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When This Thing Happened

A tour de force about the impact of war on one family over the twentieth century. As deputy director of the Australian War Memorial for many years, Michael McKernan had heard and written about many stories of war. For him, war was never about the big picture; it always came down to the individual. Yet little did he know when he met his future wife in 1989 that her father would soon be telling him, over many leisurely afternoons, his own story, of being made a slave to the Nazis in the Second World War, and its unforeseeable consequences. One of these consequences was that Mychajlo Stawyskyj's son Joe would grow up in Australia in time to be sent to fight in Vietnam, where he would become one of that war's worst casualties. Drawing on his authoritative grasp of twentieth-century history, and in particular military and social history, Michael McKernan pieces together the disrupted lives of his father-in-law and brother-in-law, creating a compelling narrative of general interest, as well as an unforgettable story about the cost of war to one Australian family.
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About the Author

Michael McKernan is a professional writer, reviewer, and commentator in the area of Australian history. He has written about war and society, the region, sport, and Australian politics.


'A poignant story of a family's luck in one war and tragedy in another. A true Australian story.' -- Barrie Cassidy, author of Private Bill 'Michael McKernan is not only an exceptional storyteller, he brings both sympathy and rigour when positioning individuals within broader, epic tales of warfare, and transforms our understanding of both.' -- Geraldine Doogue 'A must read, told with passion and honesty. At times, I struggled reading this book. It rang so close to my heart, to my own experiences, and to those of others I knew who suffered.' -- Barry Heard, author of Well Done, Those Men 'A must-read.' -- Barry Dick, Sunday Territorian '[McKernan] has an understanding of the consequences of war on individuals, their friends and their families ... [M]oving, fascinating, and full of insight.' -- Nick Goldie, Cooma-Monaro Express

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