Run for My Life
By: Joseph P. O’Donnell (as told by Daniel Kolmann)
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Publication Date: February 27, 2023
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: April 4, 2023
In his latest memoir, Run for My Life, Joseph P. O’Donnell pens a riveting account of Daniel Kolmann’s story of his triumphant victory of securing his escape from communism.
On May 30, 1948, Daniel Kolmann was born to Erna (Netty) and Josef Kolmann (Netty’s second husband). World War II had ended three years prior to Daniel’s birth, but the devastation to Czechoslovakia had already caused "...nearly one million people out of a pre-war population of over 15 million...killed..." Even with the destruction and heartache, Daniel’s birth was a welcome one; especially for Netty, who lost two of her sons and her first husband to the war. To be clear, however, Netty’s first husband and her two sons were not killed in action. Rather, they were arrested by the Gestapo and transported to a concentration camp because they were Jewish and were never seen again. The fear of Jewish men and boys being taken escalated to Jewish women and girls as well. Fearing for her daughter Ana’s safety, Netty took it upon herself to seek refuge in a farmhouse owned by a Christian couple. By the grace of God, they were never discovered, and Netty managed to secure Ana’s safe escape. Josef (Daniel’s father) was Jewish as well and had been taken to Poland by the Germans. His story, however, was a triumphant one when he managed to escape the concentration camp, but not without the constant reminder for the rest of his life from such an act.
Ana (thanks to her two uncles) was taken to the safety of Israel shortly after Daniel’s birth. The rule of the Communist Party in his birthplace, Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, was already deeply entrenched in the country. The totalitarian one-party rule was in place with the full support of the Russian government and maintained this stronghold for more than four decades. Between Netty’s strength and Josef’s technological aptitude, Daniel remained fairly unscathed. It is when he shows promise for his athletic prowess that the family can remain relatively safe. When the government recognizes Daniel’s athletic abilities, it is a matter of time before Netty realizes her only son will be taken away and exploited for Communist profit. Even though Netty learned how to ‘game’ the system as it were, Josef acquiesced and decided to adopt and engage in all things Communism. Daniel, on the other hand, decided that one day (and soon), he would escape the despicable stronghold of Communism forever and never look back.
I had the pleasure of reading Mr. O’Donnell’s first memoir, Living on the Fringe of the Mob, and once again, he has mastered a compelling account of grit and tenacity with the telling of Daniel Kolmann’s life. The vibrancy and pace make this less than 200-page book one that can easily be consumed in a couple hours’ time on a lazy Sunday morning. O’Donnell masterfully anchors his voice immediately within the first few pages and the story flows in captivating cadence thereafter to the very last page. The dialogue is rich. However, what I truly applaud Mr. O’Donnell on is the fact that he has told Daniel’s story from a perspective of perseverance rather than victimhood. There were many riveting moments in Daniel’s account, but one that stood out for me was his educational experience while under the thumb of Communism: "...we were also shown videos and pictures of American slums—bums and homeless people on Canal Street in Manhattan—all with the singular purpose to verify that capitalism was a failure..." My greatest takeaway from reading Run for My Life is a strong message of: Pay Attention...freedom truly isn’t free!
Quill says: If ever there were a book of required reading in current times, Run for My Life should be among the Top 10.
For more information on Run for My Life please visit the author's website at: http://jpodonnell.com