My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I did not set out to read a historical overview of Czechoslovakia, but found myself enthralled by this narrative. Thinking I was going to read more of a personal narrative of World War 2, instead I found myself gripped by scene after scene of political events caused by circumstances that were happening in quick succession during one of the most turbulent periods in world history.
“Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War”, explores the events in Czechoslovakia and Europe leading up to World War 2 and its aftermath. A highly readable historical memoir, it puts the events of those incredibly difficult times within the context of not only Madeline Albright’s own family history but moral dilemmas faced by many during that time. How much should we help others when it puts our own loved ones at risk? What if we are caught between two idealogies with no other choices before us…Nazism or fascism? Communism or collaboration with an occupying force of our country?
How far does one go to seek justice? Is it fair to hold not only the guilty accountable, but those of the same race, even if they themselves did not commit the wrongs done?
“Who among us has not dehumanized others, if not by word or action, then at least in thought? From the maternity ward to the deathbed, all that goes on within our breasts is hardly sweetness and light.”
Madeline Albright did not know until she was in her fifties, that many of her relatives had died in the holocaust. Her discovery after she became secretary of state, led her not only to search for more about her roots, but also to find answers to questions that we all ask ourselves when faced with agonizing decisions.
What should one do when given the chance to shelter an Allied airman…. if discovery means death for your entire family?
“All my life I had believed in the virtues of democratic government, the need to stand up to evil, and the age-old motto of the Czech people: “Pravda vitezi,” or “Truth shall prevail.”
This is a book that I want to read again sometime to give myself a refresher course in these events. Although much of the events of WW2 that Albright relates were familiar to me, many of the parameters leading up to choices made by those in power, were not. Madeline Albright, along with her co-author, Bill Woodward, is able to put history together competently and very readably.
“Let us focus then, not on the frozen ground but on the green blades rising, on the men and women who met adversity in the right way, with courage and faith. Let us remember those who were drawn closer together by Hitler’s bombs, who stood virtually alone in the battle for a continent, finding in the moment of crisis the bravery and strength they had almost forgotten they had…Let us salute the quiet English stockbroker who, while others did nothing, single-handedly devised the means for saving the lives of my cousin and hundreds of other innocent children.”
Whether you agree with Albright’s perspective and explanation of how the events played out, you will find yourself asking questions that have no easy answers as you read this fascinating book.
“I believe we can recognize truth when we see it, just not at first and not without ever relenting in our efforts to learn more. This is because the goal we seek, and the good we hope for, comes not as some final reward but as the hidden companion to our quest. It is not what we find, but the reason we cannot stop looking and striving, that tells us why we are here.”