Sketches from a Secret War: A Polish Artist’s Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine

Timothy Snyder

Sketches from a Secret War:
A Polish Artist’s Mission to Liberate Soviet Ukraine

The forgotten protagonist of this true account aspired to be a cubist painter in his native Kyïv. In a Europe remade by the First World War, his talents led him to different roles—intelligence operative, powerful statesman, underground activist, lifelong conspirator. Henryk Józewski directed Polish intelligence in Ukraine, governed the borderland region of Volhynia in the interwar years, worked in the anti-Nazi and anti-Soviet underground during the Second World War, and conspired against Poland’s Stalinists until his arrest in 1953. His personal story, important in its own right, sheds new light on the foundations of Soviet power and on the ideals of those who resisted it. By following the arc of Józewski’s life, this book demonstrates that his tolerant policies toward Ukrainians in Volhynia were part of Poland’s plans to roll back the communist threat. 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. An epilogue connects his legacy to the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the democratic revolution in Ukraine in 2004.

“Strikingly new, original, and readable. This book will no doubt force everyone in the field to rethink Ukrainian, Polish, and Soviet history during the interwar period.”
- Hiroaki Kuromiya, Indiana University

“Another thrilling and erudite book on the intricate history of East European borderlands by Timothy Snyder, a master of the genre.”
- Jan Gross, Princeton University

“Timothy Snyder draws on his immense knowledge of Europe’s borderlands to describe in fascinating detail the shifting alliances and antagonisms—nationalist, ethnic, religious, cultural, ideological—among their 20th century peoples, as reflected in the extraordinary career of Henryk Jozewski, Polish artist, spy, military and political leader in promoting cooperation between Poles and Ukrainians.”
- Samuel P. Huntington, Harvard University

“Timothy Snyder’s Sketches from a Secret War is a remarkable combination of a real life spy story, an outstanding piece of historical detective work in previously unavailable archives, and a set of profound reflections on East European history—with many notable echoes in East European politics today.”
- Timothy Garton Ash, Professor of European Studies, University of Oxford

Yale University Press, 2005