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Unvanquished: Joseph Pilsudski, Resurrected Poland, and the Struggle for Eastern Europe Hardcover – May 10, 2012

4.9 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A comprehensive, rich in detail, and very readable biography of Poland’s outstanding national hero.”  —Zbigniew Brzezinski, former US National Security Advisor (1977–81), and trustee for the Center for Strategic and International Studies

“Hetherington warrants praise for the thoroughness of his research and the consistently engaging quality of his prose. His ability to sift through the lion's share of Polish and interweave that history with the singular life of freedom fighter, and eventual dictator, Joseph Pilsudski, is a remarkable feat . . . there's much to be enjoyed, and much to be learned.”  —Kirkus

“A comprehensive, compelling biography . . . fascinating history. Like a novel you hate to put down, it is readable and captivating.”  —Polish American Journal

“A riveting biography which reads almost like an adventure novel. It is well written and documented.”  —Polish Weekly

“Hetherington tells the complete story of a man who stood at the center of the stage in Eastern Europe for more than a generation. The book rolls on at a detective-story pace. It is historically accurate without pedantry, and it creates suspense and excitement.”  —Ewa Thompson, research professor of Slavic studies, Rice University

About the Author

Peter Hetherington holds degrees in geology from the University of Illinois and the University of Kentucky and has worked for more than 30 years as an explorationist. He lives in Houston.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Pingora Press; 2nd edition (May 10, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0983656312
  • ISBN-13: 978-0983656319
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #865,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
At the turn of the twentieth century, Joseph Pilsudski, a citizen of the Russian Empire, was one of many Polish patriots working to restore the the independence of Poland, a once-proud nation that in 1900 was divided between Germany, Austria, and Russia. He was publishing an underground Socialist newspaper and stirring up resentment against the hated Romanov dynasty that ruled Russia.

Pilsudski, having already spent five miserable years in exile in Siberia, had returned to his hometown of Wilno (now Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania) and continued his subversive activities until being arrested by the Russians in 1900 and sent to the Warsaw Citadel, one of the most brutal prisons in the imperial Russian system. Pilsudski feigned insanity to get himself sent to a mental hospital in St. Petersburg, from which he quietly escaped to continue his seemingly hopeless fight to restore the Polish state.

It is this story - not Pilsudski's birth, not his heroic stand against the Russians fighting for Austria in the First World War, not his valiant command of Polish forces in the 1919-21 war against the Russian Bolsheviks, and not even his involvement in a 1908 train robbery to help fund the Polish underground's activities - that author Peter Hetherington uses to begin his story of the life of Poland's most important modern hero, with only Pope John Paul II and Lech Wa''sa approaching him in terms of importance.

The story encapsulates how Marshal Joseph Pilsudski (1867-1935), the father of modern Poland, refused to be defeated in his struggle to re-establish Poland as a country once again after it disappeared from the map of Europe in 1795 through partitioning by the Russian Empire and the Germanic countries.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I ordered this book at the suggestion of an ex-student, born in Poland, now living in Ottawa. He informed me that the book had been reviewed favorably in the Polish press, and that it dealt with historical events in Poland during the first third of the 20th century -- events that he had been slowly communicating to me, piecemeal. I ordered and read the book, and it exceeded all my expectations. It begins with a chapter summarizing the history of Poland from about the year 1000 to the late 1800's -- the time of Pilsudski's birth. (The author claims that one cannot fully appreciate Pilsudski's accomplishments without having this background knowledge. After reading the book, it's easy to see that the author is entirely correct.) The remainder of the book is a joint biography of Joseph Pilsudski, and a history of the Polish nation, up to the year of Pilsudski's death in the mid 1930's. The book is well researched, balanced, extremely well written, and best of all, exciting. I did not know that the nation of Poland had not existed for over 100 years prior to World War I (it had been absorbed by Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia). Nor did I know that after World War I, not long after Poland had been "resurrected" as a nation, Lenin ordered the Russian Army to commence an invasion of Europe through Poland - but that the Red army was defeated by the Poles (led by Pilsudski) in a decisive battle outside Warsaw. Overall, I learned from this book how little I really knew about the history of Eastern Europe, and how fascinating this history actually is. Concerning Joseph Pilsudski himself, the facts of his life are similarly fascinating. Since he was foremost a man of action, the book rarely has to deal with periods in which little is happening.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In his very favorable review of Norman Davies' book, "Rising `44: The Battle for Warsaw" (New York Review of Books, July 15, 2004), the popular British historian, Simon S. Montefiore, mentioned that "a large gap in modern Polish history is an adequate biography of Pilsudski; surely Norman Davies is the person to write that book."

I'm happy to say that it is Peter Hetherington (and not Davies) who finally got to write this superb biography. Not only do we get everything that a definitive biography of one of Poland's modern heroes demands [including a concise, and coherent, account of the nine centuries of Polish history leading up to the 20th, when "God ordered (Pilsudski) to live in Poland"], but he does it with a literary style that is probably beyond Davies' reach. For although Davies--arguably the greatest living historian on Poland--is brilliant, insightful and exhaustive, he can be dry as a bone. Hetherington, on the other hand, is also brilliant, insightful, and exhaustive, but his prose is rich as cream.

Readers are in for a treat. This book is a masterpiece.
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By Marta on September 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fascinating history book, reads like a novel...

But this is not only a beautiful story of the all times European hero but and encyclopedia of what Poland was and is about. Especially for those completely unaware and full of misconceptions readers like I was.

Very grateful to the author for taking up this effort.
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Format: Hardcover
Very rarely does someone who is not Polish acquire a productive fascination with Polish issues and personages. Such is the case with the author of this book, and his interest in Pilsudski. This new and improved second edition, coming out relatively soon after the first one, underscores the author's commitment to quality and accuracy.

For most readers, there is much to learn about Poland. Hetherington comments: "In many ways, Pilsudski was an embodiment of Polish history...Unfortunately, outside of Eastern Europe most people know little of Polish history, and much of what they `know' is wrong." (p. 15). This book goes a long way in correcting this problem!

Hetherington has assembled dozens of books and articles related to Pilsudski, and has interwoven them into one large volume about this key man in Polish history. The citations are presented as footnotes at the bottom of each page. This makes it very convenient for the reader to conduct further reading on a given subject. What's more, a valuable timeline is provided (pp. 724-726) of Pilsudski's life, his awards (p. 726), and the birth and death years of his relatives. (p. 728). The book is rounded out with a profuse index.

In no sense is this book a dry historical narrative. The style used by Hetherington makes for enjoyable reading. For example, his description of Pilsudski's anti-Russian train robbery (p. 191-on) is sure to capture the reader's interest. Hetherington provides good background to those who may be unfamiliar with Polish history. He also touches on sentimental matters related to Pilsudski's personal life. For instance, Pilsudski had been an animal lover, and had special rapport with his horse Kasztanka, an Arab mare. (p. 631).
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