The World War II memoir, based on a Latvian girl's diaries, recounts experiences from her sunny childhood on the Baltic Sea to being catapulted into the turmoil of the Soviet and Nazi occupations. She is an eyewitness as people are deported in cattle cars to Siberia and Jewish children are marched to their graves by Hitler's SS men. Her childhood is engulfed in flames when her home and dreams turn to ashes and she becomes a refugee riding freight trains to Displaced Persons' camps in Austria. Disguised as gypsies, the family flees to the British Zone to escape deportation to Siberia. The unbiased account from a child's perspective relates how her family's faith, courage, love, and resiliency allows them to rise above despair, hunger, hard labor, and invading armies to start over again. With God as a traveling companion, their wanderings lead to a new homeland where new trials await.
This is not the typical wartime story of bloodshed that leaves a damaged psyche. Though experiencing loss of home, friends and relatives, and the terror of bombings by three different military powers, the young refugee girl learns from her parents the difference between totalitarian regimes causing destruction in their quest for power and the innocent people engulfed in the melee regardless of their nationality. Living in trenches and caught in the line of fire by opposing armies brings realization that the young soldiers fighting each other on foreign soil are not born killers, but in their homeland are somebody's dear son, often willing to assist the civilians affected by the trauma of war.
Armed with idealism that comes with youth and unaware of the threatening consequences of her actions, Skaidrite fights her own war against injustice by refusing to submit to the authority of her teachers when they issue orders contrary to her beliefs. On her way to school, the child within her is frightened when passing piles of human skulls unearthed during the construction of a bunker, but she is not afraid to tell her parents that a Soviet official has instructed her class to report if a parent says something against the government so that the parent could be properly "educated". Even a five-year-old could perceive the injustice of spying on her parents.
When her class meets Hitler face to face during his whistle-stop visit in Austria, the young fighter for justice refuses to salute "Heil Hitler" because his men killed Jewish children and he is not her Führer. Only a miracle saves her family from repercussions due to this protest.
Skaidrite's private war comes to an end when she finds acceptance in the USA and at the University of Michigan.