I had read previously Heda Margolius Kovaly’s beautifully written memoir titled UNDER A CRUEL STAR and considered it the best depiction of the tragedy that beset the country from which I had escaped with my parents a few days after the post-war Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia. Rudolf Margolius was an idealist, who believed that Communism presented the best opportunity for his nation and its people. He became deputy minister of trade in the newly formed, Stalin-controlled, government. In 1952, fourteen members of the government–most of them Jews–were accused of an anti-state conspiracy. After months of imprisonment, all were brought to court and, based on invented charges, sentenced to death. Rudolf Margolius was hanged on December 3, 1952. For Heda, this was another test of her courage. She was evicted from a hospital where she was being treated for a serious illness, dismissed from her job, and thrown out of her apartment. She and her son Ivan moved into an unheated shack, and she struggled to support the two of them. Eventually, she remarried and, following the brutal repression of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact armies in 1968, the Kovalys emigrated to the United States. Eventually, they returned to Prague, where she died in 2010.
In her memoir, UNDER A CRUEL STAR, Heda focused primarily on the post-war years. The current book completes the story of her life, as well as the recent history of her country. In 2000, she sat for two full days of interviews with Czech TV. Her son Ivan, himself a wonderful writer and author of a memoir titled REFLECTIONS OF PRAGUE, has translated the interview into English and published it as HITLER, STALIN AND I: AN ORAL HISTORY. The book completes the story of an amazing, courageous woman who overcame tragedies that few could survive. I recommend this unforgettable book as highly as is possible.