The Long Vacation (Paperback)
The Long Vacation by Alex Panasenko is his gripping account of World War II as seen through the eyes of a young boy. The story begins in October 1941 when 8-year-old Alex enters elementary school in Kharkov, Ukraine. Soon after, Hitler's invading army reaches the city. Alex witnesses the battle for the city and the ensuing starvation and execution of civilian hostages under German occupation. To save his family, Alex's father goes to work for the Germans as an agricultural research scientist. When the Red Army counterattacks, the family retreats across a devastated Ukraine with the Germans. In Germany, Alex, now eleven, is taken from his parents, labeled a Slavic Ostarbeiter (subhuman), and placed in a labor camp. Now on his own, Alex experiences months of grueling labor, starvation, and misery. When the victorious Russians draw near and the camp breaks up, he runs away and retreats with the Germans. Traveling west through Germany, he experiences the fight for Vienna and several horrific air attacks by allied planes. He is accidentally reunited with his family in Bavaria shortly before the town in which they are sheltering falls to the advancing Americans. After witnessing the depredations wrought on the German civilians by freed slave laborers, Alex becomes a black market dealer and gains a firsthand view of the economic and moral dissolution of society.