Back on my night table is “The Long Way Home” by David Laskin, a beautifully written account of the battles, politics, geography and personal biographies of World War I. While it reads like a novel, it offers solid research, including family interviews and letters.
Laskin examines the lives of 12 immigrants who returned to Europe to fight bravely for their adopted homeland. The stories of these Italian, Jewish, Polish, Norwegian, Irish and Slovak soldiers began in hardship, poverty and persecution. All performed admirably; three died in France, and two won the Congressional Medal of Honor. Some were not citizens and some had to ignore old loyalties. Many faced discrimination after the war.
According to Laskin, 18 percent of the U.S. soldiers in WWI were foreign-born. “The Long Way Home” confirms the success of this American journey, which is now threatened by anti-immigrant politics. Anyone with immigrant ancestry can relate to these stories. And that includes most of us.
Vicki Pieser, New Ulm
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