Coming to Colorado
In his acclaimed memoir German Boy: A Refugee’s Story, Wolfgang W. E. Samuel relates his experiences as a child surviving war and its hellish aftermath in occupied Germany. On January 24, 1951, exactly six years after his traumatic flight from Russian tanks, Samuel finds himself standing at the railing of a ship taking him to the land of his dreams—America. Coming to Colorado is the story of a refugee from war and deprivation, who at age sixteen, not understanding a word of English and with barely an eighth-grade education, leaves behind all that is familiar. Scarred by the violence, rape, and death he has seen, Samuel must first learn to be a boy again. But every relationship he tries to build must overcome the specter of his childhood experience in World War II and the chaos that followed. Shortly after his arrival in Colorado, Samuel spends what little money he has on a pair of second lieutenant’s bars that he finds in a Denver pawnshop. These bars, just like those worn by the American pilots he idolized during the Berlin Airlift, remind him of the airmen and the planes that instilled in him a dream to fly. That aspiration, however, faces long odds. Struggling to learn the English language and American customs, Samuel begins to lose faith in his abilities, suffers depression, and is haunted by both recurring nightmares of his violent past and survivor’s guilt. Coming to Colorado charts the path of Samuel’s eventual triumph. In 1960, his proud mother saw pinned on his shoulders the gold bars of a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force. It was the end of a struggle for the German boy, who had become, as he wished, the ultimate American.
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