Refugee Stories from Europe

These stories focus on conflicts in Europe and primarily highlight the wars in the Balkans. A few of the titles are written by Alice Mead, a teacher who spent many years in the Balkans advocating for children's right to an education.

Due to the violent nature of the conflicts described, we encourage you to review titles carefully before recommending them or using them in the classroom.

See our Refugee Experiences section for:

  • Titles from other regions
  • Titles for younger readers
  • Guidance for supporting refugee students

Adem's Cross

Age Level: 12-14

"After (Adem's) sister is killed during a peaceful demonstration and Serbian soldiers take over his grandmother's store, the 12-year-old is enraged by his elders' passivity. In an act of defiance, Adem breaks their rule of remaining inconspicuous and walks down a road alone. This apparently simple action puts him and his family in grave danger. Only after he is aided by a Gypsy with neutral views does Adem realize that his dreams and those of his enemies are remarkably similar." — Publisher's Weekly

Day of the Pelican

Age Level: 9-12

The flight of an Albanian family from Kosovo to avoid escalating violence and what they confront when they land in a small Vermont village comes to life through the voice of 12-year old Meli.

Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference

Age Level: 16-18

"St. John, a New York Times reporter, brought Clarkston, GA, to national attention in 2007 with a series of articles about the changes in the small Southern town brought about by an influx of refugees from all over the world. This book comes out of those articles…The book is a sports story, a sociological study, a tale of global and local politics, and the story of a determined woman who became involved in the lives of her young charges." — School Library Journal (Young readers edition also available.)

Something about America

Age Level: 12-14

Product Description: The thirteen-year-old from Kosova thinks of herself as a typical American schoolgirl. But for her parents, moving to Maine was just a sad necessity, a way to escape from war and find medical care for a daughter scarred up to her chin. But then a hateful event changes everything — forcing residents old and new to reexamine what it means to be an American.

Swimming to America

Age Level: 12-14

Product Description: Linda Berati, an eighth grader in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, knows that her parents are Albanian and her little sister American. But what is she? And how did she get to New York? Her parents evade her questions, fueling Linda's uneasiness about her identity. Only Ramón, a Cuban immigrant her age, seems to understand. Together, they escape to their hideout. Then a strange, foreign man appears, and she soon discovers that immigrants come to the United States for many reasons. She determines to confront her mother, but will she find out the truth about herself at last?

Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Wartime Sarajevo

Age Level: 14-16

First published as Zlata's Diary in 1994, this revised version includes additional photos. When Zlata Filipovic, "the Anne Frank of Sarajevo," began her diary entries on September 2, 1991, her life was typical of most 11 year olds. By the time she ended her diary entries on October, 13, 1991, the Serbian, Croatian, and Muslim warlords had changed her life forever. Her diary may prompt readers to find additional information on Sarajevo, Bosnia, the Geneva Agreement, Anne Frank, and Icarus.