Heda Margolius Kovály

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Born in Prague in 1919, Heda Margolius Kovály's youth was cut short by the rise of Hitler and the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939. In 1941, she and her family were deported to the Lodz Ghetto, then to Auschwitz. She escaped from a death march, made her way back to Prague, and took part in the uprising against the Germans in May 1945. Heda then reunited with her husband, Rudolf Margolius, who had survived Auschwitz and Dachau. After Margolius became Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade in the post-war Communist government, he was arrested and became a victim of Stalinist anti-semitic show trials. The Slansky Trials found Margolius one of eleven Jews guilty of conspiracy. After his execution in 1952, Heda, who never believed that her husband was guilty and spent her life trying to clear his name, and Ivan, her four-year-old son, were shunned by society. Heda was denied work and lodging, forced to live in poverty and to eke out a living surreptitiously editing and translating. She did not tell Ivan the truth about what happened to his father until he was sixteen years old. Her memoir of life under Stalinism, Under A Cruel Star: A Life in Prague 1941-1968, is dedicated to Ivan. She is the author of a novel, Innocence, and the translator of several American authors into Czech. In his book Cultural Amnesia, Clive James named Heda Margolius Kovály one of the "necessary" writers of the twentieth century. In 1968, after Soviet troops invaded Prague, mother and son fled Czechoslovakia. Heda Margolius Kovály settled in Boston, Massachusetts where she worked at the Harvard Law School library and lived with her second husband, Pavel Kovály. In 1996, they returned to Prague where Heda died in 2010.


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