Joe’s War: My Father Decoded
I Should Actually Read What I Buy
About this book
Acclaimed biographer Annette Kobak turns her attention to her own family as she sets out to uncover her father's never-discussed past. A mysterious and conspicuously silent figure in Annette's life for some forty-five years, Joe Kobak at last shared with his daughter his harrowing experiences during World War II, which she has turned into a riveting work of history and memory.Born on the border of Poland and Czechoslovakia, Joe Kobak fled the Nazis, suffered imprisonment by the Russians, then joined Polish forces fighting in France. Later he escaped to London where he spent the duration of the war intercepting Soviet messages. In Joe's War, his daughter captures Joe Kobak's story in his own words, and interweaves it with her own search for a life story she can make sense of. Embarking upon a challenging and poignant journey of her own–retracing her father's footsteps across a barren and unfamiliar Ukraine–the author sheds light on the dark corners of her family history and on some of the darker aspects of the war, bringing history to life in unexpected ways.
Highly recommended. Not an easy or fast read, but I learned so so so much. I had no real idea of what happened in Eastern Europe before WWII, of the perfidy of the Allies (Neville Chamberlain, world-class asshat). Buy a copy and take your time with this. Parts of it drag a bit, but the history is well and clearly told, with just enough personal insight and relevance to make it that much more compelling.
I would have preferred (& likely enjoyed) an excerpt. Joe's story (as told to his daughter), her travels re-tracing his steps and her commentary on the impact his experiences had on their family were all interesting. Unfortunately they were all mired in pages and pages of verbatim speeches, war correspondence and other historical reports which were detailed, dry and (to me) de-railed the story. If I wanted to read a history textbook, I would go back to university. Also the vocabulary was at times cumbersome (potentially because as a Canadian the vernacular is not the same as the British author's) and she utilizes a fair amount of Polish, German and Czech terminology.