The local author, Nadia Kovarik introduced us last week to her life story, a story of hope and determination, resilience and realized dreams in her adoptive country, Canada. About 40 listeners gathered to learn what life might have been for these two (Nadia and George, her husband of almost 40 years) mavericks in search of freedom. The book has a subtitle that summarizes their adventure-“Through the Iron Curtain to the Canadian Backwoods,” and sets the stage for but also reveals a happy ending: They made it!

The story begins in the old country, where Nadia, then a mountain guide, marries George – an intellectual with the heart of a pioneer who was planning an escape from the barbed-wire-fenced motherland. He succeeds in convincing his new wife of the necessity to flee and find true freedom. The lyrics of a song expressed what Nadia was feeling in her heart, as she explains in her book:

“When the honking of wild geese
Resounds in the skies,
My heart of a wanderer
Begins to stir.
Distance is wooing me-
I have to go
to follow the call,
of the migrating wild geese.”

Their story, recounted so vividly by Nadia, resonates deeply with ours. Both my husband and I planned our escape for years and lived through similar adventures, pain and tears interspersed with joy and victories some 27 years ago…

The idealistic pair leaves everything behind, family and friends, their life as they knew it, and succeed to find a “hole” in the “curtain.” They are able to cross from the former Yugoslavia into the free Italy during a bus trip (me and my husband used a trip from Poland to Hungary, then walked and crawled the border into the free Austria during a September night). Experiencing the perils of an Italian refugee camp offset by some human kindness and the marvelous Mediterranean Sea, they succeed in their ultimate goal: to land in the country of their dreams, Canada! (The parallels with our story seem surreal – we had our own refugee camp adventures in Austria, and also dreamt of living in a country of endless green forests – guess which one?). Nadia and George finally pick, just like us, the village of McBride as their beloved home. This is how Nadia describes the place:

“In addition, this village lay exactly in the middle of nowhere, 212 kilometers east of the rather small City of Prince George and about the same distance west of the mountain town of Jasper. Several ranches and farms with lush pasturelands surrounded the village; rivers, creeks and high mountains with forested sides and white-capped peaks added the final touch to the whole stunning picture.”

Stunningly beautiful – that is how we also found McBride when we first arrived in the valley. We, like Nadia and George, loved to lose ourselves, as Nadia says in her lovely book “in endless northern forests, their ancient secrets whispering in the wind, and mountains forever covered with ice fields of pure white snow.”

“Bear in the Window” is the author’s first English book, an older Czech version was a great success in her native Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic). Nadia and George, who had not seen a bear before arriving in Canada, still enjoy the backwoods despite a few bear encounters. Their story and heartwarming interactions with people of all nationalities will lift your spirit and put a smile on your lips. You will travel in their footsteps to charming places in Alberta and British Columbia, as they search for the perfect home, their “Christmas Country,” and celebrate the vast beauty of our Canadian wilderness.

Including the bears. A few tears, lots of chuckles and the author’s appealing straightforward style entertains and provokes imagination. Delightfully spiced with some unique human and wildlife encounters, full of charming cultural misadventures, “Bear in the Window” will delight anyone who has considered making a life as a stranger in a strange land.

The book is available at