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Quiet Hero: Secrets from My Father's Past Hardcover – 18 May 2010
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War brings out both the best and the worst in we humans. I love hearing or reading about the best. Thank you Ms. Cosby,and to your father, Rys as well.
Quiet Hero takes the reader behind WWII headline reporting, to reveal the impact of the war on a personal level: the loss of entire neighborhoods, families and friends; the bravery to stand up against an insurmountable enemy in the face of all reason, but in the name of justice; and the physical - and the emotional - scars left behind. A bit more of a global perspective of the War would be appreciated, but it does not diminish from the story. Indeed, this reader was left with a better understanding of why my own ancestors remained quiet about their own heroism throughout their lives. Cosby provides a voice not only for her father, but for all of these quiet heroes.
Six years after her mother's funeral, Rita was able to take from storage her mother's keepsakes, where she discovered an old tan suit case that she had never seen before. Her mother's love for her ex-husband had been eternal - she never remarried - and the suitcase contained bits and pieces of her father's youth. Amongst other things were a red and white armband, a Stalag IVB tag numbered 305147, a POW id card, a metal cigarette box, a small pendant of the Virgin Mary, a photo of Ryszard Kossobudzki in London and a few crumpled letters in Polish.
Rather than being disgusted with the contrast between her father and mother's attitude to their children and broken marriage and throwing away what to her were meaningless and valueless trinkets, Ms Cosby decided to use her skills as an investigative journalist to put the bits and pieces into the context of a life. Perhaps she would learn why her father had built an emotional wall around himself, and better still, maybe she would be able to break through and connect with him emotionally!
The British movie `Man in Grey' comes to mind. The film opens at a deceased estate auction of the property of a wealthy family. The auction is comprised of valuable artworks and furnishings mixed in with mundane day to day articles. Two strangers, played by Stuart Granger and Phyllis Calvert, accidently bump into each other when they happen to be looking over the same articles. Small talk ensues and they conclude that the things they are looking at are worthless. The two characters then chat about the 'sentimental value' the mementoes may have had specific to the former owners. At this point Stuart and Phyllis begin imagining the possibilities. The scene ends and the film now switches to the story of the owners. As it unfolds the audience discovers the life around the objects.
Ms Cosby arranges a series of conversations with her father. She does not reveal to him the keepsakes she has found but uses them to ask the right questions to bring out a picture of his past. She then uses this information, together with his mementoes to research historical archives and contact surviving colleagues and others, to fill in the gaps.
We are taken on an incredible journey to Poland and Germany in World War II and see it through the eyes of `Rys' an `AK' Resistance Warrior of the Warsaw Rising in the thick of the action. We experience the terror of war. It allows us to understand why her father had secreted his heroic deeds as an `Eaglet' in the depths of his mind. Why he never talked about this time. Why he had locked himself up emotionally. Why he avoided return to Poland in fear that painful memories would return that would break him emotionally.
After absorbing what she had learned and putting it into the context of her own life, Rita was able to forgive her Dad and help him with release from the emotional prison he had remained in to this time, due to the circumstances of the Nazi invasion of Poland. She showed him those bits and pieces of his past that he thought his ex-wife had thrown away long ago, and his daughter was able to coax him to revisit Poland. Here he was presented with Poland's Fighter's Cross by President Lech Kaczynski. Ryszard Kossobudzki was unaware that he had been awarded this medal just after the war through a citation written to the authorities by his unit commander, Captain Gozdawa.
Richard Cosby was feted by historians and curators of the Warsaw Rising museum who were ecstatic that he was still alive and was able to personalise the artefacts they had of him. Richard was particularly affected by his conversations with Andrzej Wajda who had lost his father at Katyn, a person he could empathise with because his own uncle, Boleslaw Kossobudzki, had fought in the Russian Bolshevik War of 1920 and at the start of World War II, he had enlisted again to help defend his homeland, but was captured by the Soviets when they invaded Poland on September 17th, 1939. Boleslaw was later murdered in 1940 by the NKVD at Katyn.
Ms Cosby uses simple language, provides thought provoking contrasts and intertwines her own experiences as a front line journalist in danger zones such as wartime in Kossovo and Afghanistan. She writes in a conversational style to make the book accessible to all readers, including those who's English is their second language.
By writing `Quiet Hero' Rita Cosby was able to form the father/daughter relationship she had yearned for all her life and she was able to finally end World War II for Ryszard Kossobudzki and provide Richard Cosby,now in his Eighties, some of the best experiences of his life. Her writing has brought to light a compelling story of heroism, reconciliation and redemption. It captured a part of living memory of the Second World War period in Poland and preserved it for the benefit of present and future generations.