Reviewer June Maffin:Living on an island in British Columbia, Canada, Dr. Maffin is a neophyte organic gardener, eclectic reader, ordained minister (Anglican/Episcopal priest) and creative spirituality writer/photographer with a deep zest for life. Previously, she has been grief counselor, broadcaster, teacher, journalist, television host, chaplain and spiritual director with an earned doctorate in Pastoral Care (medical ethics i.e. euthanasia focus). Presently an educator, freelance editor, blogger, and published author of three books, her most recent (Soulistry-Artistry of the Soul: Creative Ways to Nurture your Spirituality) has been published in e-book as well as paperback format and a preview can be viewed on YouTube videos. Founder of Soulistry™ she continues to lead a variety of workshops and retreats connecting spirituality with creativity and delights in a spirituality of play. You can find out more about June by clicking on her Web Site.
Author: Sonya N. Jason
Publisher: McFarland Publishers
What a story this is! It would be ‘interesting’ if it were fiction, but it is more - much more. It is ‘fascinating’ and true.
At the beginning of WW11, Slovakia (an independent state of Czechoslovakia closely allied to Nazi Germany) is at a critical moment in its history. A young teacher, Maria Gulovich, is called to make a decision that would affect her life, the life of American operatives of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services - predecessor of the CIA), and the life of her country. Trying to escape the horrors of Nazi Germany, Jews sought refuge in Maria’s school classroom. Would she hide them and save their lives but in doing so, put her own life in jeopardy? Or would she remain safe and ignore their plight ignoring the horrific consequences that would surely follow them?
Maria Gulovich chose the path of selfless compassion. When the Slovakian Underground discovered what she had done, she faced another choice: face Nazi arrest for hiding the Jews, or work as a courier for the Underground. This time, Maria chose the dual path of compassion (helping others), and the path of self-preservation.
When the Slovakian uprising collapsed, Maria was abandoned by the Soviets for whom had been working in Banska Bystrica. American OSS personnel had been working in the town as part of the Dawes mission to rescue downed American airmen, assist the Slovakian Uprising, and discover the nature of the Russian influence in the area, but they were forced to flee to save their lives. Aware of Maria’s knowledge of the land, people of the region and the multiple languages, they invited her to join them as they tried to evade capture and return to Allied forces.
Over the next several months, Maria and the Americans faced brutal Slovakian winter conditions, diminishing energy, starvation, ill health (physical and mental), the everpresent threat of betrayal and capture, and freezing treks through the High Tatra Mountain range of the Carpathian Mountains between Slovakia and Poland. While she could have left the Americans and saved her own life, Maria chose the path of selfless service, becoming cook, guide, liaison to local villagers, confidante and interpreter to the Dawes mission men.
Sadly, only five of the original nineteen OSS members survived. The rest were executed by the Nazis.
That even five survived is a story in itself - and Maria Gulovich was pivotal in their survival.
While Maria’s story is unknown beyond her country and relatively unknown in her own country, hopefully, author Sonya Jason’s, skillfully written, historically accurate and well-researched window into this seldom-mentioned country at a brutal time in history will change that.