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BOOKS BOOKS and Periodicals Received

January 2001

Vol. XXI, No. 1

Kosciól w Rosji i na Bialorusi w relacjach duszpasterzy, 1892-1926 (the Catholic Church in Russia and Belarus as related by pastors, 1892-1926), edited by Marian Radwan, SCJ. Kraków. Sacred Heart Priests (SCJ) Publishing House (ul. Saska 2, 30- 715 Kraków). 1999. Index. 270 pages. Paper. In Polish.

Hands down, this is the most fascinating series of documents on what was happening to Catholics in the Russian empire in the late tsarist and early Soviet periods. The total picture is that of a willful and deliberate destruction by the Moscow-appointed officials of religious networks that held the society together and prevented ethnic strife in multicultural territories. That does not mean that the Catholics were blameless: apostasies, quarrels and self-interest all too often scandalized the faithful. The priests and bishops wrote these accounts for their superiors and not for publication.

Parafie, filie, kaplice i klasztory w Cesarstwie Rosyjskim w polowie XIX wieku (parishes, missions, chapels, monasteries and convents in the Russian Empire in the mid-nineteenth century), vol. 1, part 1, edited with an introduction by Jan Skarbek. Lublin. Instytut Europy Srodkowo-Wschodniej (ul. M. Curie-Sklodowskiej 58/1, 20-029 Lublin, 2000. Index, maps, tables. 180 pages. In Polish.

The partitions of Poland added 6.1 million people to the population of Russia, including 2.1 million Roman Catholics, 1.6 million Eastern-Rite Catholics, 2.8 million Eastern Orthodox, 20,000 Old Believers, 10,000 Protestants, 1,000 Karaibs, 4,000 Muslims and 400,000 Jews. Shortly after the 'cannibalization' of Poland, Catherine the Great broke the partition treaty by abolishing the structures of the Catholic Church as they existed before the partitions. Specifically, she abolished several dioceses, with a view to weakening the people's adherence to Rome and eventually converting them to Russian Orthodoxy. From then on, it was a struggle to maintain the remnants. Almost each year, something was taken way: church buildings, church lands, monasteries, convents. The story of dispossession intensified in the 1860s, when a major Polish rising further undermined both Catholicism and Western culture in the Russian-held territories.

Nieludzka ziemia w oczach dziecka (the inhuman land through a child's eyes), by Andrzej Cisek. Kraków. Jagiellonian University Press (ul. Grodzka 26, 31-044 Kraków). 2000. 100 pages. Appendix containing children's poems and photographs. Paper. In Polish.

The 1980s and '90s brought a crop of books by the 'Polish Holocaust' survivors: those who survived deportations to the Soviet gulag from Soviet-occupied Poland in 1939-41 and 1945-1946. The author's father was arrested shortly after the Soviet takeover of Poland, while his mother was deported to Siberia with two small children. This happened during the 'combing out' of Poles deemed inconvenient to the Soviet system. Hundreds of thousands of Polish Catholics were thus 'combed out' of Poland.

The book narrates these terrible years as seen by a child. One notes the serenity with which the author describes privations such as daily hunger, shortages of soap and clothing, horrible living conditions. The lack of bitterness in the author's voice is remarkable indeed; most survivors usually remark that these were 'stolen' years, and that the victims have not been vindicated. Unlike the Nazis, the planners and executors of the Soviet Gulag have never been charged for their crimes (if one does not count an international tribunal for Soviet crimes established in Lithuania in May-June 2000, the tribunal which lacks the financial and political means to do anything except symbolically sentencing the criminals). A lovely and serene book with a happy ending: the author, his wife and two sons in a family photo.

Exiled to Siberia: A Polish Child's WW II Journey, by Klaus Hergt. Foreword by Tadeusz Piotrowski. Cheboygan, MI. Crescent Lake Publishing ( 2001. xix + 235 pages. Maps. Hardcover. $27.95.

The book has been endorsed by Jan Tomasz Gross, the author of Revolution from Abroad, a volume that showed the countrywide dimensions of what this book details by means of a story of one human being. The Foreword by Tadeusz Piotrowski (the author of Poland's Holocaust) discusses various estimates of the number of Poles deported to the Soviet labor camps after the Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939. The figures quoted range between 400,000 and 780,000. These estimates are outdated: Professor Andrzej Paczkowski came up with a definitive figure of 566,000 verified victims and a total estimate of 934,000 (see SR Index, September 2000, p. 723).

The book is a biography of Henryk Birecki whose family was deported from a Polish village to Siberia in 1940, when Henryk was 10. It is lively, simple, and engaging.

handful of snow, by Lillian Vallee. Modesto, CA. Back 40 Publishing Co (P.O. Box 558, Springville, CA 93265). 2000. 74 pages. ISBN 1-929184-12-3. Paper.

Poems by Czeslaw Milosz's famous student and translator. Many of these poems match in quality those of her teacher. Like John Guzlowski and Helen Bajorek McDonald, Lillian Vallee is a second- generation American Polish poet whose parents were deported to Germany during World War II, and moved to Canada or the United States after he war. The volume celebrates the new world while voicing an awareness of the dangers facing human communities even in this best of the possible worlds: the United States of America.

This Fateful Power: Sequicentennial Anthology of Juliusz Slowacki, 1809-1849, edited and translated by Michael M. Mikos. Introduction by Alina Kowalczykowa. Lublin. Norbertinum (ul. Ksiezycowa 15, 20-060 Lublin, Poland, ). 1999. Notes, Selected bibliography. 148 pages. Paper.

This bilingual anthology is the first publication in English of Slowacki's works. Other than Anhelli translated by Dorothea Radin and published in London in 1930, this major Polish Romantic poet had never been presented to an English-speaking audience! For this reason alone, Professor Mikos's book deserves a warm welcome. The anthology contains some of the best known poems of Slowacki including "My Testament," "Captain Meyzner's Funeral," "Agamemnon's Tomb," "To Mother," "In Switzerland," as well as excerpts from Beniowski, Anhelli (a new translation), Kordian, Balladyna, Lilla Weneda and Fantazy.


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Last updated January 2001.