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Finding Poland

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Following the partitioning of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939, Matthew Kelly's great grandmother and her two daughters were deported to the East. Thus began an extraordinary ordeal that took them, and many thousands like them, on a journey stretching from Siberia to Pakistan, and beyond. Their male relatives endured a parallel journey; arrested, exiled, and Following the partitioning of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939, Matthew Kelly's great grandmother and her two daughters were deported to the East. Thus began an extraordinary ordeal that took them, and many thousands like them, on a journey stretching from Siberia to Pakistan, and beyond. Their male relatives endured a parallel journey; arrested, exiled, and held as prisoners of war. Countless numbers were summarily executed by the Red Army. They saw the steppe, they were put to work in labour camps, they built sections of the trans-Siberian railway, they cleared forests, they toiled on collective farms. They knew hunger, exhaustion, disease and death. Persecuted by the Soviet Union, Poland was to become its unexpected ally following the German invasion in 1941. A new Polish army, 'The Anders Army' was assembled in Palestine. For a brief moment, in Kazakhstan, families were reunited, before being evacuated; to India, to Britain, to Mexico and East Africa; and from there, across the world. The experiences of these Poles had consequences far reaching and enduring, both to Poland, to Polish identity, and to the families that survived; reverberating through generations. These incredible stories remain largely untold. In Finding Poland Matthew Kelly embarks on a journey through his ancestor's footsteps, travelling through places they lived, and landscapes they survived, to provide an account of these extraordinary people and their unique history. Part memoir, history and travel book, it is also a profound meditation on the experience of displacement and exile, of the impact of such seismic disruption, and the deep legacies such trauma bequeaths.


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Following the partitioning of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939, Matthew Kelly's great grandmother and her two daughters were deported to the East. Thus began an extraordinary ordeal that took them, and many thousands like them, on a journey stretching from Siberia to Pakistan, and beyond. Their male relatives endured a parallel journey; arrested, exiled, and Following the partitioning of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939, Matthew Kelly's great grandmother and her two daughters were deported to the East. Thus began an extraordinary ordeal that took them, and many thousands like them, on a journey stretching from Siberia to Pakistan, and beyond. Their male relatives endured a parallel journey; arrested, exiled, and held as prisoners of war. Countless numbers were summarily executed by the Red Army. They saw the steppe, they were put to work in labour camps, they built sections of the trans-Siberian railway, they cleared forests, they toiled on collective farms. They knew hunger, exhaustion, disease and death. Persecuted by the Soviet Union, Poland was to become its unexpected ally following the German invasion in 1941. A new Polish army, 'The Anders Army' was assembled in Palestine. For a brief moment, in Kazakhstan, families were reunited, before being evacuated; to India, to Britain, to Mexico and East Africa; and from there, across the world. The experiences of these Poles had consequences far reaching and enduring, both to Poland, to Polish identity, and to the families that survived; reverberating through generations. These incredible stories remain largely untold. In Finding Poland Matthew Kelly embarks on a journey through his ancestor's footsteps, travelling through places they lived, and landscapes they survived, to provide an account of these extraordinary people and their unique history. Part memoir, history and travel book, it is also a profound meditation on the experience of displacement and exile, of the impact of such seismic disruption, and the deep legacies such trauma bequeaths.

47 review for Finding Poland

  1. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    This facet of WWII Polish history is not well known. This book, written by a historian, is one of the best that I've read about this experience because it combines an evocative personal story along with a well-written historical perspective. The story of the deportation of an Eastern Polish family to Siberia and Kazakhstan by the Soviets in 1941, the resurgence of the Polish Army in the land of the gulag, and the subsequent displacements to Iran, India and Great Britain is the story of my mother This facet of WWII Polish history is not well known. This book, written by a historian, is one of the best that I've read about this experience because it combines an evocative personal story along with a well-written historical perspective. The story of the deportation of an Eastern Polish family to Siberia and Kazakhstan by the Soviets in 1941, the resurgence of the Polish Army in the land of the gulag, and the subsequent displacements to Iran, India and Great Britain is the story of my mother's family as well. It is a book to be read not only to discover another hidden aspect of the lives of Polish citizens in the Polish lands claimed by the Soviets but also to enlighten about the psychological stresses that human beings experience when control of their bodies and homes is taken over by political tyranny and class hatred. It is a story of exile that is alien to comfortable Americans who have most to gain from exposure to such a story. Thank you, Matthew Kelly from someone who was born in one of those British quonset huts in 1948 and has been searching for the 'why' of that birth ever since.

  2. 5 out of 5

    John Keith

    Exemplary book combining family history and 'big' history. The author takes the experience of Poles displaced by WW2, getting to Britain via Russian forced labour; Persia and British India. The main witness is the writer's grandmother, and he lets us see the world of the 1940s from the standpoint of her family. However when appropriate he applies correctives to their worldview: whether in relation to the place of Jewish people in Poland; or the relationship between the Poles and the Lithuanians w Exemplary book combining family history and 'big' history. The author takes the experience of Poles displaced by WW2, getting to Britain via Russian forced labour; Persia and British India. The main witness is the writer's grandmother, and he lets us see the world of the 1940s from the standpoint of her family. However when appropriate he applies correctives to their worldview: whether in relation to the place of Jewish people in Poland; or the relationship between the Poles and the Lithuanians whose land they occupy. Thoroughly recommend this.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Paweł

    Kudos to Matthew Kelly for his outstanding report concerning very difficult and complicated history of Poland and Polish diaspora seen through the eyes of the Ryżewscy family. It is well informed as well as documented, with photos and many scholarly resources. It is a mixture of personal story and larger historical narrative. In short, it's fantastic.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Williams

    Interesting read but its seems it is written as a text book padded out with lots of references to other works.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Robert

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lilian

  7. 5 out of 5

    Liya

  8. 5 out of 5

    Pamille

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ryszard

  10. 4 out of 5

    Fliss Blanch

  11. 4 out of 5

    James

  12. 4 out of 5

    Doug

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bryanna Williams

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jan

  15. 5 out of 5

    Stefanie Lynn-Heyck

  16. 4 out of 5

    E Kronacher Edwards

  17. 5 out of 5

    Roxanne

  18. 5 out of 5

    Margarita Morris

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ewa Wisniewska

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mark Terech

  21. 5 out of 5

    Meghan

  22. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Sedlak

  23. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

  24. 4 out of 5

    steve brylewski

  25. 5 out of 5

    C

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jessica O'Mullane

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nina

  30. 5 out of 5

    Maria

  31. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  32. 4 out of 5

    Vicki

  33. 4 out of 5

    Laura Brown

  34. 4 out of 5

    Julianka Zwierciadłowska

  35. 4 out of 5

    Kirin171

  36. 5 out of 5

    Scott

  37. 4 out of 5

    Mary

  38. 4 out of 5

    Eric

  39. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie Wunderlich

  40. 5 out of 5

    Alison G.

  41. 5 out of 5

    Tom

  42. 5 out of 5

    Cheree

  43. 4 out of 5

    Baskintm

  44. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  45. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

  46. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

  47. 4 out of 5

    Judi

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