The ‘Roads’ ahead: WWII author discusses refugee roots at Mount talk

October 04, 2019

Author Maria Andropow Cramer recently discussed her book, Roads, at Mount Saint Mary College.

Author Maria Andropow Cramer recently discussed her book, Roads, at Mount Saint Mary College. 

“The morning of the third day, the train stopped within view of a demolished farmhouse. The refugees were, for the most part, alive. In the crush of bodies packed within the wagon, the dead could not fall down. Their numbers would not be known until the doors were opened and people began to descend to the ground.” 
Although an excerpt from Roads, a work of fiction by Maria Andropow Cramer, it is an accurate portrayal of the harsh reality countless refugees faced in the aftermath of World War II, a reality Cramer’s parents knew all too well.
During a talk held at Mount Saint Mary College on Thursday, September 26, Cramer led a discussion on the novel and its shocking historical accuracy. Common themes of the talk included strife, uncertainty, and hope for a better tomorrow.
Born of Russian refugees and raised in post-war Germany, Cramer can still recall the stories of her brave parents. Although they were reluctant to discuss the details of the war at length, she was able to piece together their journey through the conversations she overheard as a child.
Inspired by these stories, Cramer began writing Roads, and 16 years later, her fictional work detailing the journey of two Russian World War II refugees was complete.
Before one passage, Cramer described the rushed decision for the two protagonists to be wed in order to avoid being drafted for forced labor.
“Because he is not married and not a student, he would have been a prime candidate for that kind of work,” said Cramer of Phillippe, the male protagonist. “They heard that married men are being taken last, so they decided to get married. They are barely 18.” Yet, despite their age and circumstances, Philippe’s parents remind him that he must stay with his wife “as a Christian and as a decent man.”
Another passage Cramer read describes the protagonists’ journey through Dresden after the bombing. The text vividly portrays “villages half concealed in swirling soot and smoke,” “several children huddled under a leafless tree near a farmhouse reduced to its doorframe and chimney,” and “a bull, its hindquarters crushed and bleeding, lulling in useless rage.” Each word in this passage is meticulously crafted and clearly depicts to readers the horrors of war.
The talk concluded with a brief question and answer session, and left attendees with a new appreciation for the survivors of that dark moment in history and the struggles they had to endure.
The talk was sponsored by the Mount’s Kaplan Family Library and Learning Center and the Divisions of Education, Social Sciences, and Arts & Letters.