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Sketches from a Secret War

Sketches from a Secret War: A Polish Artist’s Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine

Timothy Snyder
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Sketches from a Secret War
    Book Description:

    The forgotten protagonist of this true account aspired to be a cubist painter in his native Kyïv. In a Europe remade by the First World War, his talents led him to different roles-intelligence operative, powerful statesman, underground activist, lifelong conspirator. Henryk Józewski directed Polish intelligence in Ukraine, governed the borderland region of Volhynia in the interwar years, worked in the anti-Nazi and anti-Soviet underground during the Second World War, and conspired against Poland's Stalinists until his arrest in 1953. His personal story, important in its own right, sheds new light on the foundations of Soviet power and on the ideals of those who resisted it. By following the arc of Józewski's life, this book demonstrates that his tolerant policies toward Ukrainians in Volhynia were part of Poland's plans to roll back the communist threat.

    The book mines archival materials, many available only since the fall of communism, to rescue Józewski, his Polish milieu, and his Ukrainian dream from oblivion. An epilogue connects his legacy to the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the democratic revolution in Ukraine in 2004.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16352-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Maps
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Prologue: Interrogations
    (pp. xiii-xxvi)

    The Polish painter composed himself in his cell. It was September 1953, and thus far Henryk Józewski was pleased with his performance in communist prison. After thirteen years underground, resisting Hitler’s and Stalin’s occupations of his country, Józewski had been arrested by the security forces of communist Poland that March. At first, his interrogators seemed rather disoriented. Józewski was arrested only two days before the death of Iosif Stalin, and after a few disorderly weeks his interrogators had retired. Józewski, who had expected a quick death from the communists, instead enjoyed a summer of delays. He read philosophy books, and...

  5. Introduction: Cubism and Conspiracy
    (pp. 1-22)

    The explosion sounded the end of the old Europe. In August 1914, the young Polish painter Henryk Jozewski left the Austrian empire by one of the last trains. Austria’s army demolished the bridge just after the train passed, to slow the expected advance of Russia’s armies.¹ For Józewski and many young Poles, this was a joyful noise. Generations of resistance to Poland’s imperial rulers in Vienna, St. Petersburg, and Berlin had failed to bring independence. Now, after a century of complicity in the partition of Poland, these empires were at war. Two of Poland’s partitioners, Germany and Austria, would make...

  6. Part One An Artful Ascent

    • Chapter 1 Matters of Trust
      (pp. 23-39)

      Józef Piłsudski’s coup d’état of May 1926 has the strange character of an old silent film, somehow played too slowly and with too few actors. It was a violent affair in the end, although Pilsudski believed that his personal authority would suffice to prevent any opposition. It was a military putsch, although the army never really took sides, or rather took both sides. It was a civil war, fought mainly in Warsaw, or rather in a few neighborhoods. Both Pilsudski’s troops and government loyalists were concerned to avoid casualties. Traffic police told pedestrians which streets to avoid because of the...

    • Chapter 2 Promethean Ukraine
      (pp. 40-59)

      The Promethean Movement was an anticommunist international, designed to destroy the Soviet Union and to create independent states from its republics. While Moscow tried to use communist parties in European countries to protect its own interests, Prometheans tried to use national questions within the Soviet Union to undermine communism. The name of the movement was ambiguous: to some suggesting the ancient culture of the oppressed nations themselves, to others the idea of bringing fire from outside to the darkness within the Soviet Union. It brought together grand strategists of Warsaw and exiled patriots whose attempts to found independent states had...

    • Chapter 3 Theaters of Politics
      (pp. 60-82)

      The Polish playwright Zofia Nałkowska was leery of her country’s eastern backwaters, but found Henryk Józewski’s Volhynia to be a delightful surprise. The region’s governor, she discovered, “was a man of letters, a painter, the author of a study of Hamlet and of lovely plans for the play’s production.”¹ Józewski took theater very seriously indeed: scenography had been his first career, before espionage and politics. He was particularly proud of his sketches forHamlet, which he showed to Nałkowska. His Polish Theater performed for a week each month in Łuck, the regional capital, and spent the remainder touring eastern Poland....

    • Chapter 4 Spies of Winter
      (pp. 83-96)

      After returning to power by military coup in 1926, Józef Piłsudski renewed the Polish military alliance with the Ukrainian People’s Republic, and recruited several of the Polish supporters of the Winter March to positions of responsibility. One was Henryk Józewski. A second was Tadeusz Schätzel, a man who had enjoyed “general moral authority” in the Polish Military Organization in Ukraine.¹ Schätzel was apparently the mastermind (if that is the word) of the Winter March. He directed the Second Department from 1926 to 1928, where he helped coordinate the re-creation of the Ukrainian army. He then served as Tadeusz Hołówko’s lieutenant...

  7. Part Two A Political Descent

    • Chapter 5 Stalin’s Famine
      (pp. 99-114)

      As he rose to power in the Bolshevik Party and the Soviet Union, Iosif Stalin exploited fears of an external threat from Poland and an internal threat from the peasantry. The war scare of spring 1927, when Soviet authorities claimed that Poland would invade, provided an ironic confirmation that these fears were connected. Many peasants, Soviet intelligence organs reported in 1927, saw the war scare as reliable information and good news, believing that a Polish invasion would allow them to liberate themselves from communism and take revenge on communists. A Belarusian peasant anticipated, presumably with joy, that “after the Poles...

    • Chapter 6 The Polish Terror
      (pp. 115-132)

      The secret police chief Vsevolod Balytsʹkyi, dispatched by Stalin to deal with the famine in Soviet Ukraine, conjured up an organization responsible for the disaster that accommodated Stalin’s expressed anxieties about collectivization. Balytsʹkyi voiced agreement with Stalin that the ultimate problems were rotten Ukrainian cadres and peasants corrupted by foreign propaganda. All of the clandestine work, Balytsʹkyi maintained, was organized in Warsaw and implemented by a secret paramilitary organization. Poland’s agents in Ukraine, he claimed to have discovered, served a “Polish Military Organization,” an espionage and diversion network that was preparing the ground for a Polish invasion of Soviet Ukraine....

    • Chapter 7 A Revolution Prepared
      (pp. 133-146)

      Europe waned and Italy beckoned. Maria Dąbrowska, the Polish novelist, found her friends Henryk Józewski and Julia Józewska, or Rykuńcio and Lusia as she called them, waiting at the Vienna station. The painter and his wife, coming by train from the east, had taken the sensible route through Galicia, on old Austrian tracks, to the Austrian capital. The three of them, Maria, Julia, and Henryk, found a blessedly empty compartment for themselves, next to the sleeping car. They rode through the Alps by night, bound for Sorrento, for Mount Vesuvius and the Mediterranean. In Italy, they hiked the mountains with...

    • Chapter 8 Revindications of Souls
      (pp. 147-168)

      In the 1930s, Henryk Józewski lived in two political worlds, in Warsaw and Łuck. He defended a program of reform in the capital, while implementing it in the provinces. Returning to Volhynia during his first winter as governor, he was greeted by the gloomy spectacle of an Orthodox church occupied by its faithful to prevent its transfer to the Catholic Church. During the long nineteenth century, when Volhynia and most of Poland were under Russian rule, the Orthodox Church was a symbol of Russian power. When the Polish state was restored, Catholic believers and the Catholic Church pressed for “revindications”—...

  8. Part Three The Local World War

    • Chapter 9 Glass Houses
      (pp. 171-192)

      In 1939, Józewski was no longer governor of Volhynia, and was finding his way as governor of the Łódź province in central Poland. In the bustling industrial city, Józewski confronted new challenges of government. Józewski busied himself for the first time with a real proletariat, inspecting local factories, and initiating a plan to guarantee worker vacations.¹ Perhaps 37% of Łódź’s population were Jews. Two districts of the center were inhabited mostly by Jews, and most of the city’s Jews lived in these districts.² Some of the great industrial families were Jewish. The Poznański family had built four urban palaces; Józewski...

    • Chapter 10 Nazi Occupation
      (pp. 193-212)

      “It”s terrible,” the painter had said to the novelist in August 1939, “but this war will be my salvation.” Maria Dąbrowska understood her friend Henryk Józewski. His wife Julia had died of cancer that May, carried away in a bed of lilacs as friends and family sang the Ukrainian songs she loved, and old comrades from the Polish Military Organization held high their banners. “There was something in her,” Dąbrowska confided to her diary, “of a drowned Ophelia from old paintings.” In the summer of 1939 Józewski had comported himself, for the first time in his life, like the Hamlet...

    • Chapter 11 Conspiring Women
      (pp. 213-234)

      On 27 July 1947, border guards serving Poland’s new communist regime arrested a woman and found an encrypted message on her person. They turned her over to the nearest outpost of the Ministry of Public Security, at Jelenia Góra. The functionaries of Public Security identified the woman as Imgard Pyke, but could ascertain neither the ultimate intended recipient of the message, nor any method of decryption. The courier herself did not know that the message was meant for Henryk Józewski, that he was the ninth link in a chain of secret communication from the British occupation zone of Germany to...

    • Chapter 12 Communist Prison
      (pp. 235-246)

      In September 1952, after what she called “internal” consultation with her life partner Stanisław Stempowski, who was dead, and her friend Henryk Józewski, who was in hiding, Maria Dąbrowska yielded to the pressure of her country’s communist rulers, and published some of her literary work in an official periodical. Józewski wrote Dąbrowska to call her action “treason.”¹ She had been quite wrong about how her old friend would judge her decision. Alone now in the world, without Stempowski, she had secured a place in the new order for herself, at the cost of a break with her friend. Józewski, too,...

  9. Epilogue: Representations
    (pp. 247-262)

    The First World War destroyed an imperial order in eastern Europe, granting revolutionaries their chance to make the world anew. The Russian Revolution found its western limits at Poland’s border, as Warsaw defeated Moscow in the Polish-Bolshevik War of 1919–1920. Some of the Poles who fought this war were revolutionaries of a sort themselves, believing that the Soviet Union should be destroyed in the name of self-determination for its component nations. After 1926, Poland and the Soviet Union fought a cold war in miniature, complete with opposing ideologies, war scares, battles for hearts and minds, and intelligence adventures on...

  10. Codes and Characters
    (pp. 263-264)
  11. Abbreviations
    (pp. 265-266)
  12. Archives
    (pp. 267-268)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 269-336)
  14. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 337-338)
  15. Index
    (pp. 339-347)