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Shortly after the end of World War II, British Colonel Michael 'Hooky' Nicobar is assigned to a unit in the British Zone of Vienna. His duty is to aid the Soviet authorities to repatriate citizens of the Soviet Union, many of whom prefer not to return to their home country. Billeted in the convent run by Mother Auxilia, Nicobar, and his military aides Major John 'Twingo' McPhimister and Audrey Quail, become involved in the plight of a young ballerina who is trying to avoid being returned to Moscow. Nicobar's sense of duty is tested as he sees first hand the plight of the people he is helping return to the Soviet Union; his lack of religious faith is also shaken by his contact with the Mother Superior. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <email@example.com>
I had read the novel first, Vespers in Vienna, which was delightful as well as sad. The other comments miss the point completely--the focus in the novel was not Cold War propaganda but the facts of the insane policies of the US and British in their respective zones of occupation in Germany and Austria to forcibly remove or return Eastern Europeans, not just Soviet citizens, even including ethnic Germans, most of whom had endured untold horrors trying to escape to the west, safety, and 'freedom' at the end of the war. That was the bemused Walter Pigeon's problem, not 'war guilt' but having to 'obey orders.' The fact that this forceful expulsion was done because the Allies a. did not want to feed and care for refugees, and b. did want to curry favor with the Soviets at that pre-Berlin Blockade period makes the history even more poignant. Most expellees were anti-Soviet, which is why they had escaped to the west to begin with, and thus went back to a certain death. It wasn't a small part of history--it was one of the biggest Allied mistakes and betrayals, and there were many, of the Occupation. Angela Lansbury is terrific and got the character just right.
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