Erika Schroll, a small girl, growing up in the picturesque town of Saaz, discovers the way of the world and her own nature amidst the turmoil of a World War and its devastating consequences. Always being accompanied by her mother, Josefine, she feels safe in spite of the family's sudden deportation with millions of compatriots to the recently destroyed Germany. In East Germany, by now was part of the Russian Sector, the country having been divided up by the allies, Erika and her mother spent 9 months in an overcrowded refugee camp, whilst her fatally sick sister, Liesl, was being nursed in the hospital in the town of Freiberg/Saxony. The long, enforced march across the Ore mountain range, dividing Czechoslovakia from Germany, had done irreparable damage to her already dysfunctional heart valves. After two years of starvation and ill health and the worst winter for centuries, their physical condition became critical. At that time, Erika's father, Ferdinand, found his family through the efforts of the Red Cross and helped them escape to the American West Sector.
Josefine and the two girls had to cross the border from East Germany to Bavaria in the Western Zone illegally, while Ferdinand took their few belongings as hand baggage on the train. In No-mans-land, Josefine and the children were shot at by East German border guards. Nonetheless, Josefine felt that the risk of walking on was worth taking as the family would anyway have starved to death in East Germany. She succeeded and after many obstacles found her husband across the border. In order to obtain ration cards for his family, Ferdinand intended to leave them temporarily in a refugee camp in Regensburg, Bavaria, only to be told by the camp commandant that Josefine and the children had to be sent back to East Germany by train the next morning due to the lack of space for more people. Ferdinand decides to take the family to his elderly parents, who had also been deported (this time more humanely) to a small village in Bavaria. At last, the family was safe, but many obstacles and losses had to be overcome before a tolerable life could begin.
The dramatic attempts of other close relatives to escape the life-threatening chaos all around them are interwoven into the main story, while the background is the roller coaster of political events and history in the making.