American Kid

BOOK REVIEW by Willard Manus

Numerous books have been published about life in Greece during World War Two, but few are as personal and powerful as AMERICAN KID: NAZI-OCCUPIED GREECE THROUGH A CHILD’S EYES by Constance M. Constant.

AMERICAN KID focuses on a Greek-American mother and her three young children who are living in Greece when WW II breaks out, trapping them there. Unique circumstances had brought them to Greece (specifically the Peloponnesos). Andrew, the patriarch of the family, had emigrated from Arcadia to New England in the early part of the 20th century. He prospered sufficiently enough as a chef to to be able to marry Katherine, a young Greek girl on a visit to the USA. The Great Depression wrecked the fortunes of the family, causing Andrew to make a fateful decision: he would send Katherine and their three young children back to Greece–temporarily, of course. They could live comfortably on the profits accruing from the citrus farm he owned with his three brothers, until such time as he could afford to support them back in the USA.

History wrecked that hopeful little plan. The German invasion of Greece cut off all travel routes and forced Katherine to seek shelter in the remote mountain village of her birth, called Parnion in this semi-fictional memoir.

The amerikanakis (as they were called by the villagers) endured poverty, near-starvation and brutality as they fought for survival over the next four years. The Nazis not only occupied Parnion but stripped it of its food, destroyed many of its houses, and killed several of its inhabitants.

Thanks to Katherine’s bravery, resourcefulness and dedication–and to the kindness and generosity of certain neighbors–the family managed to survive the war years.

AMERICAN KID portrays this life and death struggle with astonishing veracity and force. The book succeeds on many levels: not only is it an engrossing historical document but it gives us a heroine whose maternal strength is of heroic proportions. AMERICAN KID also paints a vivid, loving picture of Greek village life–and celebrates the indomitable spirit of the Greek people.

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