The Drowned & The Saved: If It Were All So Simple
Cold River: The Cold Truth of Freedom
Reviewed by: Janet Schmidt
Publisher: Double Dragon
Author: Jozef Imrich
Reviewed: Women On Writing (2005)
Communism is bad. Communists want to kill us, ruin all that is good and decent and destroy the American way of life. For Americans of a certain age, those statements are as gospel. When the Berlin Wall came down, when the USSR split, it was a modern triumph of good over evil. It was a bad way of life that had to end. But, what do we really know of Communism.
Cold River by Jozef Imrich shatters many illusions. Oh, yes, Communism is still bad, but, Jozef Imrich paints a picture of life under Communism that is both good and evil. By turns both joyous and heartbreaking, Cold River is a thought provoking book that needs to be widely read.
Jozef Imrich very nearly shares a birth date with my husband. He was born more close to my own age than I normally admit. He grew up during my growing up years. I grew up in a small American town in the Midwest. A town that exemplified all that was and is good about the United States.
And much of Jozef Imrich's childhood is idyllic and envious. He grew up in a small village in Czechoslovakia that had many charms. The child of a wonderful family, he knew great joy. Cold River is a story of the triumph of the human spirit. It is the story of the human obsession with life, with the basic need of humans to find good and survive at any cost.
Perhaps he was lucky. Perhaps Vrbov was unique. I don't know. I do know this. Cold River is not a light read. It is not an easy feel good book; although I feel good for having read it. It is the story of one man's experience under Communism. It is the story of a man and his family, of his history, and his family's history, superimposed over the broader story of communism in Eastern Europe. Of a horrible system of government that tried, but, ultimately failed to conquer the human spirit.
Cold River is not sad, as Angela's Ashes was sad. One is not left with pity, but with admiration. Jozef Imrich has a majestic ability to write so that the reader feels they are there. His images and background become real become a part of the reader that will always remain.
Jozef Imrich asks in the preface "Why should you get to know me, anyway? Survivors like me are not fiery writers, so I content myself with the role of the lukewarm storyteller. All I have is one small voice."
It is precisely because his voice is small that this story holds the reader. An ordinary man in extraordinary times takes a stand and the personal is political, sending a lesson to others that no matter how small the link, the larger chain is still made up of all of the links.
The child, the Jozef who is happy becomes the man Jozef who is aware of what he is lacking. Of the cost that lack extracts. And becomes willing to pay the price to achieve true freedom. The cost is great. The toll is sacrificing all he knows, all he holds dear for all that he needs and can become.
Jozef Imrich's escape is breathtaking and mind-boggling. It is hard to imagine this, and, yet, with the gift of a talented guide, one is left well able to not only imagine it, but to feel it. He gives a very human face to Communism. As the book progresses, the common humanity the reader feels with the writer ceases to be unsettling and becomes enlightening.
Cold River by Jozef Imrich is a very important book. It needs to be read and discussed. For those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it. By showing the human cost of what man can do to man, Jozef Imrich has given the world a manual on how not to be.
Jozef Imrich is a gifted writer. More than a tale of one man, Cold River is a tale of all men. Jozef Imrich deserves thanks for sharing what is both a heart warming and a heart wrenching story. This is his first book, but I am left with the sincere hope that it is not his last.
Jozef Imrich currently resides in Australia with his family. He has returned to his native land since the fall of Communism, and questions by his daughter are what motivated him to write this book. Jozef Imrich has also published essays and short stories in various publications.
Publisher website: http://www.double-dragon-ebooks.com/index.html
Bio: Janet Schmidt resides in the Midwest with her husband, daughter and assorted pets. She is at work on her first novel. Janet enjoys gardening, cooking and reading.