Published by: Abbott Press
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A true, riveting adventure and moving recollection of a loving family nearly destroyed by the Nazis. An inspirational story of a different kind of Holocaust survivor. Son of a mixed marriage, Charles Ota Heller was born in Czechoslovakia three years before the Nazi occupation of his country. Raised a Roman Catholic, he was unaware of his Jewish roots, even after his father escaped to join the British army and fifteen members of his family disappeared. Before his Christian mother was taken away to a slave labor camp, she hid him on a farm to protect him from deportation to a death camp. As the war was coming to a close, he came out of hiding, picked up a revolver thrown away by a retreating soldier, and shot a Nazi. He was nine years old.
The book is a personal account of a long journey of persecution, of struggle and survival in Nazi- and Communist-controlled Czechoslovakia, and of eventual escape from tyranny to America. It is the narrative of an assimilated American, who left the horrors of the past—and even his name—behind in the Old World to live the proverbial American Dream. Then two cataclysmic events following Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution brought him face-to-face with demons of his former life. On his personal journey, Heller discovered and embraced his heritage—one which he had abandoned so many decades earlier.
The book has received three awards – the Mark of Quality from Writer’s Digest magazine, honorable mention for best book of the year at the Los Angeles Book Festival, and finalist for best Indie Book of 2012. Prague: My Long Journey Home is available in hard cover, soft cover or as an e-book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or directly from the publisher, Abbott Press. For your local bookstore, go on http://www.indiebound.org/indie-bookstore-finder.
National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library, Oral History: Interview with Charles Ota Heller
Soon after the overthrow of Czechoslovakia’s communist regime in November 1989, I reunited with my closest boyhood friend, Vladimír “Vláda” Svoboda. I had left him behind when my parents and I escaped from the country in 1948 and both of us were twelve years old. Now we were in our mid-fifties, and we had travelled along divergent paths – dictated by our respective environments.
“The upheavals in the Czech lands caused by the Nazi and Communist regimes totally altered the life of young Ota Karel Heller of Kojetice. His family was a mixture of Jews and Christians, which took him a lifetime to reveal and understand, quite similar to the experience of Madeleine Albright… Heller’s highpoint came at war’s end in May 1945 when he and a friend discovered a treasure trove of Nazi gas masks, bayonets, helmets, binoculars, clips with bullets, and guns. He picked up a black Walther pistol and later in the day shot an escaping German soldier… The reunited Hellers escaped the Communists the day of Jan Masaryk’s funeral in Prague… Father, mother, and son made it to the US Zone of Germany. ‘We’re free!’ of the malign grip of authoritarian control became the motto of one more displaced family… what a good read!”
—Tom Dine, American Friends of the Czech Republic Magazine, Spring 2013
“The Mark of Quality is the highest literary achievement an Abbott Press author can receive. Charles Ota Heller’s memoir is an incredibly powerful piece of literature and a very deserving recipient of the distinction.”
—Keith Ogorek, Sr. VP, Author Solutions, upon awarding Heller the first-ever “Mark of Quality”
“Charles Ota Heller's memoir, Prague, My Long Journey Home, is among the most moving and compelling books I have ever read. I had planned to read part of it on a cross-country flight while reserving most of the travel time for work-related reading. By the end of the first chapter, I was captivated, and I didn't stop until the end. Heller's life story is both disturbing and inspiring. 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 systems 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.”
—Charles “Chic” Dambach, author of Exhaust the Limits
“If you are searching for a World War II era memoir to read, you can find books that recount more harrowing scenes of violence and more moments of high stakes drama. That is not to belittle the danger and profound losses that the author’s family suffered. But what makes this book stand out from the others is not those types of details. Rather, it is the author’s ability to firmly plant the reader within the time period and location and to expertly weave the often tragic and sadly neglected history of the Czech Republic around a central gem of a story of survival. Your heart will be moved as you follow this family’s struggle, sacrifice, and courage. And you will be left with feelings of warmth and admiration, as you see how the author, with integrity and courage of his own, confronts and resolves his past with his present.”
—Victoria Duncan, Outlook magazine, Spring 2012
“I am writing this letter to thank you for coming to speak at my school. I will never forget your stories and what you have overcome. And, don’t worry, I won’t let the Holocaust ever be forgotten. Thank you again!”
—Chelsea Fraser, student at Mount de Sales Academy, Baltimore, MD
"You certainly have achieved the proverbial American dream! And, we are delighted that Oklahoma State University played such an important part in your success… I have sent a copy of your book to Boone Pickens and I know he will enjoy receiving it…”
—V. Burns Hargis, President, Oklahoma State University
"Prague… is Heller’s story of survival, acceptance and triumph. Glimpsed through the innocent eyes of a child, Prague makes the Nazi devastation all the more incomprehensible. Heller’s book, which has earned the Writer’s Digest Mark of Quality—packs drama, humor and historical detail into a loving tribute to Heller’s parents and the friends who helped them.”
—Marilyn Recknor, Bay Weekly, May 23, 2012
"This book is a true, riveting adventure and a moving recollection of a loving family nearly destroyed by the Nazis. It is an inspirational story about a different kind of Holocaust survivor…”
—Hlas, summer 2012
"A passionate and reliable story of survival.”
"Prague: My Long Journey Home is a memoir that confronts a myriad of haunting human questions—loss, identity, longing, love, sense of place, exile, spirituality and religion, uncertainty, denial, honesty, secrets, movement and displacement, disillusion, revenge, and death… Prague deserves to be placed with Andre Aciman’s Out of Egypt as a ‘must read’ about loss, exile, anger and reconciliation with a place that once left, holds on for literally, dear life.”
—William Durden, President Emeritus, Dickinson College
"All honest memoirs are testaments to survival and continuity. Charles Heller’s stunning memoir, Prague: My Long Journey Home, is set apart from others by the author’s moving account of the process he went through in uncovering his past… Charles Heller’s moving descriptions of discovering the still-beating heart of his own past will keep readers enthralled.”
—Susan Moger, author of Grace at War, et al
"Thoroughly researched story of a nation and a family which is essential to read to understand the 20th centurt history. A memorable book!”
—Ivan Margolius, author of Reflections of Prague
"I recommend Prague: My Long Journey Home to everyone. It is a compelling memoir which significantly touches not only on time and place, but on historical events with poignancy, humor, matter-of-fact prose, and with enlightening visuals of his life during the war, and his emigration to America and assimilation within a new environment. It leaves the reader with much to ponder.”
—Lorraine Weston, Jewaicious
"Heller’s book presents a fascinating review of his shooting a Nazi in liberated Czechoslovakia when he was just nine years old at the end of WWII and of his gradual growth into the American way of life, as well as his very successful career…”
—Peter Hruby, author of Dangerous Dreamers and From Rowboats to Sailboats
"I thank Charles Heller for having the courage to share his poignant and profound story with the world, in order to have a record of a history that should never be forgotten.”
—His Excellency Petr Gandalovič, Czech Ambassador to the U.S.
"Charles Heller, by vividly accounting the story of his life, provides a window into the Czech-American immigrant experience… that will capture the hearts and minds of the future.”
—Gail Naughton, President, National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library
"It’s a wonderful read and very interesting."
"Dramatic war story… Nine-year-old Ota shot a Nazi. Little Ota told no one about the incident. It was a closed chapter. Simply, it was revenge for loved ones who departed and never returned."
—Lidové Noviny (Prague)
"The author manages to offer the reader humorous moments; he finds positives in a river of negatives and, between the lines, he reminds that neither war nor the loss of loved ones could destroy a man’s inner strength."
"In the last days of World War II, nine-year-old Ota Heller picked up a revolver and fired it at a Nazi. He did not wait to see if the man was still alive."