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For 14-year-old Mari Yonehara, each of her classmates was a window on the world. Far from their homelands, the students at her school in Prague, in what was then Czechoslovakia, had multinational backgrounds and were patriotic. But despite her five-year stay in the city and her near-perfect grasp of Russian, she was often left mystified at the ways her closest friends from the Balkan states sometimes behaved.

More than 30 years later, she finally understood their concealed agonies and complex ethnic backgrounds when she sought them out, met up with them, and learned how they survived the dramatic political changes within Eastern Europe over the last decade.

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