An Unexpected Journey: Man Overcomes Devastation of War and Builds Thriving New Life in US

May 26, 2022

Is it possible to overcome the turmoil of war and emerge with an unfailing optimism toward a better future? Somehow, through providence and sheer determination, that’s exactly what John Livens did.

In his captivating true story, An Unexpected Journey, Livens recalls with remarkable detail the path that led him from his native, war-torn Latvia to a life well lived in the United States.

Livens eloquently recounts his past, walking readers through his early years of privileged life in Latvia; appearing on the KGB’s wanted list at age 7; his father’s deportation to Gulag in Northern Siberia; the loss of everything during World War II and his resettlement in the United States.

“My life shows that we as humans cannot always change or control our circumstances. We cannot anticipate all the obstacles in our path,” Livens writes. “We can, however, choose our attitude, our actions and how to overcome the obstacles we face. This will define our character, values and faith.”

In his new life in the United States, he flies in the U.S. Navy, earns two degrees from Harvard and enjoys a rewarding career. Through it all, family is an ever-present element, undercurrents remind readers that tangible possessions and social standing are transitory and fleeting. What lasts is character, intellect and determination to seek a better future.

Told with a strong voice and ethical code, An Unexpected Journey is a deeply profound, human story of survival, serendipity and resilience in the face of inconceivable upheaval and devastation. It’s also a potent reminder of the unlimited opportunities and freedoms that U.S. Citizens often take for granted.

“The reason why the lights looked so much brighter, the colors more vibrant, the laughter more cheerful and the joy so much more intense was because I would have been denied the opportunity to experience this had it not been for the freedom and democracy of the United States,” Livens writes. “No wonder all this meant so much more to me.”

About the Author
John H. Livens was born in Riga, Latvia, in North-East Europe. He and his family (except for his father who perished in a Gulag) survived and escaped the Soviet/Russian Occupation in 1940.

In 1950, the family came to the United States. With limited knowledge of English and having missed two years of school due to the war, Livens graduated from high school in six months, received a scholarship to Boston University and then transferred to Harvard College where he graduated, Cum Laude. Livens was encouraged to pursue an academic career but opted to go to the Harvard Business School. He received an MBA and spent several years as a U.S. Navy Officer flying different Aircraft Carriers.

He enjoyed a rewarding business career as a partner of a prestigious Boston investment management firm and later as the president of a small investment firm. He is now retired.