Matthew Kelly

Finding Poland

From Tavistock to Hruzdowa and Back Again

Jonathan Cape 2010

New Books in Eastern European StudiesNew Books in European StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books Network June 2, 2011 Nicholas Walton

Very little illustrates history as well as the personal story. For all of the wars, deportations and suffering of the mid Twentieth Century, it’s...

Very little illustrates history as well as the personal story. For all of the wars, deportations and suffering of the mid Twentieth Century, it’s only when there are real people that the figures come alive. Luckily there are some very good books out there that help us get our heads around the otherwise near-incomprehensible, and Matthew Kelly‘s book Finding Poland: From Tavistock to Hruzdowa and Back Again (Jonathan Cape, 2010) can be added to that list.

Matthew’s book is about a family that was finding its feet in inter-war Poland, before history happened to them. First the country was divided between the Nazis and the Soviets, before they were deported to the USSR. The story takes them from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to Persia, India and – finally – Devon, in England’s lush West Country.

Matthew helps us to understand what this remarkable journey was like for those involved – partly because they are his own family. The book is full of personal photographs and letters, which help bring the family to life. It gives insights into historical events, both large (deportations; the formation of General Anders’ Polish army) and small (life for an aspirant Polish family in the east of the country in the 1930s; teenage girls coming of age in a Polish community in British India). Above all, it’s a really enjoyable read. I recommend it!

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