Tobien, Karl 1956-
Tobien, Karl 1956-
Born January 1, 1956, in the Soviet Union (now Russia); immigrated to West Germany (now Germany), 1958; immigrated to the United States, 1961; married; wife's name Tina; children: Karla, Matthew, Kaleb, and Khloe. Education: Studied business administration.
Management consultant and speaker. Worked variously as a disc jockey, lifeguard, bartender, actor, and model. Military service: U.S. Navy, served for four years.
Dancing under the Red Star: The Extraordinary Story of Margaret Werner, the Only American Woman to Survive Stalin's Gulag, Waterbrook Press (Colorado Springs, CO), 2006.
Karl Tobien is a management consultant and speaker. Born on January 1, 1956, near a Soviet labor camp in Siberia's northernmost region, Tobien spent his first two and a half years in the Soviet Union with his parents and grandmother. He then fled to Hanover, West Germany, with his family and by age six had immigrated to the United States, his mother's homeland. After graduating from high school in Cincinnati, Ohio, he served for four years in the U.S. Navy. He consecutively studied business administration and, after completing his military service, worked variously as a disc jockey, lifeguard, bartender, actor, and model. He also played amateur sports, including baseball and hockey. He went on to marry his wife, Tina, and have four children while working in the corporate world.
Tobien published his first book, Dancing under the Red Star: The Extraordinary Story of Margaret Werner, the Only American Woman to Survive Stalin's Gulag, in 2006. The account tells the story of Margaret Werner, Tobien's mother, the only American woman who survived her detention in a Soviet labor camp. As a child Margaret moved to Gorky, a manufacturing town just outside of Moscow, with her parents, as her father decided to take a position there with Ford Motors. Four years after arriving, however, her father was arrested by the secret police and never heard from or seen again. Several years later, after struggling to survive with her mother, Margaret herself was arrested for espionage and was sent to a labor camp for a ten-year sentence.
At the labor camp Tobien describes how the lack of food, freezing temperatures of the Siberian location, and the brutal conditions wore on those interned at the camp. Tobien talks primarily about life at the camp, only touching briefly on how World War II and the Cold War impacted her stay there. However, Margaret found ways to keep her spirits up. She joined the prison dance company and was grateful for each day her personal will endured the conditions of the camp. After her sentence was completed, she married a German prisoner-of-war who was also interned at the camp with her. They were granted permission to move to East Germany with the author as a baby and her mother and managde to escape to West Germany while there. This ultimately became their ticket back to the United States.
Stacy Perman, reviewing the book on the BookPage Web site, commented that Margaret Werner's "life, randomly caught in the brutal Soviet regime, is at turns bleak and horrifying. However, it is also a testament to one woman's unshakable courage and faith." Booklist contributor Frank Caso described the account as "compelling." Caso noted that "this is an exciting story and an overlooked piece of history."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 1, 2006, Frank Caso, review of Dancing under the Red Star: The Extraordinary Story of Margaret Werner, the Only American Woman to Survive Stalin's Gulag, p. 68.
Slavic and East European Journal, fall, 2007, Marya Zeigler, review of Dancing under the Red Star, p. 639.
BookPage,http://www.bookpage.com/ (May 18, 2008), Stacy Perman, review of Dancing under the Red Star.