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Far Away in the Sky: a Memoir of the Biafran Airlift [Kindle Edition]

David L. Koren
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Some were paid. Some felt compelled by a duty to God. Some volunteered. Some died doing it. All flew on rickety old aircraft into a nighttime, wartime patch of African forest called Biafra.

Far Away in the Sky gives the personal account of one of them, a young American volunteer who joined the largest international humanitarian relief airlift ever attempted. In 1968 millions of people, mostly children, were starving due to a military blockade of Biafra, the former Eastern Region of Nigeria. The World Council of Churches and Caritas International mounted a relief airlift. Flying at night to avoid Nigerian Migs, without radar or any modern navigational aids, landing amid bombs on a stretch of road in the rain forest, the old planes delivered thousands of tons of food and medicines.

UNICEF recruited six former United States Peace Corps Volunteers, including the author, to help unload the planes. The former volunteers had served in Nigeria and were familiar with the area and the people. To David Koren the people of Biafra, his former students and fellow teachers, constituted his motive for joining the airlift.

More than just a memoir of events, Far Away in the Sky promotes a discussion of international aid, of the balance between the grace of giving and the dignity of receiving aid, and the policies of governments toward intervention or non-intervention in humanitarian disasters. How do the lessons of Biafra apply to modern eruptions like Rwanda, Darfur, Libya, Syria and those yet to come?

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

David Koren lives on a mini farm in the Pennsylvania countryside with his wife, Kay, and their two tractors. He has enjoyed careers in teaching, rehabilitation counseling, laser physics, amateur astronomy, and now book writing. Beautiful in aspect and spirit, Kay abides all the puddles he gets himself into.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2716 KB
  • Print Length: 332 pages
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007IU6ESM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #469,026 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Pogrom victims face the ultimate dilemma: Should they die fighting for their lives? Or should they beg for mercy and hope that determined killers would have a change of heart?

Dealing with a choice this excruciating is bad enough, but it doesn't end there. There's also the frustration, even anger, that pogrom survivors must face when people who have never walked in their shoes pontificate on how they (and by implication the victims who didn't survive) should have reacted while being hunted down for elimination.

Many ask: How could they have walked so meekly to their deaths? Why didn't they fight for their lives? Or: What made them think they had any chance against such powerful enemies? Couldn't they see that resistance was futile? It's easy for historians or anyone else (especially those who have never directly witnessed a pogrom, let alone come close to being at the receiving end of one) to hold facile debates from very safe, comfortable locations about pogrom victims.

David Koren does not default to this familiar trait in his book, Far Away in the Sky: A Memoir of the Biafran Airlift. Instead, he offers uncommon insight and empathy on the situation that faced the people of Nigeria's Eastern Region just before they tried to break away as the Republic of Biafra in 1967. This secession attempt came after two rounds of pogroms in which tens of thousands of eastern Nigerians were killed in 1966. It helps that Koren actually lived in the Eastern Region for three years before the Nigeria-Biafra War broke out in July 1967. As a Peace Corps volunteer teaching in a secondary school in the region, he had come to understand the place and its ethnic-majority Igbo people better than most Americans ever could.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Proud brother May 1, 2012
By Jim
My brother has written an honest and insightful account of his Peace Corp experience in Nigeria and of his harrowing experiences after returning to aid in the Biafran airlift. He uses words beautifully to give the reader a real sense of people and place both before and during the war.
His book tells a fascinating story of all the players and circumstances that came together to create this relief effort and how it changed his life and the lives of so many others.
This story has relevance to many events happening today. I loved getting to know my brother better.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, first-hand experience. April 19, 2012
By Erin
Format:Kindle Edition
Mr. Koren presents a well-written, first-hand look at the conflict in Nigeria during the late 1960s. The book will be of interest to library lovers, UNICEF supporters, and those wishing to understand more about the humanitarian efforts put forth in Biafra.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Airlift Not to be Forgotten: Fascinating and Tragic September 22, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
After the Peace Corps had to leave Nigeria because the Biafran Civil War started, Koren returned to help unload planes that aid agencies were flying food in because the Biafrans (Igbos) were surrounded and being starved to death. Koren trained for the Peace Corps at the same place I did (UCLA), arrived just as I was due to leave, and in telling about his Peace Corps experience, mentions one woman who was in my training group. From my travels in what was then the Eastern Region of Nigeria (I was in the North), I could identify many of the towns and also his experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer. He wrote a shorter version about his experience and Peace Corps alums told him he needed to expand it into a book. He discovered some tapes he had done during his time working on the airlift so he was able to develop it into a book I am find fascinating as well as tragic. The Igbos/Biafrans later had to surrender. Oil in the southern part of the Eastern region, and religious differences between Muslims and Christians contributed to the civil war and are still the sources of big problems today.

Koren takes a job offered by UNICEF (offered because of his previous experience in the East as a PCVolunteer) unloading planes at the Biafran runway at Uli, a section of highway that only operates after dark with a single radio beacon and with the lights turned on just as the plane lands so it will not be spotted and bombed by the Nigerian air force. Koren's role is to oversee unloading the planes as fast as possible so they can take off and do one or two more trips before daylight. He is working with the World Council of Churches and Roman Catholic Caritas bringing in food aid because Biafra is surrounded and the people are starving. Other planes from other locations are bringing in weapons, etc.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful memoir from a survivor November 14, 2012
What a wonderful book from a gifted writer.

I first became familiar with Mr. Koren through a short personal article he had written on behalf of the US Peace Corps. As I was in the process of researching a new history of the Biafran war, I corresponded with the author, and we exchanged information and ideas.

Having said that, I couldn't wait for Koren to finish this book. And what a splendid book it is. Our initial discussions on his striking, often surreal experiences in Biafra and Sao Tome, with mercenaries (some half-crazed), church aid and heroic aircrews who often carried on under near-impossible conditions - are fleshed out here. His vivid, acute memory is a delight to historians, researchers and really, anyone who wants to know more about this tragic, epic war.

For those interested in the Biafran war or humanitarian airlift operations, Koren's book should be on your reading list.

But read it if even you're not very interested in these things. I guarantee that you'll read some of the chapters within and come away amazed.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read.
Gives more important information.
Published 1 month ago by Louise S. Cox
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a wonderfully written account of a dedicated volunteer in...
This book is a wonderfully written account of a dedicated volunteer in times of a war. Mr. Koren's love for the country and its people is clearly felt from every page! Read more
Published 2 months ago by Krisztina Szabo
4.0 out of 5 stars Far Away
David's book is full of fascinating details about the Biafran Airlift. I may have been on a flight of his when I left Biafra in September 1968 when our 2 children. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Catherine Onyemelukwe
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring story of self sacrifice and high risk.
A Song of Africa
A true and inspiring story of self sacrifice and high risk taking by a former Peace Corps Volunteer in Nigeria, David L. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Ronald Wheatley Atty
5.0 out of 5 stars Great coming of age story in the throes of a great adventure
David Koren's compelling adventure in the midst of the iconic Biafran airlift is more than just great reading. Read more
Published 16 months ago by EM Goodkind
5.0 out of 5 stars High and Deep
On Monday morning, October 7, 1968, a young man showed up at the UNICEF office in New York City, expecting to fly to West Africa. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Jill C Kelly
4.0 out of 5 stars This book is a personal memoir and therefore cannot be a comprehensive...
This book is reasonably well written and of particular interest to me as I was stationed at an Agricultural Research and Training Station near Umaihia from July of 1965 through... Read more
Published on January 3, 2013 by John Reuss
5.0 out of 5 stars inspirational
Though it is essentially a personal narrative, it draws the reader into the lives and fate of the Igbo people of Eastern Nigeria as seen through the eyes of a young Peace Corps... Read more
Published on August 16, 2012 by sheric
5.0 out of 5 stars Far Away in the Sky
"Far Away in the Sky" brought back many memories of time I spent in a neighboring West African country, Sierra Leone. Read more
Published on July 27, 2012 by bcanida
5.0 out of 5 stars great personal story
Just wanted to let you know that I took this book with me on vacation this past week.
I could hardly put it down!! It is a great read. Read more
Published on May 29, 2012 by Lar
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More About the Author

My mother told me to write this book. She is 95 years old, and she handed me a bundle of letters that I had sent her from Africa 50 years ago. She said, "You write very well, and you need to tell this story." I served in the United States Peace Corps in Nigeria in 1964, 1965, and 1966, and I wrote home about it. Since we had no instantaneous electronic communications back then, letters contained a lot of detail and feeling.

In 1968 I went back there to my one-time home in Eastern Nigeria-then called Biafra-because a war had broken out. People were starving by the millions. International church groups started a massive humanitarian airlift of food and medicine. UNICEF recruited me to help unload the planes in Biafra. Again, I wrote letters home, but I also made dozens of audio tapes with amazing detail, capturing the history of that time.

I still have the tapes and the letters my mother gave me and my pictures and many documents from the airlift. From them I wrote the book, "Far Away in the Sky."

Out of great respect, I wrote it for my mother.


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