What was the first World War like for those who lived near the front lines of battle? Peter Englund’s book The Beauty and The Sorrow excerpts diaries, letters and memoirs of twenty people who experienced that war firsthand, and this riveting book by American opera singer Laura Blackwell de Gozdawa Turczynowicz is one of his sources. Laura moved to Europe in the early years of the last century where she performed in Munich and Bayreuth, met and married a Polish aristocrat, and was living a life of genteel, Downton Abbey-like luxury until her privileged world and beautiful home were ransacked by the Great War. Though her husband, serving in the Russian military, had to flee when the Germans got near, Laura remained behind with their three young children because one of her twin sons was deathly ill with typhus and far too weak to travel. The four of them lived under German occupation for seven months, cramped into an ever-diminishing number of rooms in their large but now ruined and filthy home, a space they shared with rotating contingents of German fighters and an ever-expanding military hospital in which formerly timid Laura acted as a nurse. Laura was forced to wait on German officers while people in her village starved and soldiers abused prisoners and villagers for sport. Hearing approaching sounds of battle brought hope not fear; maybe their own soldiers were making headway and would soon be able to liberate them. After seven months and with the European war still raging, Laura and her children were allowed to make their way to the United States where Laura wrote this book, hoping to inspire America and Americans to help free devastated Poland.