Ethnic Conflict in the Polish-Ukrainian Borderlands
Waldemar Lotnik with Julian Preece; foreword by Neal Ascherson
5 1/2" x 8 1/2" • 224 pages
ISBN 9781897959404 • paperback • $14.95 •
"An unforgettable book... one of the most tragic and horrifying memoirs to emerge from the Second World War."
"His story is gripping ... reveals a major episode in Europe's bloody history of ethnic violence."
"An exceptional book ... tells a story from a perspective we rarely, if ever, are able to see."
By any standards, Waldemar Lotnik's experience of the Second World War was remarkable. Fighting in the Polish Resistance, his unit was engaged in a bitter ethnic conflict with pro-Nazi Ukrainians. Unknown in the West, this struggle was, like that raging at the same time between the Serbs and Croats, provoked by the Nazis arming one ethnic group and unleashing it against a rival. Lotnik describes his part in a war of terror and counter-terror which claimed at least half a million lives with total and sometimes frightening candor.
Captured by the Germans, he was taken to the Majdanek concentration camp. There he carted corpses to the crematorium and, like every inmate, fought a day-by-day battle for survival. When the camp was liberated, Lotnik volunteered for the new "Red" Polish Air Force, and, while training to fly, was recruited by the Soviet security service, the NKVD, to inform on his comrades. After deserting, he joined the Polish Home Army, which in the summer of 1945 was fighting a desperate but doomed battle against the country's new occupiers. With the Soviets' victory never seriously in doubt, he escaped to the West to begin a new life.
Nine Lives offers a brutally frank account of ethnic warfare which has striking parallels with recent conflicts in the Balkans and also describes a major "sideshow" to the Second World War which is virtually unknown outside Eastern Europe.
Waldemar Lotnik was born in 1925 near Lublin; he settled in London, where he still lives, after the Second World War.
Julian Preece teaches German and Comparative Literature at the University of Kent at Canterbury and is the author of Günter Grass and the Germans: Literature, History, Politics.
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