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Dying Echoes: Memoirs of the War 1914-1920 Paperback – November 5, 2019
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- Item Weight : 1.1 pounds
- ISBN-10 : 1705880215
- ISBN-13 : 978-1705880210
- Paperback : 338 pages
- Dimensions : 6 x 0.85 x 9 inches
- Publisher : Independently published (November 5, 2019)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #540,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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I definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of Poland, and specifically in some of the inner workings of what led to Poland's rebirth after World War I, having been absent from any world map for 123 years. It's also a great look at the place of Poles in the Austrian army and how they were treated.
The sad part of this whole story is that the author, who wrote this memoir about 1937, was murdered in the Katyń forest by the Soviet NKVD in 1940. In ignoble death for such an honorable patriot. This book does well, however, to remember him, his courage, his humility, and his devotion to Poland. A true hero, a true patriot. Sacred Memory! Świętej pamięci.
Andrew Kawczak (not related to any of the authors)
The first is fairly shameful. Theoretically, I majored in 20th century history at a European university that is very proud of itself. Nonetheless, I know (or hitherto knew) virtually nothing about ‘the war after The War’. Many countries regard November 1918 as the end of WW1 hostilities. For Polish patriots, Russian Bolsheviks and many others, however, the battles over sovereignty, borders and other issues continued for another two years. Hugely important for the future of Europe, yet entirely ignored by my university curriculum.
The second is perhaps more laughable. Although it’s often hard to avoid wars as a history fan, I really don’t like all the gory bits. Conflicts’ social consequences? Fascinating. The political machinations? Frequently a warning. Technological advances? A silver lining to violent clouds. But blood and guts? Not my thing at all.
With this book, at last amending Confession 1 means wading through quite a lot of Confession 2. Fortunately, however, there is far more to «Dying Echoes» than bayonets in entrails. The latter are nonetheless important for one of this book’s several roles. Stanisław Kawczak often writes with the power to persuade even the keenest mercenary of the pointlessness of war. Remarque’s "All Quiet on the Western Front" is joined here by a description of horrors in the eastern and southern theaters of WW1. As well as slaughter, there are hunger, thirst, tedium, confusion, cold, heat, madness, endless lice and everything else except glamor.
Happily for readers like me, however, «Dying Echoes» offers lots else. As the title suggests, this personal account of army life is also about sounds. Not just the sounds of guns, grenades and pain, but also of language. Kawczak, a patriotic Pole before the re-creation of Poland, uses half-a-dozen languages. And he is far from unusual. Unbelievable in most modern armies, but in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, that’s how things worked. (Or suddenly didn’t).
Language, of course, is more than just a means of communication. It is closely related to identity, and thus doubly cherished in an Empire. The Habsburgs built theirs, like any other, on subjugation. Like colonial troops in the trenches of the Entente, the Poles, Serbs and Czechs in the service of Vienna were often seen chiefly as unreliable cannon fodder. Language can be a barrier, and used as one. But within a group, a common ‘language of the heart’ is a bond, and even in war it also bursts out in song, poetry and laughing conversations. It keeps patriots going in dark days, and is a foundation of this book’s happy end. For keen linguists like me, the many threads and characters of different languages are fascinating reasons enough to travel back 100 years with Stanisław Kawczak. I even discovered that the colloquial European use of ‘kamikaze’ is older than I had previously believed! And Polish, as we happily know today, is far from dying, or even (to use this book’s original title), anywhere near falling silent.
Close in many ways to language, and often also intimately related to identity, are food and drink. Among Kawczak’s intertwined narrative threads, comestibles are a recurring theme. In war, they feature most prominently when they are missing – days of dreadful thirst and despairing waits for something proper to eat. But food and drink also unite people in pleasure, and differentiate them by nation, class or rank. Even under fire and miles from Catering HQ, the Officers’ Mess somehow always manages finer nosh than Privates’ rations. But in adventurous moments, all sorts of ruses enrich every soldier’s table...
Right: So I enjoyed two out of three of these threads, plus many of the additional social, political and technological insights, as well as those into certain clichés of the epoch. Where would I improve future reprints? The action, or temporary lack of it, occurs in a bewildering number of places. So some maps are a must, I feel, even for well-traveled Europeans. (But an academic two-volume history of the Holy Roman Empire I own does no better!). Some brief biographical and cultural explanations would also be useful. In addition, the conversations at times seem strangely stilted. This translator’s construct can cause a smile or even a stumble. It reminds us, however, that language has changed rapidly in the past century – antique expressions (I suspect drone pilots rarely call each other «cur») pull us firmly back to the world of velocipedes and vaudeville.
These are quibbles. Despite writing up his wartime notes over a decade later, Stanisław Kawczak has given us a «diary» just as riveting as Aurelia Wylezynska’s genuinely blow-by-blow account of Warsaw’s rape by the Nazis in 1939. Murdered by their Soviet connivers in 1940, Kawczak tragically left us only this single work. It deserves a large readership – not least in my alma mater's Department of History!