ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 2015 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.

Volume 61, No.2 - Summer 2015
Editor of this issue: Almantas Samalavičius

Book Review

A Docudrama fit for Hollywood

Felicia Prekeris Brown. God, Give Us Wings.
North Charleston, SC: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013. 252 pages. ISBN: 978-1484189122.

Over the years, I have reviewed many books, never once thinking or suggesting that a book could be made into a movie. I now have to violate that tradition. It is not that Brown's book could become a movie. It is stronger than that: This book should become a movie. I know almost nothing about screenwriting, but I feel that God, Give Us Wings is ripe for a docudrama.

Brown's God, Give Us Wings and Vladas Terleckas's The Tragic Pages of Lithuanian History 1940-1953 both review the same time period from two different perspectives. Terleckas's book focuses on the deep suffering and greatest battles in Lithuanian history. It presents cold historical facts, painful figures, and heroic events. The books supplement each other. Terleckas gives the broader historical background, while Brown's adds blood, sweat, and tears experienced by one family. His book is about Stalin, Hitler, partisans, and repression, while hers is about father Felicius, mother Stasė, sister Milda, and the author herself, Dalia Felicija, of the Prekeris family.

God, Give Us Wings consists of twenty chapters plus an afterword. It starts with the description of the Prekeris family in 1939, when the author was two years old. The author's father was a highly respected school teacher. Her mother was a principled and controlling woman whose formal education stopped before she became a teenager. Her sister turned ten in 1939.

In 1939, Hitler invades Lithuania Minor. A year later, the USSR occupies and forcibly annexes Lithuania. A year of life in the "Worker's Paradise" follows. It includes massive deportations of Lithuanians to Siberia. Hitler then attacks the Soviet Union and occupies Lithuania until the summer of 1944. Brown describes a very stressful life under the Fuhrer, including the extermination of the Jewish population. In chapter 7, the Prekeris family packs to flee the country, as the Soviet Army chases the Nazis out of Eastern Europe. The "meat and potatoes" of the book begins with their departure from their homeland. The endless hardships of the Prekeris family and thousands of other refugees continue through chapter 13. The Nazis conscript Felicius to dig antitank ditches, while the rest of his family struggles with disease, food shortage, poor housing, and fading hopes.

High drama unfolds at the end of the war in spring 1945. The family finds itself on the shores of the Elbe River. It becomes very critical to be on the correct side, because one side was under Red Army control, while the other side belonged to Western Allies, i.e., the British and the Americans. The incident is a cliff-hanger that should be captured with all the intensity of a docudrama.

Life in a displaced person camps follows. This is not the typical DP camp experience of many Lithuanians after the war. The Prekeris family is pushed from pillar to post among six different camps over a few years. Again, high drama ensues when the soviets want Lithuanian and other Baltic refugees to return to their countries of origin. There, they would be able to enjoy the "freedom of liberation." Nobody believes that promise. A few commit suicide rather than face an almost certain one-way trip to Siberia.

The story of the Prekeris family takes an unexpected turn. The family splits. Stasė and Milda immigrate to England with a two-year work contract, while Felicius and Dalia Felicija stay behind in Germany. This part of the story is both very interesting and stressful. In the last chapter, "We Find Our Permanent Haven," they are reunited and settle in England. In the afterword, the family eventually immigrates to the United states. They see the statue of Liberty in New York Harbor on January 20, 1952. After a few months in Cicero, Illinois, they settle in Stamford, Connecticut.

The author marries Lew Brown and they buy a small house a mile from San Juan Capistrano, the California Mission. She becomes a lawyer. She works for the Superior Court, supervising the Probate Court Investigations Unit. She takes up doll collection as a hobby. She collects a thousand small dolls from every corner of the world, hoping for a granddaughter. The doll theme is also an important part of this captivating history. Read it before it becomes a docudrama!

Romualdas Kriaučiūnas