Anneros Valensi, in Where is Home? shares a seldom seen perspective of WWII—the side of a young German girl, along with her mother and siblings, trying to survive behind the front lines of the war raging in Europe.
Born in Falkenau, Silesia, East Germany, in 1938, Valensi was just six years old when one day all the children in her village were ordered to greet everyone with “Heil Hitler” and a raised right arm. Her world took on ominous overtures from her pre-war, ordinary family life: the girls playing with dolls, learning to sew, being teased by the older brothers, playing hide-and-seek. At Christmas, we see her in a black velvet dress with puffy sleeves and tiny red bows, black Mary Janes on her feet.
Now, her father would come and go without explanation. In January 1945, her family was evacuated, allowed to take only what they could carry. Three months later they returned home, now under the Russian regime. Their nice, comfortable, home was confiscated and they were left to find shelter where they could. Soon the family was being evacuated again, a mother with five children ranging in age from one and a half to eleven, put on trains and relocated to one place after another, living a life of uncertainty, hardship, and hunger. That was her life for many months. The after affects for the twelve year-old girl were traumatic and the loss of home and relatives haunted her and she kept hoping to find home again. We also learn of the Red Cross providing food, clothing, and temporary living quarters for those in need regardless of battle lines.
A shy and quiet child, Valensi was now afraid of her own shadow, living in a state of numbness, but through it all held onto dreams of a better life. At age eight, she had had very little schooling and had a lot of catching up to do. Her small school had two teachers and the students were divided into two groups, grades one through four on one side and five through eight on the other.
At twelve, she took a test to enter high school and felt that she was slowly growing up. She rejoiced in going to a real school, studying Latin, English, and French. She started to see a future in which she could be her own person.
In 1952 the Red Cross located Valensi’s father and the family was reconnected. She had not seen him since she was a small child and didn’t recognize him. A bookkeeper before the war, her father got a position doing payroll for the US Army in Mannheim.
Valensi, now a young woman, meets Wolfgang, a young man visiting from Bochum and learns what love feels like. Wolfgang will be going to university to become a lawyer, but she is already studying to become a nurse and she wants to see the world.
With the goal of improving her English, Valensi moves to London as an au pair for six months, and then takes a nursing position at St. Mary’s hospital. Life in London opened up more opportunities for the better life she was seeking.
Valensi gives us an inside look at her life a different perspective of what life was like behind the “enemy” lines as a child. She chronicles her childhood filled with fear and uncertainty of growing up in a war torn country to her young adulthood filled with pride and achievement in Where is Home. Her inspirational account will draw you right into the heart of a strong young person who never gave up the search for a better life.