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Prague: My Long Journey Home: A Memoir of Survival, Denial, and Redemption Paperback – December 14, 2011
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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About the Author
Charles Ota Heller earned three engineering degrees and is an entrepreneur who founded several companies. Now retired, he devotes himself to writing. Heller lives near Annapolis, Maryland, with his wife, Sue. They have one son and three grandchildren. Visit him online at charlesoheller.com.
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From a life of privilege, Charles is a well-loved and valued only child, grandchild and great grandchild. He is sheltered from the reality of what is happening, as one cherished family member after another vanishes from his life. His father joins the British Army to fight the Nazis and disappears from the author's life for five years. Charles becomes one of the "hidden children" and his mother is taken away from him. Although very lonely, he is still not aware of the extent of, or reasons for, the Nazis' terrible carnage.
Charles' father returns from the war and when it seems that life might be normal again; the family must leave everything behind and flee again, this time from communist oppression.
After more than a year in a series of refuge camps, the author and his parents, arrive in America with its promise of freedom and opportunity, His parents overcome all obstacles to provide him with the education he will need to achieve the American dream. And, he does that--becoming a successful businessman, entrepreneur and academic, sharing his experience and knowledge with people in the United States as well as the Czech Republic.
However, throughout his life Charles is haunted by the past. Part of him is still the secretive lonely child--the one who can tell no one that he shot, and hoped he killed a Nazi when he was nine years old. He needs to find the truth about the "lost" family members, about why they were all killed. In finding the truth, he questions the role of his Jewish heritage and his own denial of that heritage.
By facing the demons of the past, Charles comes full circle and finds redemption in paying homage to his ancestors and embracing his birthright.
This an incredible story wrapped in a history lesson--a must read.
Heller's life story is both disturbing and inspring. Those of us who grew up hearing about and reading about the horrors of life and death under the Nazis and then communism rarely feel the depravity as a personal experience. For most of us, nazism and communism are simply ideologies and governance systemns that have failed in far off places. Heller provides that personal experience, and his narrative draws the reader in to feel it with him.
After escaping, Heller tried to drive those experiences from his mind and soul as he developed a remarkable career in the US, but it all came back and made him whole when he was able to embrace all of it and return to his beloved homeland of Czechoslovakia. Anyone who reads this book must be prepared to be deeply troubled by the capacity of some humans to inflict unspeakable suffering on others, but the life affirming conclusion makes the journey through hell worth every word.