Twenty-five years after the fall of communism in Europe comes a true, inspiring story about one family caught up in a Cold War drama, separated by the Iron Curtain and a brutal regime that kept them apart. Against a historical backdrop, this is their story about their lives, their struggles and their unwavering efforts to sustain family ties in an environment that was anything but normal.

In 1945, the United States, Soviet Union and their allies defeat Nazi Germany in World War II. Germany is split into two separate zones. While the U.S. begins to help rebuild the western part of Germany based on democracy and rule of law, Soviet Forces take control of the eastern zone, establishing an entirely new nation governed by autocratic communist ideology.

The vast differences in ideologies polarize the two world powers and split the globe into two distinct camps setting the stage for a battle of philosophies and a test of wills, marking the beginning of a new period in worldwide tensions, the Cold War. Over the next forty years, the two superpowers go head to head in proxy conflicts around the world, in a dangerous game that borders at times on the brink of nuclear annihilation.

Little is known about East Germany but it becomes the center of attention for several reasons, one of which is due to its geographical location as the westernmost frontier of communism during the Cold War. Ruled by a hard-lined dictator and controlled by a ruthless secret police, East Germany builds a massive concrete wall fortified by a “death strip,” and holds its eighteen million citizens hostage.

Set against one of the most dramatic periods of the twentieth century, Forty Autumns is a story of one family’s courage, unbending determination and quiet defiance in the face of a bizarre totalitarian regime that kept its citizens isolated from the western world.

A personal look at a tenuous era that divided a city and a nation, and continues to haunt us, Forty Autumns is an intimate and beautifully written story of courage, resilience, and love—of five women whose spirits could not be broken, and who fought to preserve what matters most: family.

Our story started when one war ended and another began…

Hanna—a defiant teenage dreamer, refuses to live in a prison society and risks her life to be free, knowing that escape means cutting off ties with the family she loves, perhaps forever.

Oma—Hanna’s mother, a gentle, dedicated country teacher’s wife, quietly raises nine children as radical Soviet communism replaces fanatical Nazi fascism in a new country called East Germany.

Heidi—Hanna’s little sister, a spirited idealist born in the East a year after her oldest sister’s escape, grows up under communism yet secretly yearns for a better future and hopes to one day meet the sister she calls “a legend.”

Cordula—Heidi’s daughter, an elite athlete in an intensely competitive and unforgiving sports culture, fights to become a member of the vaunted East German Olympic training team.

Nina—Hanna’s daughter, a young American intelligence officer, is posted to Berlin and serves as the first American woman to run sensitive U.S. Army intelligence collection missions in East Berlin during the Cold War.