Tonight I finished reading "Under a Cruel Star" by Heda Margolius Kovaly. Mrs. Kovaly is a Czechoslovakian Jew from Prague who escaped a concentration camp, lost her entire family and most of her friends in the Holocaust, and after her escape, went on to live in Prague under Communist rule.
When she returned to Prague, many people she knew in her former life, turned their back on her, only a few friends offered her food and comfort. She describes the way in which many people lived, very lavishly, their homes richly decorated with the possessions of their former friends taken to concentration camps. When some of those survivors returned, the friends conveniently forgot who they were or denied they'd ever kept property for them.
Later on, when she was married to Rudolf Margolius, Heda and her husband both became members of the Communist party because the party ideology at the time looked good, it appealed to working people, it appealed to people who wanted a better life, a better country. Heda didn't want much to do with politics but she and her husband could not help listening and becoming involved. Her husband was appointed (he tried to reject but was not allowed) to a high office in the government, and in time Heda became suspicious of what would happen when it came time for the government to find scapegoats. Sure enough years later the government murdered her husband under the guise that he was a traitor, which of course he was not. Mrs. Kovaly describes in detail the promises of the Communist party and how they slowly but surely gained control of the government. In the end, they owned everything and everyone. Once they owned you, that was it, you could not get out until they let you go. And usually if they let you go, you wound up dead.
I really enjoyed the book though it was extremely depressing. Mrs. Kovaly did inspire me though. With all she endured, her spirit persevered, even during the worst times when she was at death's door, she kept going.
Mrs. Kovaly's story is important for many reasons. The most important is that here in America, we pride ourselves in our laws, our justice system, our system of checks and balances, and our freedom. But day by day our government proposes ways they can do for us to make our lives better. In tough times the government puts its hand out and says "I can help" but really only make things worse. The Communist Party rose in Prague at a time when the people were at their worst. Of course the promise of a better life was appealing to all. It was only when the party took over every aspect of people's lives that they realized what they had sacrificed, but it was too late. Here in America, we think it can't happen to us, but we need to be careful. The ideology already exists at high levels of government.
I emailed Mrs. Kovaly and thanked her for her story. I heard back from her son Ivan, a very nice man, who told me his mother is not well, she has had Alzheimers for several years now. But he thanked me for my interest in her life and recommended another book he wrote which picks up the story where his mother left off.
We all could learn a great deal from their experiences.