A light snowfall covers the streets with a blanket of white as Christa, her mother, and older sister climb unto an old Wehrmacht truck. It’s a gloomy day in February of 1945. World War II is nearing the end. They are Germans. As Germans they are guilty of the horror of attempting to eradicate forever the Jewish race. As Germans they are victims of a nation on the edge of destroying itself. The truck will take them west, away from the advancing Red Army, away from the distant sounds of the thunderous guns. While fleeing from the Russians, a dream sparks the mother’s imagination, a dream she shares with her two daughters – Rosel and Christa, a dream of going to America.
They find refuge in a room in a large villa in Apolda, Thüringen. The owners of this stately home had been forced by the German government to take in people displaced by the war. Christa soon makes friends with the other refugee kids. A boy named Klaus who lives next door and owns a beautiful puppet house, becomes her best pal and mentor. And while the earth trembles, the children delight in their daily play and puppet performances in the majestic garden that surrounds the villa. Their new home, a tiny room, becomes awfully crowded when a sixteen-year-old cousin, shot in the leg while at the front, arrives. It becomes unbearably crowded when the cousin’s fourteen-year-old sister, separated from her mother while running from the Russians, arrives. Still, they are fortunate. They are alive.
Caught in a critical place and time in history, Christa watches as the dapper British and Americans first enter Apolda, and not long after leave her town. She watches as the bedraggled and feared Russians arrive. Potatoes and Cabbage is the only food still available. Soap, toothpaste, and toilet paper are luxuries no longer obtainable. Christa’s mother contacts a friend in the USA, a friend from long ago.
When at last the war ends, all Germany is on foot, going east or going west, going north or going south, in search of a new home, in search of a loved one. When Christa’s father who had fought on a battleship arrives, she does not recognize him. After masterful persuasion, the father convinces his family to cross the border to the American Zone. The mother practices with the girls crying on demand, to be utilized at a wink or blink if passage through a Russian checkpoint was refused. It was rumored that the ominous Russians have a soft spot for children. Having struggled through four Russian checkpoints, they arrive at their new home in the American zone. Their new home, located in an ironwork’s yard in Osterode, consists of two rooms in a building without running water, two rooms separated by a thin wall from the horses’ stalls.
Their dream of going to America becomes reality. Christa’s mother had contacted her friend in the USA. The friend soon sends them care packages and offers to sponsor them. After five long years, after all the restrictions and regulations have been met, they embark on their journey to a new life, to a new home in America. But, alas, their joyous journey almost ends when they realize at the ticket office in Hamburg, that due to a mix-up in reservations, they don’t have enough money for the tickets. Christa prays, but no money floats their way. Their rich friend in America once again comes to their rescue. He telegraphs the money, and they race to the departing boat - the SS Nieuw Amsterdam in Rotterdam. Seven days later, they arrive in America, the land of milk and honey.
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