An unmatched synthesis of Poland's wartime experience and fate. Kochanski deftly integrates operational analysis with the complex internal politics of Poland's armed forces in exile. Her campaign narratives are concise, clear, and persuasive; her account of the Polish Resistance and the 1944 uprising is excellent; and her treatment of Polish-Jewish relations is balanced without being anodyne. -- Dennis Showalter, author of Hitler's Panzers An informative, authoritative and wide-ranging account of the tragedy that befell Poland and its inhabitants-gentiles and Jews-during the war and its aftermath. The less-well-known story of the Poles deported to the Soviet Union is particularly vivid and moving. An engaging and important book. -- Hubert Zawadzki, author of A Concise History of Poland
Halik Kochanski has taught at both King's College London and University College London. She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a member of the British Commission for Military History.
A nation long accustomed to being squeezed by its two powerful neighbors, Germany and Russia, Poland's plight has not been adequately highlighted in more sweeping, general histories of World War II because much of its suffering during the war has been diffused by the allegations of Polish anti-Semitism. Royal Historical Society fellow Kochanski, while of Polish descent, is not an apologist of the well-documented persecution of the Jews by ethnic Poles resentful of Jewish prosperity during the 1920s or the willing collaboration of some Poles when the Nazis invaded in 1939. Instead, she fashions a clear-eyed, rigorous look at the horrendous toll the Nazi invasion and occupation took, as well as that of the subsequent Soviet opportunistic grab at territory and influence that extended well into the Cold War. After finally gaining a modicum of independence after World War I, with the accommodation of its many minorities, Poland remained poor economically and weak militarily and was powerless to withstand the renewed expansionist plans of her two hostile neighbors. The country's worst nightmare came true with the blitzkrieg of September 1939 and the Soviet invasion from the east, ostensibly to protect the Ukrainian and Belorussian minorities; despite British protestations to the contrary, Poland was largely abandoned. Kochanski pursues the deportations of thousands of refugees and prisoners into the Soviet Union and the executions and gassing by the Germans. The author also unveils the spirited contribution to the Allied war effort by exiled Poles such as in the RAF and intelligence, and she reports extensively on the Warsaw uprising and the end-of-war confusion... An important study of a long-suffering country that has gained closure from the war only recently. Kirkus Reviews 20121001 Kochanski, a British military historian, integrates concise, clear, and persuasive campaign analyses with an account of the brutality suffered by Poles under German and Soviet occupation during WWII. She also examines the complex internal politics of Poland's armed forces in exile, and Poland's international position. She incorporates the creation and performance of the 1st Polish Army on the Eastern Front into a narrative that in most Western accounts is too often dominated by action in Italy and Northwest Europe. Her treatment of the Polish Resistance and the 1944 uprising is excellent. She also establishes the complex mix of operations, logistics, and politics behind the Allies' limited support for the Home Army in Warsaw. Kochanski's sympathies clearly lie with Poland's exile government in London, but she neither conceals nor trivializes policies and decisions that often proved self-defeating. Kochanski also gives an account of the Holocaust and the thorny issue of Polish collaboration in it. Above all, this is a story of expedience: 'the critical decisions that had to be taken, the terrible role of sheer chance, ...the simple desire to survive under the most difficult circumstances.' And expedients, as Kochanski ably demonstrates, are not always wise. Publishers Weekly 20121001 The biggest gap in most histories of the second world war is what happened to Poland. By the war's end it had lost not only a fifth of its population but also its freedom-despite having fought from the first day to the last against the Germans... But until Halik Kochanski's The Eagle Unbowed nobody had written a comprehensive English-language history of Poland at war. A British-born historian whose own family's experiences dot her pages, she weaves together the political, military, diplomatic and human strands of the story. She ranges from the fatal weaknesses of pre-war Poland (divided, cash-strapped and isolated) to the humiliation of Britain's victory parade in 1946 when the organizers invited Fijians and Mexicans, but not Poles. Readers reared on Western accounts of a war between good and evil may be shocked to learn that for Poles the war was three-sided. The Western allies were duplicitous and the Soviets for the most part as bad as the Nazis... Kochanski gives admirably clear accounts of the battlefield. She unpicks other tangles too: the tense relationship between the impatient, ill-informed underground leadership in Poland and the divided, ill-led exiled government in London, sidelined and then dumped by the allies as the Soviet armies marched west... She uncovers details that will surprise even history geeks... Kochanski marshals an impressive and comprehensive array of English and Polish material. The Economist 20120929