Philip Ó Ceallaigh at the LARB:
JÓZEF CZAPSKI was a reserve officer in the Polish army when German and Soviet forces invaded his country in September 1939. His unit surrendered to the Soviets toward the end of that month. In “Memories of Starobielsk,” the 40-page essay that gives this collection, translated by Alissa Valles, its title, Czapski tells how he and his comrades were deceived by the promise that they would be sent through neutral territory to France, from where they could continue the fight against the Germans. Instead, they were marched eastward as prisoners of war, over the Soviet frontier:
A world apart. Ruined shabby houses, dilapidated, as if they’d never had any maintenance. As for the famous electrification you read so much about: every so often there was an electric lamp blinking a wan red light, and in the city park, Stalin’s profile in red neon — that was all.