Full Circle: A Homecoming to Free Poland

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9781439101322: Full Circle: A Homecoming to Free Poland
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Everyone dreams of restoring a country home. For an American, it might be a cottage by a lake; for a Frenchman, a stone house in Provence. But for Radek Sikorski, a Polish exile living in England, the dream seemed impossible - until 1989, and the fall of Communism, when he could at last return to his native land.

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Full Circle is a moving personal and political account of a country and its people emerging from under the rubble of Communism. For Sikorski, rebuilding a dworek (manor house) known as Chobielin was not just a real-estate investment - it was a literal and symbolic contribution to the task of rebuilding his country. With a novelist's eye for revealing detail and a politician's instinct for the deeper currents running through society, Sikorski tells the dramatic story of his family - his childhood under Communism, his parents resistance to authoritarianism, his relatives on all sides of the political spectrum (including a great-uncle who survived Buchenwald and Dachau). At the same time, literally unearthing Polish history on the grounds of his home - one of his discoveries was a silver half grosz piece dating from the sixteenth century - Sikorski also brings to life for American readers the dramatic history of Poland, where national identity has always been problematic. Occupied by Warsaw Pact troops under Communism, carved up by the German and Soviet Armies during World War II, invaded by Prussians, Russians, and Teutons throughout the centuries, Poland has constantly struggled under the burden of foreign conquerors. An engrossing personal memoir, Full Circle is also a fascinating insider's account of the political transformation of a country that has come full circle many times over the years in its quest for a national identity.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Peter Mayle meets Foreign Affairs in this double-edged tale of reconstruction in post-Communist Poland. Like many other Poles, young Sikorski (Dust of the Saints: A Journey Through War-Torn Afghanistan, 1990) found himself abroad (in England) when martial law was declared in Poland in 1981. But his life in exile, unlike most, was unusually charmed. By the time he returned to Poland in his late 20s, he was an Oxford-educated author and journalist with experience in Africa and Afghanistan. Active in the Solidarity-led government, he also took on the considerable task of reclaiming and restoring his family's old manor house, known as a dworek. ``A dworek is not just a nice house to live in, but a calling,'' writes Sikorski with characteristic intensity and passion. Not only was there the challenge and pleasure of restoring the ruined shell of a once-beautiful building, but there was the history of the environs (and, by extension, of Poland itself) to explore through the process. Sikorski quite clearly means for the restoration to serve as a metaphor for post-Communist Poland's active and often confusing search for a new identity and purpose. He interweaves his descriptions of the reconstruction of the house with his family's history and the turbulent history of modern Poland. Sikorski brings an appealingly dry wit to his observations about post-Communist politics but skimps on the more tangible aspects of reconstructing the dworek (i.e., finances). The house is located in Pomerania, a region that has shifted between German and Polish control, and relations between Poles and Germans loom large in these stories. But Sikorski's presentation of the German-Polish problem manages to diminish or neglect the Jewish aspect of Poland's past. His otherwise moving account of Polish suffering under the Nazis would have been better balanced if placed within the larger picture of the Holocaust. Nonetheless, Full Circle is an engagingly written and enlightening look at contemporary Poland and its zeitgeist. (10 b&w photos, maps, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 1997
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