Prague My Long Journey Home: A Memoir of Survival, Denial and Redemption by Charles Ota Heller, is an extremely well written and fascinating memoir, filled with so much historical information, on World War II Czechoslovakia, a large percentage of it new to me.
Heller’s memoir is filled with many emotions, from humor to sadness, longing and despair, love and loss, identity and denial, assimilation and religious views, written from his memories beginning with his childhood growing up under the shadows of war, and under the extreme changes occurring in his surroundings in Czechoslovakia. The country was war-torn in many aspects. Not only by the Nazis, but by other factions.
Heller’s father was Jewish, and his mother was Christian. This played a major role in his adolescence, and his ability to be able to survive the devastating events of the Holocaust. His mother tried to shield him as best as she could from the situations arising around them. He had little knowledge that over one dozen of his relatives were murdered in death camps.
Through Heller’s long journey, he not only rediscovered his roots, he discovered himself, parts of himself he avoided emotionally for decades. He was able to somewhat (not entirely) come to terms with his childhood situation, with the ravages of the Nazis, and with the fact that he was Jewish in a world that was filled with antisemitism.
I was impressed with Heller’s ability to stand firm and look at the positive aspects of his life, within the many tragedies that took place throughout the years. He found humor in small things, in the minute details others might not think of. I admire his mode of getting through the horrific situations forced upon him and his family, and the devastation that was thrust upon them.
They eventually emigrated to America, where Heller still resides, with his wife.
Prague: My Long Journey home is a book infused with memories, a memoir that is a study in repression and denial, change and the immigrant experience. It touches on so many psychological facets that Heller is still trying to deal with, decades later.
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.
I want to thank Charles Ota Heller and Abbott Press for the review copy. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to read it.
April 8, 2012 – 16 Nisan, 5772