Like a Haystack: Life from My Perspective by Margaret Grguric Smolik

An Iowa Story

Margaret Grguric Smolik and her family escaped Croatia during World War II and came to the United States in 1952. The author earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa, and is a longtime teacher of English and writing. She is a certified copy editor and author of several poems published in Lyrical Iowa. Margaret and her husband raised four children. She currently lives in Osage, Iowa.

Book Description

When Hitler marched into Yugoslavia in 1943, my family became refugees. With many others, we were herded like cattle from camp to camp. After living in Austria for seven years as unwelcome foreigners, we sailed to the United States and faced many challenges in a new culture; however, we found peace.


Like a Haystack focuses on several crucial dynamics: The contrast between life in WW II Europe and twenty-first-century America. The endurance needed to survive war, cruelty, and suffering. The tensions that result in adjusting to new cultures and values. The willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve the “American dream.” While different from The Diary of Anne Frank, my story is similar in its insight into the devastation and suffering of Hitler’s war. I hope readers will empathize with refugees and seek ways to understand and accept them.

My Thoughts

The author likens the foundations of her life to a Balkan haystack, formed by pitching dry hay onto and up a tall pole with several “arms” sticking out to hold the layers more securely. I’ve been to Bosnia, with a family of local refugees, and helped rake hay by hand with a dozen others towards the spot where Asmir and Hasan would fork it onto those arms.

Bosniahayst (3)
Asmir setting the skeleton for the haystack.

A tall haystack takes many people to rake and also to form it, just like the individuals and events that shaped the Margaret Grguric Smolik’s life. Her book is a wonderful memoir of tough years as refugees during WW II, then the challenges as American immigrants.

I met Margaret at a Cedar Falls Christian Writers Workshop. She’s an amazing woman.





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