Sketches from a Secret War
Aspiring artist turned intelligence operative, powerful statesman, and underground activist, Henryk Józewski was an instrumental figure in the battle for Polish independence during the tumultuous decades of the early and mid twentieth century. He put down his paintbrush long enough to direct Polish intelligence in Ukraine, govern the borderland region of Volhynia in the interwar years, work in the anti-Nazi and anti-Soviet underground during the Second World War, and conspire against Poland’s Stalinists until his arrest in 1953.
Józewski’s adventurous career as artist and freedom-fighter is expertly told by Timothy Snyder in Sketches from a Secret War: A Polish Artist’s Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine. Hailed by Foreign Affairs as a “compact, well-told history,” 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.
Timothy Snyder, says the latest issue of Kritika, is “perhaps his generation’s leading historian of the region that used to be known as Eastern Europe.” Commending the “unusually elegant prose” of the author’s first two books—one of which, The Reconstruction of Nations, also published by Yale University Press, was awarded the 2003 George Louis Beer Prize of the American Historical Association—the review goes on to call Sketches from a Secret War “his most compelling book so far.”