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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.
Interesting combination of biography (author's father) and history lesson. I had no idea how poorly Czechoslovakia and Poland were treated by the Allies before, during and after WWII. It is a sad story.read more
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Raising his family in Britain during the Cold War, Joe Kobak was frequently in ill temper and given to oppressive silences. As she reached late middle age, his daughter, Annette, found she needed to pierce the veil of secrecy surrounding him-the result is this unusual, and unusually personal, account of WWII. The story belongs equally to father and daughter, as the author forges a new intimacy with Joe and receives an accelerated dose of recent European history. A Czech living in Poland when hostilities began, Joe was a bright young man with a technical cast of mind and a tenacious memory. During the war, he smuggled people out of Poland, was strafed by German fighters during the fall of France, and relayed intercepted German radio transmissions to British code breakers. Kobak (biographer of Isabelle Eberhardt) uses her investigations into these experiences as an occasion to document one of the many tragedies of WWII-the prewar and wartime betrayal of the smaller Eastern European countries by France and Great Britain. Along the way we learn of the heroes of prewar Czechoslovakia, Masaryk and Benes, and of the deep enmity between Poland and the Ukraine. Kobak interpolates a diplomatic history of the 1930s and early 1940s with her father's adventures in Eastern Europe and her own as she retraced some of Joe's wartime travels in 2001. Part memoir, part Joe's first-person narrative, part historical account, the book violates genre boundaries-but it is precisely this lack of affectedness, couched in graceful, perceptive writing, that makes it such an engrossing and informative work. 20 photos, 2 maps. (Mar. 16) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved