Read Dancing Under the Red Star Online

Authors: Karl Tobien

Tags: #Retail, #Biography, #U.S.A., #Political Science, #Russia

Dancing Under the Red Star

Praise for
Dancing Under the Red Star
“Very few stories rise to the level of stirring the deepest parts of my soul. But this is one. Some would call this a tragedy. That is not my sentiment. This amazing chronicle represents the power of the human soul and illustrates the unique potential in each of us. Margaret Werner’s suffering has become a light encouraging us all that there are greater possibilities within each one of us.”
— DON MILAM, author of
The Ancient Language of Eden
“This is the heart-stirring story of a young woman who lost everything and endured unspeakable horrors, yet lived to tell about it. Margaret’s voice speaks for those who did not survive and tells how they were abandoned by American business interests. Her hope, courage, and faith will inspire you to triumph over hardship and injustice.”
—MELODY GREEN, international speaker and author of
No Compromise
“I loved this book!
Dancing Under the Red Star
grips your heart and forever changes your perspective of humanity, God, and the world. This book is destined to be a classic that will inspire generations to come to believe in one’s dreams and have faith in the preserving power of God. A must-read for the progressive mind.”
— DR. MYLES MUNROE, founder and president, Bahamas Faith Ministries International, author of
Rediscovering the Kingdom
“Every once in a while a book grips one’s heart because it seems more than humans are capable of imagining. This true story is remarkably compelling. Part heartrending biography, part epic documentary,
Dancing Under the Red Star
reads more like a spy novel and adventure film blended into an action movie script. Margaret Werner’s life offers a valuable peek behind a part of the Iron Curtain that many Americans have never seen before. Read it, weep, and thank God you live in America today!”
—TOMMY BARNETT, pastor of Phoenix First Assembly and author of
Hidden Power
“A must-read! A book that engulfs the reader and forces one to live through the terror that Margaret felt.”
—RON WEINBENDER, presidential envoy, Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International
“Karl Tobien shares with us a powerfully gripping narrative of God’s grace, power, and direction. Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time, because you won’t be able to put this book down. It’s definitely a once-in-a-lifetime reading experience!”
—PAT WILLIAMS, senior vice president, Orlando Magic, and author of
American Scandal
“I am forever changed by the hope Margaret Werner displayed. Her story is truly inspiring for people in all walks of life; I am forever in love with this woman and her life!”
—DONNA JOHNSON, film producer
I solemnly dedicate this writing to three mothers—
three women I have loved,
three who sheltered the storm,
three whom I now solely credit for my very existence:
Margaret Tobien, my mother;
Elisabeth Werner, her mother;
and Tina Tobien, my wife and eternal soul mate,
without whose tremendous love and kindness,
patience, unwavering support, and abounding faith
this book would never have seen the light of day.
I thank you for things I will never adequately repay,
and I thank God for you in ways I will never adequately express.
I love you, Toonces!


The Gulag


The Pain of Seventeen

Papa Decided

Desperate Eyes

Gorky Beginnings


Life Without Papa

War: Enemies and Allies

Potatoes and Prayers

Nikolai’s Dance






The Far North

The Cultural Brigade


Siberia: Despair and Hope

Good-Bye Joe

Not Quite Freedom


Appeal to Nikita

The Escape


Coming Home


Appendix A:
Time Line

Appendix B:
Historical Notes

Appendix C:
Challenge to the Reader



The Gulag (an acronym in the Russian language for the Main Directorate for Corrective Labor Camps) began in 1918 as a penal system of forced-labor camps established by the Soviet regime after the Bolshevik Revolution.
Joseph Stalin expanded the system, beginning in 1929, to accelerate industry and to exploit the Soviet Union’s natural resources (like the mining of coal, copper, and gold) in its barely habitable northern regions, particularly the Siberian tundra. Over the next ten years, the Gulag spread through all twelve of the Soviet Union’s time zones, sending more than 18 million innocent people through its system—4.5 million of whom were never heard from again.
By 1953, the year Joseph Stalin died, more than 30 million people had passed through the Gulag: prisoners of the Russian Civil War; former aristocrats, businessmen, and large landowners incarcerated alongside murderers, thieves, and common criminals; political opponents; intellectual “enemies of the state”; religious dissenters; women and children; and people deemed guilty of simply associating with any of the above.
They were shipped to and from the camps in cattle cars and corralled behind towering barbed-wire fences into hovels pocked by filth and disease. With few resources, clothes, and tools, they faced extreme hunger and harsh, sub-zero climates where even fog would freeze.
The brutality they endured parallels the Holocaust.
Yet few people knew about their extreme suffering until publication in 1972 of Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn’s epic oral history of the Soviet camps in three volumes.
It would be more than thirty years later before a fully documented, comprehensive history of the Gulag would be published: the Pulitzer Prize-winning
by Anne Applebaum.
New details of the Gulag’s horrors, as in Margaret Werner’s extraordinary account, are being unveiled and documented even to this day.
Dancing Under the Red Star
stands as a powerful story of a woman’s survival.
very person has considered at one time or another these eternally mysterious questions: Why am I here? Where did I come from? Where am I going?
As a child in the 1960s, I had no real ambition to find out the meaning or the history of my life. I was an average American boy, growing up in an urban, middle-class neighborhood in Cincinnati, too busy being a kid to care whether or not my history was unique. Yet I knew my roots were not commonplace.
As a young adult, I began to realize there was much that my mother, Margaret Werner, hadn’t told me about her life during the decades she lived in Stalinist Russia. I knew she had suffered a great deal, but to what extent, I really didn’t know. I had wondered at times but not all that much. I was a hard-living, wild young guy and didn’t have the time to listen—or so I thought.
Besides, the past was the past, right? Why should I seek to understand—and reckon with—something as strange and troubling as the past, which can pull at you, haunt you, hurt you? But then I learned, as the years progressed, that coming to terms with your past can also heal you—if you let it.
My feelings changed, and eventually I found myself consumed with knowing and understanding the whats, whens, and whys of my mother’s life.
One afternoon during the early 1990s, as my mother peeled potatoes at the kitchen sink, I asked her many questions. And she began to tell me more about her life, certain things I had never heard from her before.
My mother spoke of her family’s difficult times in Detroit during the Depression, a long ocean voyage to Europe, and a strange, new life in Gorky, Russia. She mentioned several people she had known in the Soviet Union, including a young man named Victor Herman.
As I stood up, ready to leave her house that day, she stopped me. “Wait.” My mother left the room and returned carrying a book. “Here. This is Victor’s story.” I read the title,
Coming Out of the Ice: An Unexpected Life.
“In many ways, Victor’s life was very similar to mine…but also different.” She recalled that what they had in common was loss, injustice, and suffering…but then victory.
“Why don’t you read this,” she said, “and then let’s talk again.”

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