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The Last Train to Vienna: The twisted tale of how Ukraine suddenly became the central nerve point of international contention

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3 review for The Last Train to Vienna: The twisted tale of how Ukraine suddenly became the central nerve point of international contention

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rennie Petersen

    I liked this book a lot. Rudolph Chelminski provides a very readable history of Ukraine over the last 500 years, and does it with a personal touch due to him being a descendant of a szlachta family, the Polish aristocracy, who had lived in Ukraine. (The title of the book refers to the fact that the author's father, and his father's family, left Ukraine on a train to Vienna in 1913, on the eve of WW I, and were never able to return.) The book highlights the incredible hardships and conflicts that I liked this book a lot. Rudolph Chelminski provides a very readable history of Ukraine over the last 500 years, and does it with a personal touch due to him being a descendant of a szlachta family, the Polish aristocracy, who had lived in Ukraine. (The title of the book refers to the fact that the author's father, and his father's family, left Ukraine on a train to Vienna in 1913, on the eve of WW I, and were never able to return.) The book highlights the incredible hardships and conflicts that Ukraine has suffered over the years. Ukraine has been invaded from one side or another, and then another, and then another, again and again over the years. Mr. Putin's invasion and annexation of Crimea is just the latest example of the powers around Ukraine feeling that Ukraine was an open fertile land that was up for grabs. A large part of the book focuses on the period during which Poland and the Polish szlachta families invaded and colonized Ukraine, making themselves the ruling class, with the native Ukrainians being their wholly-owned serfs. This period lasted for several hundred years, and then the Russians moved in from the East and the Germans from the West. In the 1930's Stalin inflicted a famine on the country, killing 5 million, a grotesque fate for the country known as the breadbasket of the Soviet Union. There was also a very large Jewish population in Ukraine at one time, and then Hitler and his army killed almost all of them during WW II. The book does cover more modern times, with Ukraine becoming independent in 1991, and the following descent into becoming the poorest country in Europe due to corruption and mismanagement. And finally some of the latest news about how and why Volodymyr Zelensky was able to make the career move from TV comedian to president of Ukraine! Also some info about how Donald Trump's fixation with Hillary Clinton and Hunter Biden led to him being impeached for his extortion ploy against Mr. Zelensky. The author is obviously very intelligent and well-read, frequently quoting other authors and even media personalities. His writing style is quite witty and whimsical, often ironic. So why only four stars? Maybe I'm overly sensitive, but on numerous occasions I would have preferred that the author had laid his humorous and light-hearted writing style aside when describing tragedies and genocides and atrocities and slavery - it somehow felt inappropriate. One final comment from the reviewer, who is half-Danish: The author has gotten the story about Denmark's King Canute wrong, although this is a very, very minor detail. Despite the above points, a very good book, highly recommended.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Tresilian

  3. 4 out of 5

    Louis

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