Books

  

Yalta has been Russia’s southern playground since Tsarist times, its heavenly climate, healing waters, pure Black Sea air, exquisite fruit and aromatic flowers beloved of ordinary people and Communist functionaries alike.

When Nazi forces occupy this paradise, everything changes. Goods are scarce, rationing becomes punitive, and for the average Soviet citizen, jobs are hard to come by. Filip, at eighteen, has few options – he is prime fodder for forced labot in Germany’s undermanned wartime industries. His hurried marriage to Galina may grant him a temporary reprieve, but the rules keep changing. Galina’s parents, already branded as de facto collaborators for doing business, however innocently, with the enemy, decide to volunteer in hopes of better placement. The work turns out to be hard and dirty, the treatment near-bestial, hunger and fear are constant companions, but at least for the time being, the family stays together.

By winter, 1945, things are going badly for Germany. Allied air raids destroy strategic cities, disrupt rail networks and communications. In the east, the Red Army keeps the pressure on with waves of fresh recruits from Russia’s vast population. By comparison with other destinations, Dresden seems safe – a medieval city of no military consequence, known for excellent cigarettes and fine porcelain.

The world knows Dresden’s fate, knows of the unexpected firebombing that left thousands dead and the city in ruins. Roads is the story of one family, four people fortunate enough to escape with their lives and a few paltry possessions while Dresden burns behind them.

Even as the war ends, their trials continue: Where have the Germans taken Filip and his father-in-law, and how are Galina and her mother to find their men, while caring for a newborn infant? How is each of them to find the strength to persist, to keep moving in an unfamiliar landscape, to believe in the reunion they all want above anything else? Looking for safety in the rubble of an alien land, among its war-weary people, while trying to avoid the murderous Red Army and its threat of repatriation of Soviet citizens, and to make sense of the administrative patchwork imposed by victorious Allies on a proud, fallen country, they move toward one another with the help of refugee networks and pure chance. Along the way, they must find new ways to live in a changed world, new meanings for loyalty, fidelity, grief, and love.

Roads is the story of people forced into an impossible choice between two tyrants, a choice that will leave them homeless and stateless, at the mercy of shifting international political forces.

It addresses some of the very real questions relevant to present-day refugees: When will this war end? How will we live? If we can never return home, where is there a place for us? And on a deeper level, what does this upheaval mean to us as a couple, a family? How do we deal with the scars of terror and inhumanity and still keep hope alive?