BOOKS: Fast times and freedom

Mira Slovak was born in Czechoslovakia and endured the Nazi occupation and the Russian liberation. He joined the Czech air force, rising to the rank of captain by the age of 21. When he couldn’t tolerate life under communist rule, he hijacked an airliner and flew to freedom. He worked for the CIA and was eventually sent to the United States and given a job as Bill Boeing Jr.’s personal pilot. When Boeing began entering racing hydroplanes in the late 1950s, Slovak was his driver. In a 10-year career as a hydro racer, he won two national championships, met presidents and dated movie starlets. When he retired from racing, he became a stunt pilot and public speaker, talking often about the value of freedom. After communism’s collapse in Czechoslovakia, he returned to his home country, only to realize that his true home was the U.S. The life of Slovak, who died in 2014 at the age of 84, is chronicled in “A Race to Freedom,” by David Williams. The author is the executive director of the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum in Kent.