A true story. It is 1938 when the Kolbers, affluent Viennese Jews, flee their country for Shanghai after its annexation by the Nazis. Eva and her daughter take the Trans-Siberian Railroad through war zones where they must confront border guards and Japanese imprisonment. Meanwhile, her husband, Josef, and their twin sons travel by ocean liner, hiding valuables in crates.
Similarly in China, the politically powerful Gan Chen family finds their lives upended by Japanese invaders. Forced to abandon their estate, the family seeks refuge in Shanghai. While the families adapt to their new lifestyles during the war, their children meet. Walter Kolber is a handsome violinist; Chao Chen is a gifted pianist.