On the eve of a three-generational pilgrimage back to her Latvian homeland, Ilga speaks to her grandchildren about their great-grandparents. Her memories become the action of the play, all seen through her eyes at ages 4, 10 and nearly 17. At the center of her narrative is the winter of 1944-1945, when 10-year-old Ilga and her parents leave Riga, Latvia, to escape the Russian occupation of their city. Soon they are taken into a German forced-labor camp, where they spend a brutal month but fare better than the Jewish prisoners held on the other side of a barbed-wire fence. Eventually, they walk 500 miles across frozen, war-torn northern Germany, survive strafing by Russian planes and find their way to a refugee camp in western Germany. Six years later, they sail through an Atlantic storm to safety and freedom in America. What makes Ilga's event-filled story unique and compelling is that she is a child witness to the devastation of war and the sources of strength that get her family through it. In Walking Toward America, one actress plays Ilga from grandmother to carefree 4-year-old to frightened 10-year-old to resilient teenager, plus all the characters that populate her remarkable journey. The result is an intensely personal narrative, laced with warmth, humor, courage and determination, that explores all that it means to be an ordinary family caught up in extraordinary circumstances.
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