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A Letter from Frank: An Unlikely Second World War Friendship [Paperback]

Stephen J. Colombo
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 20 2011

This is the remarkable tale of a long-forgotten letter. It was written from Germany in the aftermath of the Second World War to a Canadian in a peaceful Southern Ontario town. Both had been soldiers and had met on a German battlefield. The letter lay unseen for years and was found by the Canadian’s son long after the old soldier’s death. This book tells how that faded letter led to the discovery of the one-time German paratrooper who became his father’s friend in the immediate aftermath of the war.

A Letter from Frank is part war story and part biography, following the lives of Russ Colombo, the Canadian soldier, and Frank Sikora, the German paratrooper. One grew up during the Depression in Ontario, the other was a German in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. This non-fiction narrative also chronicles author Stephen J. Colombo’s struggle to come to terms with a father haunted by the war. Their recollections provide insights into the events that shaped the generations that forged a modern Canada and rebuilt Germany after its near-total devastation. In a surprising twist, this book also provides previously unknown historical details of later NHL president Clarence Campbell at war (Campbell was Russ Colombo's commanding officer).

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About the Author

Stephen J. Colombo is a research scientist with a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto. He has published more than 100 scientific papers and two books. A Letter from Frank is his first non-technical book. He currently lives in Toronto.

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Customer Reviews

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5.0 out of 5 stars In Memory of All Fathers Jan. 24 2012
This work by Steve Colombo brings to life the drama and emotions of what it was like for men to go through the Great Depression followed by World War II and then come home to try and lead a normal life. By examining this historical period through the eyes of two men, from either side of the conflict, makes it an even more compelling story. It lends a perspective that is not normally provided in accounts of this very important period of time that is still affecting our lives. It makes one realize that there were good human beings on both sides of the conflict, and that they were caught up in the savagery of war that took them to dark places they would never have gone under normal circumstances.
I lived through the same story Steve did and always wondered why my Dad became silent when asked about his life during those very trying times. Steve's writing brought back those memories of my Dad and the valor of those men. This book is another reminder as to why they are considered the greatest generation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Insight, empathy and emotion Oct. 31 2011
Stephen has delved into the inner working of children whose fathers fought in wars. It is a story that is personal, touching and illuminating.

Stephen's sympathy with his father is remarkable given how, as a father, he was not able to give his children the emotional support that is so much needed. I saw reflected in his story my own experiences with a father who was a war veteran and hero to many he returned to, but for some inexplicable reason was not able to connect, particularly to a son.

With Stephen's book in hand, I wept, I smiled, I explored. I shall pass on my copy of this book to another child of a war vet, this time from a ethnic german family. I think he will find it equally comforting.

Well done Stephen.
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4.0 out of 5 stars good read Dec 15 2011
I consider a book a good read when it stays with me after I have read it. This is one of those books. It made me reflect on how different the world was during the war years - how people had such a different view of life and honour and priorities. The authour has obviously done considerable research to capture the essence of that time.
Even though he wasn't able to receive direct information from his father(the Canadian soldier), he was able to tell a very credible story of his father's involvement in the war.
Actually finding Frank (the German soldier), and being able to tell his version of the war years makes for interesting reading. I learned much about pre-war Germany and the surrounding countries and their people - including the prejudice that existed before the war and then was exacerbated by the war.
There are many historical facts in the book which at times, astound and at times, appall. It is a story of naivete and courage, of evil and generosity, of ignorance and arrogance, of the ugliness of war, but also how people can sometimes see beyond the hatred to reach out to each other in kindness.
The whole story of finding a lone letter written many years ago, and then tracing the origins of the letter is a fascinating one. It was obviously a work of love for the authour and he written a splendid book.
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