The historian Bernard Wasserstein set out to uncover the hidden past of the town forty miles west of Lviv where his family originated: Krakowiec. This evening, on the occasion of the book launch of A Small Town in Ukraine, he recounts its dramatic and traumatic history. ‘I want to observe and understand how some of the great forces that determined the shape of our times affected ordinary people.’ Wasserstein will talk about his new book and engage in a conversation with Michel Krielaars.
In his new book, Bernard Wasserstein traces the arc of history across centuries of religious and political conflict, as armies of Cossacks, Turks, Swedes and Muscovites rampaged through the region. In the Age of Enlightenment, the Polish magnate Ignacy Cetner built his palace at Krakowiec and, with his vivacious daughter, Princess Anna, created an arcadia of refinement and serenity. Under the Habsburg emperors after 1772, Krakowiec developed into a typical shtetl, with a jostling population of Poles, Ukrainians and Jews.
In 1914, disaster struck. ‘Seven years of terror and carnage’ left a legacy of ferocious national antagonisms. During the Second World War the Jews were murdered in circumstances harrowingly described by Wasserstein. After the war the Poles were expelled and the town dwindled into a border outpost. Today, the storm of history once again rains down on Krakowiec as hordes of refugees flee for their lives from Ukraine to Poland. Michel Krielaars will interview Wasserstein about this remarkable history and his research.
About the speakers
Bernard Wasserstein is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Chicago and a corresponding Fellow of the British Academy. Born in London, he now lives in Amsterdam. His previous books include The Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln (CWA Gold Dagger Prize for Non-fiction), On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War (Yad Vashem International Book Prize), and Barbarism and Civilization: A History of Europe in Our Time.
Michel Krielaars (moderator) is a writer, journalist and editor of the literature section of NRC newspaper. He studied history and Russian at the University of Amsterdam. Krielaars has written various novels, a short-story collection, and books about Russian history. His most recent book is Oorlog met Rusland (2022).
With the code 10SPUI25 you can get a 10% discount on A Small Town in Ukraine at Athenaeum.nl