My Flag Grew Stars by Kitty Gogins recounts the events that brought the author’s parents to the United States in the wake of World War II. What makes this book especially interesting, however, is that Gogins’ father, Tibor Zoltani, was conscripted to serve in the German Luftwaffe and subsequently held as a POW by Allied forces at the height of the war. Yet even though Tibor’s story is far from typical, it speaks to issues that displaced persons of every stripe can likely relate to. Most notably, it is a story of adaptation, of deciding how much of the past to hold on to and what to relinquish in the never-ending process of cultural assimilation. In this sense, My Flag Grew Stars falls in line with the grand tradition of works that examine what it means to come to America — works ranging from Theodore Dreiser’s “Old Rogaum and his Theresa” to more recent works like Mark McGinty’s The Cigar Maker. That Gogins is relating a true story makes it all the more compelling, and her attention to detail — both physical and emotional — vividly brings her family’s history to life.
My Flag Grew Stars: World War II Refugees Journey to America is a compelling narrative of danger and fear of two young people, Olga and Tibor, who flee their homeland Hungary from the advancing Red Army in 1945 as it pushed the occupying Nazi forces west. As the story tells: “They had to act quickly or be in the hands of the advancing Russian soldiers, soldiers known to brutalize and rape fleeing Hungarians.”
Overcoming many obstacles and hunger they succeeded to reach the territory under the control of the Allies.
It is the story of millions of displaced persons at the end of the World War II in Europe, yet it is unique, of Olga and Tibor, who’s enduring human spirit prevails against all odds and they built their new fulfilling and productive lives in the country sought by millions, America. It is a book that the new generations of Americans should read in order not to forget what displaced persons endured during the war that swept Europe in not so distant past.