University of Manchester, in the dreary northwest of England. I knew something of her incredible story at that time, when we adventured to France and Italy, and I learned the rest of it more recently when we reconnected after fifty-five years. In many ways, my life was the mirror image of hers. She started out as a member of an affluent Polish family that lost almost everything when the Russians occupied her home town -- her father and brother shot in the Katyn Forest massacres, and she, her sister, and their mother deported to Kazakhstan as "counter-revolutionaries." In time they escaped to Persia and eventually found safe haven in England, where Mama scrubbed floors for a living. For my part, I started out in poverty during the Great Depression, and every year that went by brought an improvement in my fortunes and that of my country. This is the story of how two children grew up in the Second World War, how we met, and how we parted.