Prague Winter

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Book and Author

Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948

Before Madeleine Albright turned twelve, her life was shaken by the Nazi invasion of her native Prague, Czechoslovakia, the Battle of Britain, the near-total destruction of European Jewry, the Allied victory in World War II, the rise of communism, and the onset of the Cold War. Drawing on her memory, her parents’ written reflections, interviews with contemporaries, and newly available documents, Albright recounts a tale that is by turns harrowing and inspiring.  Published in  2012, 467 pages.

Madeleine Albright was named the first female Secretary of State in 1997 and became, at that time, the highest ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government.  She currently serves on the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Policy Board, a group tasked with providing the Secretary of Defense with independent, informed advice and opinion concerning matters of defense policy.

Here her introduce Prague Winter in this video from Harper Books:

Quote from the book:

 I was fifty-nine when I began serving as U.S. secretary of state. I thought by then that I knew all there was to know about my past, who ‘my people’ were, and the history of my native land. I was sure enough that I did not feel a need to ask questions. Others might be insecure about their identities; I was not and never had been. I knew. Only I didn’t.

Discuss

Topics the book will bring up for discussion include:

  • The book presents the history of the Second World War from a Czechoslovakian perspective.  How different was this from the histories of World War II that you have previously encountered?
  • Albright’s family converted to Catholicism and it wasn’t until the time that she became Secretary of State that she discovered her Jewish roots.  How did this affect her ?  Can you imagine what such a revelation would do to your own sense of identity?
  • What does the title of the book–Prague Winter–refer to?

More discussion questions can be found from Lit Lovers.

Enhance

Czech playing cards

Czech playing cards

For food suggestions, the Library has a book on Czech Cooking and also one on Slovak cooking —The Best of Slovak Cooking has a recipe for plum tarts which are similar to the plum dumplings that Albright mentions her cousin Dasa making for her.  Or you could use this recipe from Epicurious.

Your group could also try their hand at playing Marias — the traditional Czech card game Albright mentions the men playing when they attended gatherings with other Czech immigrants in England.

Interact

Would you recommend Prague Winter to other groups?  Share your thoughts by commenting on this post.