Hurka, Joseph 1960-

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HURKA, Joseph 1960-


Born 1960, in MA; son of Josef (U.S. spy and industrial designer) and Ruth A. Hurka; Education: Bradford College, B.A.; Iowa Writers Workshop, 1986.


Home—Newburyport, MA. Office—Tufts University, 210 Eaton Hall, Medford, MA 02155.


Freelance public-relations journalist, Chicago, IL, and New Hampshire; Emerson College, Boston, MA, instructor; Tufts, Medford, MA, instructor of creative and expository writing, 1989—. Military service: Coast Guard Reserve, military journalist.


Annual Editor's Book Award, Pushcart Press, 2000, for Fields of Light: A Son Remembers His Heroic Father.


Fields of Light: A Son Remembers His Heroic Father, Pushcart Press (Wainscott, NY), 2001.

Work represented in Ploughshares and Alaska Quarterly.


Joseph Hurka was born in Massachusetts in 1960, and was raised by his Czech father and American-born Swiss mother. Educated at Bradford College, he worked as a teaching assistant to Andre Dubus whom he considers his "American Father." Following college he worked as a journalist and freelance writer before settling into a position as a creative and expository writing instructor at Tufts University in 1989.

Hurka's father immigrated to the United States from Czechoslovakia in 1950 where he married and started a family in Massachusetts while working as an industrial designer. Hurka knew his father had experienced some hardship while living in Czechoslovakia, and his mother had hinted that his father had been involved in some espionage activity, but Hurka had no idea to what extent until he visited his father's sister Mira in Prague in 1993. Hurka had intended to visit his father's homeland to write a travel piece about the post-Communist country for a magazine, but instead started on what would turn into a seven-year struggle to create his book, Fields of Light: A Son Remembers His Heroic Father.

Hurka learned that his father was sent to work in the Nazi coal mines at the age of sixteen, and was able to smuggle out dynamite for use in the Czech resistance. He joined the military after the war and became a top competitive skier. However, his refusal to use his status to help promote communism earned him enemies and he was arrested, and subsequently beaten and tortured. After his release he joined a resistance movement and smuggled anti-Communist leader Josef Macek and his wife into West Germany. He immigrated to America when life became too dangerous in Czechoslovakia, and worked as a spy for the U.S. government.

The discovery of his father's secret life was shocking and enlightening for Hurka. It gave him new insight into his father's behavior, including his occasional bouts of depression. In Fields of Light he chronicles his trip to Prague and unravels the mystery of his father's life. He takes the title of his book from the Czech reference to the bright yellow repka flower, which blooms in the countryside during spring, and is associated with a legend of the ghost-soldiers who will rise from the hills and defend their country when it is in danger.

Fields of Light won Pushcart Press's nineteenth annual Editor's Book Award, and was published in 2001. David Pryce Jones, in his review for National Review, wrote that "The resulting guidebook passages and historical snippets are unfortunately banal, and sometimes downright silly," but also found the book "valuable insofar as it lifts a veil of secrecy lying over militancy against Communism." Fred Leebron, writing in Ploughshares, found the book, "If at times a bit too ponderous and too liberal," "both a traveler's poignant story and an intimate memoir about intense personal loss and private pain." Vera Laska stated in International Journal on World Peace, that Hurka's book is "an exceptional memoir" and found it "easily readable and the contents, in spite of the complex political background, well presented" and valuable in that "it illuminates a neglected facet of recent history." Library Journal's Wendy Miller commented of Fields of Light: "The reader comes away with the feeling that in the quest for freedom there are very few ordinary people."



Booklist, April 1, 2001, David Pitt, review of Fields of Light: A Son Remembers His Heroic Father, p. 55.

Eagle Tribune, June 17, 2001, Anita Perkins, "Son Writes Father's Story."

International Journal on World Peace, September, 2002, Vera Laska, review of Fields of Light, p. 106.

Library Journal, May 1, 2001, Wendy Miller, review of Fields of Light, p. 99.

National Review, June 25, 2001, David Pryce-Jones, "Forgotten War."

Ploughshares, winter, 2001, Fred Leebron, review of Fields of Light, p. 195.


Ploughshares Online, (November 20, 2001), "Joseph Hurka."

Poets and Writers Web site, (November 20, 2001), "Pushcart Press Editor's Book Award."

Tufts Journal Online, (September 9, 2003), Helene Ragovin, "A Son's Journey to the Heart of His Family.*"