A haunting coming-of-age memoir by a woman who survived the traumatic experiences of war, internment in a Nazi labor camp and life as a displaced person with her faith in humanity intact.
Saporito wrote the book with her American husband, Donald, who saw it to completion after her death in 2007. They were married in 1958, two weeks after meeting in Colorado. The author began her memoir in 1967, when Vietnam brought back painful memories of her own wartime experiences, and she continued writing it sporadically thereafter. The daughter of aristocratic white Russians who moved to Yugoslavia (where she was born in 1928), Saporito enjoyed a privileged existence as part of an elite, tightknit Russian circle until the Nazi occupation of Yugoslavia in 1941. In contrast to the idyllic security of her early years, the author writes in detail about the disintegration of her family under the stress of the war and their virtual abandonment of her. Torn between the Soviet and German armies, the older generation of émigrés turned toward Germany, despite Nazi atrocities. Her parents and their friends made the hard decision to immigrate to Austria and seek refuge. That gamble failed, and they were sent to a Nazi slave labor camp. With the prodding of her parents and home tutoring, Saporito had become proficient in language, a survival skill her mother had insisted on as insurance against the possibility of future hard times. This turned out to be prescient. At the age of 16, Saporito was sent, against her will, to make her way alone to Austria. She was protected by a young German lieutenant, but he was killed by an Allied bomb before her eyes, and she also landed in the camp. Her language skills proved useful; after the Allied victory, Saporito found work as a translator with the Allied occupation forces.
A beautifully written memoir with a spellbinding immediacy.