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    BOOKS and Periodicals Received

September 2009

Volume XXIX, No. 3

In Harsh Vineyard: A History of Catholic Life in the Russian Far East, by Miroslava Igorevna Efimova. Translated by Geraldine H. Kelley. Victoria, BC: Trafford Publishing (, 2008. xvii + 280 pages. Maps, tables of Catholic parishes in the Russian Far East. ISBN 978-1-4251-6803-2. Paper.

A history of Catholic churches, missions, and
communities east of the Lena River, from the eighteenth century to the present time. Most of these were founded by Poles from Poland, Lithuania, and Belarus, and were meant to serve Polish political prisoners and exiles sent to eastern Siberia by the Russian government as punishment for attempts to regain Polish independence. The first Catholics in the Far East were members of the Bar Confederacy whose goal was to prevent a Polish slide into political dependence on Russia. It is characteristic of the Russian state that after the former Confederates got a taste of exile and hard labor in the Far East, they received an offer to convert to Russian Orthodoxy and be allowed to return to Poland. (The Russian government even offered money to cover the cost of their return.) The alternative was to remain Catholic, with no right to return. As the chronicles of Catholicism in the eastern Siberia show, they stayed. The Russian state profited from the presence of Poles in eastern Siberia because they labored for the state, and their children and grandchildren were likely to remain there forever. Some were the most patriotic sons of their homeland. Like all colonialists, Moscow used one conquered people against another: some young Poles who refused to convert to Russian Orthodoxy were forcibly inducted into the Russian border guards. Those too old to serve died in the harsh conditions of slave labor and exile.

Porwanie Europy, by Krzysztof Koehler. Sopot: Tow. Przyjaciół Sopotu (, 2008. 47 pages. ISBN 978-83-61002-36-9. Paper. In Polish.

Koehler’s verbal skills grow with each volume of
poetry. In this one, his descriptive precision reaches its peak. The context of his poetry is Europe, its specific focus Poland and the Poles. The volume is a sophisticated reflection on European history and its less-obvious but vital aspects.

Glaukopis. Pismo społeczno-historyczne, nos. 13-14 (2009). Edited by Wojciech Jerzy Muszyński et al. <>. Mailing address: 02-518 Warsaw, ul. Kazimierzowska 79 m. 10, Poland. ISBN 1730-3419. 420 pages. In Polish.

The phenomenon of Glaukopis deserves a pause. It
is a “thick journal” in the manner of nineteenth-century almanacs, but it is not meant to give practical advice to or entertain farmers. It is a historical journal meant to highlight and correct the distorted segments of central European history. It deals primarily with the twentieth century, but it also sheds light on contemporary issues such as the proposed World War II Museum that is to be placed in one of the EU cities. The editorial board includes distinguished Polish historians and social scientists. The articles are written by highly competent and sometimes distinguished scholars. However, competence is not enough to make a journal first-rate-see the last paragraph of this review.

The present issue is dedicated to the Polish Right between the two world wars, with some attention paid to the other rightist movements in Europe. There are reviews, e.g., Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones (2009) in Polish translation, and an appendix of significant yet forgotten comments by well-known Poles, Germans, Britons, and Americans. It is particularly instructive to read 1939 comments by well-known Germans. They generally agree that Poles were to blame for Hitler’s attack on Poland; it was therefore fair that Poles in Gdańsk were arrested or killed, and their homes and apartments subjected to looting by their German neighbors. One wonders whether this episode of history will make it to the all-European World War II Museum.

Glaukopis’s problem is that it lacks copyediting and serious editorial supervision. It is not that it lacks annotations-basic documentation is generally adequate, although there are gaps here as well. But there is more to scholarly credibility than that. The realities of intellectual life are such that all names, dates, and commas have to be in place to make a proper impression in the scholarly world. Furthermore, references to various contemporary intellectual trends cannot be casually thrown in; they have to fit in in a precise way. To eliminate both problems would take a million-dollar endowment for copyediting and scholarly supervision alone. Most worthwhile Polish periodicals have a beggar’s budget. Let us be optimistic and expect that to change in the future. (SRS)

Pe Ell’s Polish Pioneers, by Leo E. Kowalski. San Pedro, CA: Gorham Printing (1700 Miracosta Street, San Pedro, CA 90732), 2007. 128 pages. Hardcover. $20.00 postpaid.

Pe Ell’s Polish heritage, by Leo E. Kowalski. San Pedro, CA: Gorham Printing (, 2008. 255 pages. Hardcover. $30.00 postpaid.

Pe Ell is a town in the state of Washington, pop.
657 in the 2000 census. For reasons detailed in these two books, the town attracted Polish immigrants in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. German and Swiss immigrants also settled in Pe Ell. But even though the Poles formed a majority of the settlers according to Kowalski’s books, 2009 Wikipedia lists only 8.5 percent of Pe Ell’s population as Polish.

Kowalski’s books are a valuable addition to the emerging corpus of Polish diaspora writings (Professor John Guzlowski has dedicated a website to the subject). The author, a retired steamship company executive and former resident of Pe Ell, tells the stories of many Polish families. They were the salt of the earth, the kind of pioneers America used to attract generations ago. But if Poles were so numerous in Pe Ell, why do they now compose only 8.5 percent of the population? Polish identity seems difficult to shed, as illustrations in these books indicate; why then are the numbers are so low here and in other localities?

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