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Often overlooked in accounts of World War II is the Soviet Union's quiet yet brutal campaign against Polish citizens, a campaign that included, we now know, war crimes for which the Soviet and Russian governments only recently admitted culpability. Standing in the shadow of the Holocaust, this episode of European history is often overlooked. Wesley Adamczyk's gripping memoir, When God Looked the Other Way
, now gives voice to the hundreds of thousands of victims of Soviet barbarism.
Adamczyk was a young Polish boy when he was deported with his mother and siblings from their comfortable home in Luck to Soviet Siberia in May of 1940. His father, a Polish Army officer, was taken prisoner by the Red Army and eventually became one of the victims of the Katyn massacre, in which tens of thousands of Polish officers were slain at the hands of the Soviet secret police. The family's separation and deportation in 1940 marked the beginning of a ten-year odyssey in which the family endured fierce living conditions, meager food rations, chronic displacement, and rampant disease, first in the Soviet Union and then in Iran, where Adamczyk's mother succumbed to exhaustion after mounting a harrowing escape from the Soviets. Wandering from country to country and living in refugee camps and the homes of strangers, Adamczyk struggled to survive and maintain his dignity amid the horrors of war.When God Looked the Other Way
is a memoir of a boyhood lived in unspeakable circumstances, a book that not only illuminates one of the darkest periods of European history but also traces the loss of innocence and the fight against despair that took root in one young boy. It is also a book that offers a stark picture of the unforgiving nature of Communism and its champions. Unflinching and poignant, When God Looked the Other Way
will stand as a testament to the trials of a family during wartime and an intimate chronicle of episodes yet to receive their historical due.
“Adamczyk recounts the story of his own wartime childhood with exemplary precision and immense emotional sensitivity, presenting the ordeal of one family with the clarity and insight of a skilled novelist. . . . I have read many descriptions of the Siberian odyssey and of other forgotten wartime episodes. But none of them is more informative, more moving, or more beautifully written than When God Looked the Other Way.”—From the Foreword by Norman Davies, author of Europe: A History and Rising ’44: The Battle for Warsaw
“A finely wrought memoir of loss and survival.”—Publishers Weekly
“Adamczyk’s unpretentious prose is well-suited to capture that truly awful reality.” —Andrew Wachtel, Chicago Tribune Books
“Mr. Adamczyk writes heartfelt, straightforward prose. . . . This book sheds light on more than one forgotten episode of history.”—Gordon Haber, New York Sun
“One of the most remarkable World War II sagas I have ever read. It is history with a human face.”—Andrew Beichman, Washington Times
"In this finely wrought memoir of loss and survival, Adamczyk tells his family's story against the backdrop of a little known chapter of WWII--the forced exile of thousands of Poles by the Soviet government in the opening weeks of the war. . . . Adamczyk's language is earthy, intense, and moving. In addition to the strong portraits of his family, Adamczyk fills the book with unforgettable characters from their odyssey--brutal Red Army soldiers; desperately impoverished yet generous Kazakhs; and the clean, well-dressed Americans. With this work, Adamczyk has brought illumination and honor to the families of the thousands who suffered the same terrible fate."
— Publishers Weekly
"A personal story of the horrors that Poles lived through during World War II. When God Looked the Other Way, above all else, explains why there is still a Poland. . . . One of the most remarkable World War II sagas I have ever read. It is history with a human face."
— Arnold Beichman
"Most people are not aware that the Soviet Union annexed the eastern half of Poland in September 1939. Even fewer know that until June 1941, as many as 500,000 Polish "enemies of the state" were deported to the U.S.S.R. As the son of a Polish officer and an educated mother, Wesley Adamczyk was the perfect candidate for deportation. . . . When God Looked the Other Way is fascinating, upsetting, and full of small shocks; and Mr. Adamczyk writes heartfelt, straight-forward prose. . . . This book sheds light on more than one forgotten episode of history."
— Gordon Haber
"As I finished this book. . . I came to think that it is perhaps a good thing that it was not written and published during the height of the Cold War. At that point, the narrator's black-and-white moral judgments might simply have been dismissed by many readers as counterpropaganda, and his story and that of his family would have probably been ignored. Now, after the demise of the Soviet Union, when we are no longer trying to prove that our way of life is superior, we can better appreciate the awful privations that the Soviet system created for its citizens and for those unlucky enough to have been caught up in it. Adamczyk's unpretentious prose is well-suited to capture that truly awful reality. . . . Perhaps Adamczyk's narrative can help us remember what it is about our country that has traditionally inspired the admiration of the world, and to turn away from the worst elements of hate-mongering and fear that have transformed us into a country more like Adamczyk's USSR than we would like to be."
— Andrew Wachtel
— Piotr Wrobel
"Adamczyk is a master story teller. His account . . . holds the reader's attention and sympathy throughout."
— Anna M. Cienciala
“Adamczyk recounts the story of his own wartime childhood with exemplary precision and immense emotional sensitivity, presenting the ordeal of one family with the clarity and insight of a skilled novelist. . . . I have read many descriptions of the Siberian odyssey and of other forgotten wartime episodes. But none of them is more informative, more moving, or more beautifully written than When God Looked the Other Way.”
— Norman Davies, author of Europe: A History
"This powerful memoir transforms the faceless statistics of exile, death, and suffering into a narrative of one family's experience. Well written, carefully researched yet restricting itself to the experience and perspective of the writer, this memoir is highly recommended."
— Douglas Carl Peifer