No Paved Road to Freedom by Sharon Rushton is a gripping page-turner about one man’s quest for freedom against overwhelming odds. It is an inspirational story about a remarkable man who gave up everything (family, career, fiancée) to escape the horrors of communism. Sharon’s book is also a cautionary tale of what governments can do in the guise of “helping” their people. It is almost universally known now that Communist Russia was responsible for the deaths of over 20 million of her people; Sharon’s story brings the horrors of the purges down to the individual and family level. It is a remarkable and powerful book.
No Paved Road to Freedom is listed as a fictionalized historical biography. It is the story of Cornel Dolana, a real person who escaped Communist Romania. Sharon has done her homework; the book is based on many hours of interviews with her subject, and is backed by solid historical research.
Cornel Dolana’s family owned a 300 acre farm prior to World War II, land they had accumulated by hard work. They produced plenty for their own family and enough to make a comfortable living. Then, with the advent of World War II, formerly neutral Romania was forced to join forces with Hitler’s Germany. Cornel’s father, Marin, was drafted to fight for the Third Reich. It was the beginning of a descent into hell for the family as the war came to their village and they waited anxiously to see if Marin would return.
Marin returned at the end of the war, but Romania had fallen into the Soviet sphere of influence, and the communist state was determined to turn Romania (and all the countries under their influence) into a “worker’s paradise.” Gradually, under the guise of “helping” their subjects, they imposed a police state where freedom steadily eroded until there was no freedom at all. The Dolana family eventually was forced to give up their land to the “collective,” the people began to starve, and eventually Marin was sent to prison on trumped up charges. The hardships all of this brought to the family made Cornel decide, after listening to the Voice of America, that he would risk all to escape. The reader will not be able to put the book down once Cornel plunges off a boat into the frigid Danube and heads under close pursuit to Yugoslavia. There is no paved road to freedom; Cornel endured interrogations, harsh jail sentences, frigid mountain passes and treachery to get to Italy, and then eventually the United States, the beacon of freedom. The story of the unbelievable hardships he endured to escape the clutches of communism is inspirational to say the least.
Sharon Rushton’s book should be widely read. It is a reminder of how easy our life is, but how fragile and precious our freedoms are. Either the soft tyranny of the welfare state or the hard tyranny of communism erode freedom and take away initiative. This would be a particularly instructive book for high school students; it would be a revelation for them.
Reviewed by: Weymouth Symmes (2012)
No Paved Road To Freedom is a gripping and emotional story that humanizes the impact of communist occupation in Romania after World War II. It is relevant, it inspires, and it reminds us that freedom is precious. Based on a true story, it documents the extraordinary courage of Cornel Dolana and his family as they pay an incredible price for resisting communism. Cornel makes up his mind to escape the oppression and uses his ingenuity to put his plan in place. His fortitude keeps him moving toward his goal, despite enduring enormous setbacks, brutality, and extreme outdoor elements that few humans could survive.