Among the Red Stars

Written by Gwen C. Katz
Review by Valerie Adolph

The author takes on a tremendous task in this book, depicting the struggle between Russians and Germans during WWII. Several million combatants were lost on each side. The front, continually snaking, stretched over thousands of miles of inhospitable country; cold was an additional enemy.

This vast, hostile sweep of history is seen here through the lens of a simple love story about two young people: Valka, the girl destined to become a pilot, and Pasha, the artistic, thoughtful boy who is forced to become a soldier. They have grown up together hardly recognizing the depth of feeling that has developed between them. Their story is told partly in the third person, partly in letters between them expressing their feelings and fears.

Valka flies night bombers—no, not those huge steel bombers we know, but flimsy little biplanes with fabric wings and bombs hooked manually beneath them. She and her friends face not only the Russian cold, darkness, German fighters and guns, but also the disdain and dislike of the male establishment, layered on top of political divisions and paranoia.

There is no way to make this topic a light read and carefree romance. It is a tale of great bravery against almost impossible conditions. Katz has achieved much in presenting her theme through the eyes and feelings of two young people struggling to survive as best they can. She keeps us in mind of the suffering of two huge armies in inhumane conditions as she shows us the individual bravery of two vulnerable people caught up in war. This is history we seldom hear about.

And, oh, yes, we even start to feel warmly about Valka’s little biplane.