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U.S. News and Commentary



Thursday
Jun032010

Rita Cosby blends memoir and war history with ‘Quiet Hero’

By Kay B. Day

Rita Cosby’s new book Quiet Hero--Secrets From My Father's Past contains a lot of personal narrative focusing on her relationship with her father and her upbringing in general. But the book also contains a lot of straight-up history told in a layman-friendly narrative. Many readers will be introduced to Polish Resistance fighters, and events in the war are recounted in personal terms often through firsthand accounts.

Until I read this, I always thought first of the French Resistance when I heard about resistance groups in WWII.

It’s a great book for learning more US and world history and it’s a great book for just curling up with.

Cosby’s book was born when she opened a suitcase that had belonged to her father. Her relationship with him was emotionally distant although she loved and respected him. Cosby’s dad had left the family when she was a young teen. After her mother’s death, Cosby describes sorting through her mom’s belongings and finding “a battered tan suitcase.” In that suitcase she came across “rusted tags bearing a prisoner number and the words Stalag IVB; and an identity card for an ex-POW bearing the name Ryszard Kossobudzki.”

Those singular items would lead the Emmy winning journalist and best-selling author whose face is a familiar site on TV to a number of different countries and to numerous people with fascinating stories. She documents how she traced her father’s history, and she tells fine tales about the derring-do and the suffering that are twin conspirators in any war.

The book serves up mysteries and answers, and brings the reader to appreciate an unknown quantity in the war, a group of men and women hitherto unsung who made a difference by fighting for freedom as the world fought off assaults from madmen.

Cosby’s journey into her father’s past is a journey into her own. She comes to terms, with each discovery in an arduous research process, with the person she has become. She comes to understand how profoundly the war affected her father and his generation. He was a young teen when it all began—close to the same age Cosby was when her father divorced her mother. It seemed that as a cataclysm had interrupted his rites of passage, a personal cataclysm had interrupted her own. Her coming to terms with her father and with her own relationship with him are triumphs.

‘Quiet Hero’ is a great summer read but it’s a great addition to the standing reference shelf as well. Cosby has filled in a gap where the Polish resistance was concerned. I found myself admiring Poland in a way I’d never thought of the country before—Poland’s triumph over her oppressors is a positive modern history development, a scarcity we can celebrate.

The book is meticulously researched, and introduces material about WWII in general as well. That history narrative laid finely atop a personal account makes the book an excellent read and a thing of value for the personal library.

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