We were all the time hoping we were going to return back.
— George, 2010


During the final days of World War Two, eleven-year-old Ursula escaped war-ravaged East Germany with her mother in a freight train to the West. Across Europe, George fled newly-Communist Bulgaria, walking across the mountains to a refugee camp in Greece. 

From 2010-2012, I sat down with my grandparents to record their stories and memories of their earliest years, set against the backdrop of a tumultuous and tragic time in European history. Their journeys and memories- from ice skating in the street and herding sheep in the fields, to building new lives in America- intrigued and inspired me, and demonstrate the strength of the human spirit in ordinary people. Through the process of listening and recording, I learned not only the details of their past, but the powerful ways in which memory and story shape who we are and what we pass on to the next generation. 

This book is an attempt to retell my grandparents' extraordinary stories, as I sift through their memories and untangle the complicated legacies that lay within them. Ultimately, this project is a love letter to two people who raised me and taught me. But it is also an attempt to understand their past through the lens of history as well as memory, and to uncover my own place in the complicated legacy they have passed on to me, reconciling my deep family pride with the painful truths that hide inside their histories.