DISPLACED PERSON by Marie Halun Bloch


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It's early 1945, and 14-year-old Stefan Wasylenko and his botanist lather have fled from the Ukraine into the heart of a shattered Germany in advance of the Russians--but the freedom Mr. Wasylenko seeks in the West is a frightening prospect to Stefan, raised in the total security and conformity of a repressive regime. Adult readers who discern a foreshadowing of the troubles East-European immigrants have encountered in America will discover, in the author's afterword, that they're not mistaken; but the book has sufficient fictional integrity and historical authenticity to override any programmatic intent. Snugly settled with other refugees in a barracks dorm, Stefan feels content; but there are surprises--his father slips into the old, courtly ways discredited at home, and talks with disturbing new animation; even Stefan finds himself laughing at jokes about Stalin--and then wonders who in the group is a spy. As for America, where, Stefan hears, jobs are not assigned--""How did people manage, if everything depended upon themselves?"" In time, Stefan too will manage to take things upon himself--first, at an American D.P. camp where he is innocently, naively playing the accordion for Red Army soldiers who, he suddenly realizes, are not merely luring refugees back to Russia but actually rounding them up, But more than the negative gesture of non-return is called for, and the climax finds Stefan rescuing his father's precious, proscribed directory of Ukrainian plant life, his legacy of freedom, from the dread Soviet zone. If the Soviet threat is more pervasive than the Nazi menace, that's a matter of circumstance; throughout, Bloch is careful to have her characters point out parallels between the two. And the message, effectively embodied in Stefan, is that the internalization of repression is a greater danger than its outward expression. *Because of a serious mistake in the original review, this book has been re-reviewed.

Pub Date: Oct. 10th, 1979
Publisher: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard