We have moved to a new site!

This site will remain open only so you can copy anything you need, such as critques. Do so quickly because the old Forward Motion boards will soon disappear.

Are you ready for the new site? You must create a new login, but the chat login will remain the same as here for now. Click here to join us at the new

Forward Motion for Writers

See you there!

Site Search:
POST DISABLED Printer-friendly copy LOGIN
Lobby 2. Welcome The Reading Room Reading Challenges, 2010 topic #2
View in linear mode

Subject: "Review: Under a Cruel Star by Heda Margolius Kovaly" Previous topic | Next topic
Mesg #199 "Review: Under a Cruel Star by Heda Margolius Kovaly"
Author zette     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
Author Info Member since Jun 12th 2002
13570 posts
Date Sun Jan-24-10 01:26 AM
Message
  

  

        

In response to In response to 0

Under a Cruel Star: A Life in Prague 1941-1968 by Heda Margolius Kovaly

(ISBN 0-14-0126630)



There are few autobiographies as powerful and heart-wrenching as this one, filled with the profoundly moving account of what one woman suffered; a tale of her tragedies and her triumphs, and a testament to her will to survive.

Heda starts with the first of the many horrible tragedies of her life: the order for all the Jews in Prague to Lodtz. There, living in abject poverty, she watched many people die, including a cousin who died in her arms. But worse came afterwards when they are moved from Lodtz to Auschwitz.

The horror of Auschwitz begins with her mother dragged away to her death. The horrific tale of her life there cannot be imagined, even with the the words on the pages to help. And yet Heda did the seemingly impossible. She not only survived, she escaped.

Finally, back to Prague she found something she had not expected -- friends turn away from her in fear, and she has virtually no where to go. She didn't blame them. It meant death to harbor her -- and yet, there is a sense of such loss in this section that it's not hard to believe that she was willing to die then, when she had survived so much else.

But the war comes to an end. The Russians arrive and drive out the German occupation force. And for awhile... for too short a while, there is joy and wonder in her life again. Her beloved Rudolf had also survived. It seemed impossible, and yet they are together. They have a life and a future.

At this point, Heda presents an interesting view of how it was that Czechoslovakia went willingly to a Socialist government. She has many personal observances that seem to be a good explanation of how this country turned from democracy to socialism in those post-war years.

First was the feeling all during the war that their Western allies had betrayed and abandoned them to the Germans. Then, at the end of the war, the Americans held off and it was the Russians who drove their tanks through Prague and freed the city. Also was the fact that so many people had been living within a communal sort of environment already, sharing all they had to survive, that they understood the need to 'share the wealth'. Heda isn't as convinced that socialism is the best answer, but her husband is, and soon the country moves toward its new future.

For a while, all is well. Rudolf holds a high post in the local party government, but even now there are feelings of stress. Heda, with her new baby son, is perhaps more aware of the bullying by some party members than is her husband, who truly believes in what he is doing. He's convinced they are making a better future.

But then the arrests begin. It is the start of the Stalinist Purges. People disappear. No one trusts anyone else. A single wrong word, a whisper of dislike at anything created for or by the Party, and they were apt to be disciplined -- or arrested. The dream of a communal life disappeared as the top people in the Party did all they could to hold on to power.

The arrest of her husband puts Heda in a difficult position. She has a young child, and because her husband is suspected of treason, she has trouble finding any work at all. Her position at a publishing house disappears. She's strong, though. She will do everything in her power to help her son and her husband. She takes a job working in a factory, she writes letters to everyone she knows. Nothing helps. She is not good at the factory job, but she works, often long after hours, to make up her quota. She does her best for her son....

Months and months pass, and she grows dangerous ill. She holds it off as long as she can, but then finally sends her son to the country when a doctor finally puts her into the hospital. And there, listening to the radio, she hears her husband's voice at the trial ... and the words of his confession. It is, she knows, not the truth. She knows what he must have suffered at the hands of those who held him. It is no better than the Nazis and the concentration camps.

They literally kick her out of the hospital, even though she is still very ill. She is a persona non grata now -- her husband a traitor. After Rudolf is executed, she loses her job, even their apartment, and she and her son live in a hovel until, finally, a friend finally saves her. He marries her, and because he has married the former wife of a traitor, he loses his job. But they survive. They continue on. For awhile, it even looks as though things will be better, in the 1960's when the Czech people rebel against the audacities of the Party leaders who ruled while Stalin lived. It looks better. Things are brighter. It's spring again ...

And then the Russian tanks invade to bring the country back in line once more, and Heda, reluctantly, finally leaves the country behind.



My bare recitation of the events cannot begin to do justice to the anguish of reading this memoir. It is a book that will put your own petty problems into perspective. Even her son left Czechoslovakia because he could not continue to live in a land that had allowed all of his family to be killed. Except for his mother, every one of his relatives had died, and none of them had died naturally.

There is no true victory in this book. You do not come away from it filled with the joy of human triumphs over adversity and evil. You come away appalled at the horrible things that people will do to each other. Through Heda's simple, poignant words, you understand the pain and the loss -- but there will never be a true answer to why it has happened.

But in the end... in the end, Heda survived.


~~~~~~Signature's Off~~~~~~

  

Alert | IP Printer-friendly copy | Reply Disabled

Zette's Reading Challenge [View all] , zette, Tue Dec-15-09 08:06 PM
  Review: Wilhelm Hohenzollern by Emil Ludwig, zette, Jan 10th 2010, #1
Review: The Sumerians by Samuel Noah Kramer, zette, Jan 22nd 2010, #2
Review: Under a Cruel Star by Heda Margolius Kovaly, zette, Jan 24th 2010 #3
Review: Discontinuity in Greek Civilization by Rhys Car..., zette, Jan 29th 2010, #4
Review: Foreigner by C.J. Cherryh, zette, Jan 30th 2010, #5
Review: Invader (Foreigner 2) by C. J. Cherryh, zette, Feb 08th 2010, #6
Review: Inheritor (Foreigner 3) by C. J. Cherryh, zette, Feb 08th 2010, #7
Review: Precursor (Foreigner 4) by C. J. Cherryh, zette, Feb 14th 2010, #8
Review: Defender (Foreigner 5) by C. J. Cherryh, zette, Feb 23rd 2010, #9
Review: The Oxford History of Italy, Edited by George H..., zette, Mar 10th 2010, #10
Review: Another World: 1897 to 1917 by Anthony Eden, zette, Mar 10th 2010, #11
Review: Explorer (Foreigner 6) by C.J. Cherryh, zette, Mar 14th 2010, #12
Review: How to Write Short Stories by Sharon Sorenson, zette, Mar 14th 2010, #13
Review: Destroyer (Foreigner 7) by C. J. Cherryh, zette, Mar 14th 2010, #14
Review: Writing a Short Story by Jack M. Bickham, zette, Mar 27th 2010, #15
Review: Pretender (Foreigner # 8) By C. J. Cherryh, zette, Mar 28th 2010, #16
Review: Deliverer (Foreigner # 9) by C. J. Cherryh, zette, Mar 28th 2010, #17
Review: Conspirator (Foreigner # 10) By C. J. Cherryh, zette, Apr 10th 2010, #18
Review: Deceiver (Foreigner # 11) by C. J. Cherryh, zette, May 09th 2010, #19
Review: Water Mysteries of Mesa Verde by Kenneth R. Wri..., zette, May 09th 2010, #20
Review: Majestic Island Worlds, zette, May 26th 2010, #21
Review: From Alexander to Cleopatra by Michael Grant, zette, May 26th 2010, #22
Review: Storm Front (Dresdent Files #1) by Jim Butcher, zette, Jun 12th 2010, #23
Review: Fool Moon (Dresden Files #2) By Jim Butcher, zette, Jun 12th 2010, #24
Review: The Realm of Prester John by Robert Silverberg, zette, Jun 12th 2010, #25
Review: Grave Peril (Desden Files #3) By Jim Butcher, zette, Jul 06th 2010, #26
Review:Everyday Life in Early Imperial China, zette, Aug 08th 2010, #27
Review: Summer Knight (Dresden Files #4), zette, Aug 24th 2010, #28
Reveiw: Death Masks (Dresden Files #5), zette, Sep 21st 2010, #29
Review: Blood Rites (Dresden Files #6), zette, Sep 21st 2010, #30
Review: Dead Beat (Dresden Files #7), zette, Sep 28th 2010, #31
Review: Proven Guilty (Dresden Files # 8), zette, Oct 05th 2010, #32
Review: Pirde and Prejudice, zette, Oct 22nd 2010, #33
Review -- Small Favors by James Butcher, zette, Oct 31st 2010, #34
RE: Review -- Small Favors by James Butcher, tianne, Dec 09th 2010, #35
RE: Review -- Small Favors by James Butcher, zette, Dec 16th 2010, #36

Lobby 2. Welcome The Reading Room Reading Challenges, 2010 topic #2 Previous topic | Next topic
Powered by DCForum+ Version 1.2 for Forward Motion Writers' Community
Copyright 1997-2003 DCScripts.com

TigerTech