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As the Polish Communist ship S.S. Podolski enters New York Harbor, a fifteen-year-old orphan stowaway, Katri Walenska, jumps into the water and swims to shore in the hope of finding freedom in America. With little more than a street address in hand, Katri seeks refuge with an old family friend, the opera star Jan Poldi. When Katri arrives, however, she is disappointed to discover that Poldi has become a down-and-out alcoholic and does not remember her. U.S. Immigration officer McDougall and a malevolent Polish government representative, Ladowski, set out to find Katri, who has a magnificent voice. Meanwhile, Katri befriends Poldi's neighbors, Terry Brennan, a singer; Homer Tirdell, a hapless Texas dog act performer and piano player; and Buddy Fraser, a dancer. Terry, Homer and Buddy eventually discover that the young girl is the sought-after Polish stowaway, but after Terry persuades the others that Katri's talents as a singer will help propel them to fame and open the way to successful stage careers of their own, they decide to risk a jail sentence and hide her. While Terry's doting boyfriend, teacher Dave Parish, tries to find a legal way to keep Katri in the country, Terry takes the girl to the Britt Recording Studios, where she makes several recordings. Terry sends the records to disc jockeys around the country, and then tries to interest television talent show host Don Wilson in having Katri appear on his show under the billing "Mamie Jones." Wilson initially rejects Terry's proposal but later changes his mind when Terry threatens to take Katri to a competing show. Katri is a big hit on the show, but immediately following her performance, she reveals her real name, which causes a furor at the studio. In a short time, however, radio listeners all across the country rally to Katri's defense and show their support for her through picketing and letter-writing. When Katri learns that Poldi has been arrested in connection with harboring an illegal alien, she gives herself up and resigns herself to her inevitable deportation. To her surprise, though, Katri receives a telephone call from President Eisenhower, who, responding to the public outcry, has arranged to let her stay in America.