Reviews and Praise

Reviews and Praise

Welltold and dramatic story Border Crossings is the well-told and dramatic story of a young man whose comfortable life is abruptly transformed by the savagery of World War II. Forced to rely on primal instincts and his familiarity with the rugged highlands of Moravia, Charles Novacek casts his lot first with the anti-Hitler Underground and then with the resistance to the Nazis’ Communist successors. “My recollections pain me,” he writes, “still, they have made me who I am.” Novacek’s experience as a Hungarian-speaking Czecho-Slovak patriot demonstrates the folly of petty nationalism and the resilience of human decency and love – Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State

Honest, extraordinary telling I have been transformed by this honest, extraordinary telling. In Border Crossings Charles Novacek shows us, through his personal story (told as if we are right there in the room with him) the true face of totalitarianism; he reminds us of the preciousness, the miracle, of freedom. What a gift he has given us–and what a gift his wife, Sandra, has offered us, as well, in making sure that his brave story is here for the world to read. This is a powerful memoir that crosses all borders and speaks directly to the human heart – Joseph Hurka, author of Fields of Light: A Son Remembers His Heroic Father    

Intimate, intense, fascinating Border Crossings helps fill the lack of personal accounts of resistance movements amidst a voluminous array of World War II literature. This compelling memoir, written through the eyes of young Charles, shows how circumstances required him to become a shrewd hero. In his opposition first toward Nazism and then Communism, Charles Novacek’s personal story illustrates why people sacrifice themselves and their families for an ideal. Intimate, intense, fascinating – Christina Vella, coauthor of The Hitler Kiss                                                                                                                                                    A beautifully rendered record of a remarkable life The astonishing story of one young man’s bravery during World War II and in its aftermath, Border Crossings is made even more riveting by the intimate and passionate way in which it is written. This complex tale of survival and endurance is the must-read autobiography of a hero who not only survived but triumphed over the unspeakable tyranny and cruelty of first the Nazi and then the Soviet occupiers of Central Europe. I recently met Charles Novacek’s widow, Sandra Novacek, and talked with her about how she brought her late husband’s story to the light of print. Publication of this book was a labor of love, she told me. It stands as a unique record of life on the edge–inspiring and beautifully edited and published, with a section of carefully selected and compelling photographs. A remarkable achievement. – Leonard Kniffel

Important contribution to the literature of World War II In this well articulated memoir, Charles Novacek pays tribute to the heroes of his past. My country comes first,” is the lesson young Charles learns from his father. Courageous and inquisitive, our hero comes to age through the horrors of World War II, spends his tumultuous youth fighting communism, and finds peace in a land away from home. Like many before him, coming to America becomes an act of self preservation, not an abandonment of the homeland. Part memoir and part history lesson, the book captures a time long gone, with moments of normalcy and love in the midst of suffering and struggle. The passage of years fails to erase the author’s memory of remarkable events, which he recounts in captivating detail. This book makes an important contribution to the literature of World War II and communism in Eastern Europe. Kudos to Sandra Novacek, the author’s “last love,”for entrusting this remarkable personal account to the printer. –

Riveting Here is a story that is meant to survive, just as its teller was. I got to know Charles in his later years but only had hints of what is contained in these pages. They are riveting. I was drawn into the best and worst of humanity and, not incidentally, into the history of the West in the mid-twentieth century. Courage, love, despair, a fierce will are all preserved with the help of one who was ‘not the love of Charles’ life. . . but his last love. – John Kotre, Ph.D., author of White Gloves: How We Create Ourselves Through Memory

Exceptionally well written from beginning to end. Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance reads like a best-seller novel but is a true life memoir of a remarkable man who lived in horrific times and came through them to create a successful life despite what he had to overcome — or perhaps because of it! Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance is an extraordinary and highly recommended read. Simply stated, a copy deserves to be in every community library 20th century biography collection for the sake of new and future generations of readers. – Midwest Book Review

Fascinating story – I felt like I was sitting next to the author I never knew much about the Czech resistance – I was totally engrossed with Novacek’s story. It is a great story of bravery, commitment and survival under extraordinary circumstances. Highly recommended! -Carolyn J. Christopher

An amazing man Charles Novacek was truly an amazing man! As I read his memoir I felt as though I was at his side as he struggled to live and fought to survive in war ravaged Europe during Soviet oppression. His life’s journey took many turns before he fulfilled his lifelong dream of emigrating to the United States. In America he reached the pinnacle of success in his numerous civil engineering feats. His physical stamina as well as his intellectual accomplishments both professionally and personally are impressive. This is a book that I couldn’t put down. Sandra, I wish I could have met your husband, Charles – Kathlynn

Enjoyed every moment This is a well documented historical narrative and well-told story of a hero of our time. I enjoyed every moment of this fast-moving documentary of a courageous young man in the Czech Resistance during World War II. A remarkable tale for lovers of history and an inspiring example of the great valor and tenacity of the young. It is a story for young and old alike – J. Carole

Gripping story Few people living in America today have any idea what some people endured to fight and then escape tyranny during the II World War. Charles Novacek, early in his life, knew what freedom was about and to what lengths people must take to defend and preserve it. This gripping story is a stark reminder of how ruthless totalitarian governments can be to their own people and a lesson how easy freedom loving people can be subjugated. Charles Novacek shook all of this experience off, to become a true American patriot – Richard R. Stickney

A true Czech story The chronological tale of Charles Novacek’s life is filled with courage, honesty, determination, and grace. Atrocities of WWII are well documented, but stories of Cold War resistance, torture, and heroism are less known. A solid structure is built as Novacek tells of his experience. Landing in Detroit in the 1950s to search for a job opens a window into the city of the mid-20th century. How revealing to read that first person account – Toni Gibson

He was THERE I recommended this book to friends who were in concentration camps during WWII and they found it as fascinating as I did. It is a page-turner and a story you will not forget –FIF

Story of a Renaissance man Border Crossings tells the story of a man whose road to freedom began fighting the Germans during World War II and the Soviets thereafter as a teenager in the Czech Resistance. But it is also the story of a man’s resolve, his total commitment, his loyalty and his personal sacrifice, endurance and survival. Charles Novacek was clearly a modern day renaissance man who was able to continuously reinvent himself as engineer, artist, painter, musician, writer etc…,a seemingly fascinating person I would have liked to have met – Hanno J. Fontaine

Thrilling and inspirational memoir This autobiography by Charles Novacek, a Czech Resistance fighter, is a testament to bravery, perseverance, and creativity in the face of unthinkable circumstances. The author was only 11 years old when he became involved in the Resistance, inspired by his father and uncle who trained him how to prepare for a life of secrecy, resourcefulness, and extreme danger. I was astounded by his experiences as an undercover agent–from interfering with Nazi demolition squads, to being imprisoned, enduring endless interrogations until his dramatic rescue, and still continuing to fight for freedom. Not only is the book is a page-turner, but its also an inspiration to the power of endurance and responsibility – A Librarian

A true survival story In a time when many of us think of a “survivor” as someone who has endured the artificially-orchestrated tribulations of the popular TV show, Novacek’s amazing story shows us the real meaning of the word. You don’t have to be a history buff to appreciate Border Crossings –the book appeals on a much more primal, heart-pounding level. Has anyone in Hollywood read this? I think it would make a wonderful movie – Joel Mofsenson

A great read An amazing account of one man’s journey across the borders of Eastern Europe to a new life in the United States. Novacek was recruited to be a spy in postwar Europe while he was still a child, and after years of espionage activities, he realizes he must leave in order to save himself. His journey out of Europe is harrowing and suspenseful, but he eventually makes his way to Venezuela….only to have to leave after a time because of a revolution in that country. He emigrates to the United States, and finds a whole new life as an engineer. The book is suspenseful, concisely written, and Americans will learn much about the Cold War period. The timeline is very helpful. Highly recommended – Patricia White

Excellent! Disclaimer: I was the contract cartographer who created the map at the front of the book, and I also received a review copy. Otherwise I have no connection to the author or publisher.

Border Crossings is well-written and an excellent read. The author tells a stirring tale of what it was like to grow up in Czechoslovakia during the pre-war period and during the partitioning and then the occupations by the Germans and the Soviets. Unlike some autobiographies that get bogged down in details, this narrative moves along at a brisk pace. Novacek’s American years are so compressed at the end of the book that it took me some time to realize how long he lived in the U.S. after finally reaching this country.

I highly recommend this book, partly because it’s a great read, and because it tells about a period of history in Eastern Europe that most Americans and western Europeans are probably not familiar with- at least not from the perspective of someone who lived it – Bruce Grubbs

What a life! I was fortunate to know Charles Novacek. He was a remarkable man–loving and wise with a curious mind and a devilish sense of humor right up until the end. While I knew Charles had worked in the Czech resistance during WWII, this book made me realize how much I didn’t know about the forces that had shaped him. What a life! There were parts where I couldn’t put it down. I would recommend this book for people of all ages, including and especially the young. Charles was tested in his young adulthood in ways that few of us today can imagine. He survived because he had been taught vital skills, had a strong will to live and because he was just plain lucky. But he did more than survive. Charles went on to reinvent his life first in South America and then in the United States, and again late in life as a widower. He achieved success both as an engineer and an artist. His memoir gives a vivid and suspenseful account of a time, place and political forces that most Americans know little about. It’s a great read and a great opportunity to learn more about a horrific period and how one young man put his life on the line and lived to tell about it – Chicago Rose

Stranger than fiction Life is sometimes stranger than fiction and this is such a case. The notion of kids being enlisted as spies may seem farfetched today, but it wasn’t uncommon during WWII when the efforts of every man, woman and child counted. This memoir presents a fascinating and true account of one young Czech, recruited at the age of 10, who survives the traumas of war and goes on to builds a new and successful life in the U.S. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the personal side of World War II and the Communist resistance or just plain survival. I found it both thrilling and inspirational – Gary Forrell

Touching and unheard story Border Crossings is a touching and unheard story, a memoir by Czech and Hungarian author Charles Novacek. Novacek has one of the most unique and compelling stories of World War II and the Cold War that I have read. He narrates his childhood that was ended all too quickly as his father, a former police officer, and his uncle, a former Czech intelligence agent, train Novacek to withstand torture and survive during wartime, foreshadowing the troubles Novacek would find during both wars. Essentially, the author tells his story, a story that is often unheard of when discussing World War II and the Cold War. Novacek is successful in conveying the story; he subtlely narrates the difference in attitude he had before he was conscious of the war, and the reader can see in little ways Novacek had to grow into a man during the tender ages of childhood. . . I strongly recommend Border Crossings to everyone. It’s a beautiful, extraordinary, and compelling memoir. Susan Vio,

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