Lieutenant Sonia Vagliano
A Memoir of the World War II Refugee Crisis
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Imprint: The University Press of Kentucky
Following the German occupation of France in 1940, French women moved deftly into the jobs and roles left by their male compatriots—even the role of soldier. In Lieutenant Sonia Vagliano: A Memoir of the World War II Refugee Crisis, Vagliano provides a gripping and compelling account of how her team of young French women was attached to a US First Army unit that arrived in Normandy two weeks after D-Day. From 1943 to 1945, Vagliano followed her unit from Normandy to Paris, through Belgium, and finally into Germany, where they cared for 41,000 total displaced persons and prisoners of war.
Vagliano not only describes her experiences in rich detail—from caring for thousands of refugees in the worst possible conditions to defusing landmines and being kidnapped, shot at, torpedoed, and bombed—she also recounts the major events of the war in Europe, including the liberation of Paris, the Battle of the Bulge, and finally, the liberation of the concentration camps. Spending five weeks at Buchenwald repatriating the 21,000 remaining prisoners, she is a unique witness to the transition period between the camp's liberation and its transferal to Russian oversight in July 1945. She saw firsthand "to what extremes the human imagination can go in its search for the most cruel methods of torture."
Striking a balance between daredevil escapades and the sobering reality of a wartime account, this book won the Prix Saint Simon for best memoir under its original title, Les demoiselles de Gaulle. Now, translator and editor Martha Noel Evans brings the young French lieutenant's story to readers in English for the first time.
Crossing the Atlantic.
We Return to France
Cavigny near St.-Lo
I'm delighted that this lively, well-written, and engaging memoir of everyday refugee-camp life in important battle and concentration-camp sites at the end of WWII will join the corpus of women's war-experience life writing. Vagliano's understated account of her competence is impressive, and her wry recital of her own flubs and failings makes for a good-humored, tactful, and fast-paced narrative.~Julia Watson, professor emerita of comparative studies, The Ohio State University
A very valuable translation of Sonia Vagliano-Éloy's Les Demoiselles de Gaulle. Her story deserves to be better known by francophone and anglophone readers. This memoir speaks to the growing theme of emotion and intimate relationships in time of war, and is significant for anyone interested in WWII history, the French external resistance, gender and war, and humanitarian history.~Charlotte Faucher, University of Manchester