Revolution From Abroad: The Soviet Conquest Of Poland's Western Ukraine And Western Belorussia
By Jan T. Gross
Princeton University Press, 1988, 334 pp.
My Century: The Odyssey Of A Polish Intellectual
By Aleksander Wat
University of California Press, 1988, 407 pp.
What happened to the population of Poland's eastern provinces when Soviet forces invaded in September 1939-mainly to the Poles but also to Jews, Lithuanians and others, and to the "liberated" Ukrainians and Belorussians as well-is told in Jan Gross's carefully researched study based largely on material from thousands of individual depositions collected during the war on behalf of the Polish government in London. Although Polish witnesses were not always wholly objective about Russians and Ukrainians, the detailed personal testimony on the killings, incarcerations and deportations, and on Soviet policy in action, is nonetheless convincing as well as dramatic and chilling. Aleksander Wat's autobiography recounts one individual's experience during that same 1939-41 period, which he spent in the prisons of Lwow, Kiev, Moscow and Saratov. Wat was a Polish-Jewish poet and man of letters, typical of the central European intelligentsia of the prewar period, alienated from his own government, drawn to Western culture, fearful of fascism and dabbling in Marxism, and then swept into the maelstrom of war. His book, in the form of taped conversations with Czeslaw Milosz in the 1960s, takes the reader not only into Soviet prisons but also into the mind of a remarkable man, Wat himself.