Escape into Danger
The True Story of a Kievan Girl in World War II
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About the author
Sophia Orlovsky Williams was born in Kiev to a Catholic mother and a Jewish father and chose to be identified as Jewish on the eve of World War II. Narrowly escaping Nazi capture during the war, she moved to the United States in 1952. Working as a draftsman, she was the first female to break into the traditionally male territory at EBASCO, then at Ford, Bacon & Davis, both of New York. She moved to San Francisco in 1955, where she was associated with Bechtel for thirty years until her retirement in 1985. She lives in Texas.
Escape into Danger tells the remarkable story of a young girl’s perilous adventures and coming of age during World War II. Born in Kiev to a Catholic mother and a Jewish father, Sophia Williams chose to be identified as Jewish when she was eligible for a Soviet passport, mandatory at the age of sixteen, little realizing the life-changing consequences of her decision. Only seventeen when Germany invaded Russia in 1941, Sophia left Kiev, unwittingly escaping the Babi Yar massacre. On her journey into Russia, she fled from flooding, dodged fires and bombs, and fell in love. At Stalingrad, Sophia turned back in a futile attempt to return home to her mother. Stranded in a Nazi-occupied town, accepted as a Russian, she found work with a sympathetic German officer and felt secure until a local girl recognized her as a Jew. Within days, Sophia’s boss spirited her to safety with his family in Poland. Soon, though, Sophia was on the run again, this time to Nazi Germany, where, befriended by Germans and Hungarians, she somehow escaped detection through the rest of the war. She met and married a like-minded German soldier and started a family and business. The business thrived in post-war Germany, but the marriage deteriorated. She divorced her adulterous husband, but the vindictive, even homicidal Guido continued to dog her steps. Throughout, Sophia maintained her grit, charm, and optimism, the qualities that saved her as she time and again made her “escape into danger.”
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
; December 2011
328 pages; ISBN 9781442214705Read online
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Title: Escape into Danger
Author: Sophia Orlovsky Williams
In the press
Williams’ staggering autobiography of her WWII survival as a Russian Jew begins after Stalin’s 1930 collectivization, when famine and deadly epidemics overtook Kiev, and people stood in long ration lines for sawdust-fortified bread. As a child, she fled with her mother to rural Ukraine with its plentiful food and resilient peasants, and there she worked in the ambulance corps service during the 1932 scarlet fever outbreak. Kiev’s food supplies eventually improved, but disgust with Stalin’s KGB provoked Sophia to defiantly identify herself as a Jew on her Soviet passport. Transferred at 17 from her government work in the city to relative safety inland, Williams remembers, 'No one dreamed how fast the Germans could reach the Dnieper or how bewildered we would be when they did.' She found wartime romance, retreated to Stalingrad, then tried to return to her mother in Kiev despite 'the wounds of war' and Nazi occupation. Her luck and pluck attested by this arresting account of wartime survival and postwar life command attention, reinforcing the fact that war in all its forms is hell.