Muriel Gillick draws from a remarkable set of primary source materials, including letters, telegrams, and police records to relate the story of two teenage refugees during World War II. Once They Had a Country conveys well what it was like to establish a new life in a foreign country—over and over again and in constant fear for one’s life. The work tells of the extraordinary experiences of the author’s parents in Europe and demonstrates how citizens and the governments of Belgium, France, Switzerland, Brazil, America, China, and postwar Germany treated refugees. This story also reveals the origins of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the basis of contemporary international law affecting refugees in many countries today.
In addition to the dramatic human story it tells, this work brings the plight of refugees home to the reader—and with over 8 million refugees worldwide today, the subject of how individuals and nation states respond to these individuals is indeed timely.