Introduction: Diary of a Former Communist.

by Ludwik Kowalski

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In memory of my heroic mother, Halina Kowalska

This personal history traces my evolution from a dedicated Stalinist in Poland to an active anti-Stalinist in the USA. Romantic affairs and scientific preoccupations are not totally ignored. The story is based mostly on diaries spanning the years between 1946 and 2008, stored in an old green metal trunk. In late 2009 I finally decided to open it. Up to then, I had never re-read the diaries. The total volume of the diaries was approximately three cubic feet.

One thing became clear as soon as I started reading. Translating everything made no sense, considering poor composition, numerous repetitions, too many details. But I began to see my life more clearly, and decided there was enough substance to be of interest to others. Fortunately, my wife Linda helped me with the task of editing, as I translated from Polish to English. “Are you going to be embarrassed to read descriptions of episodes from my sexual life?” I asked before we started. The answer was “we are senior citizens now.” Description of my unusual life is likely to generate more questions than I can possibly answer. Answering them would be easier if I were a historian or a sociologist.

Here is my story in a nutshell. Born in 1931 in Poland, I spent my early childhood, up to age 15, in the Soviet Union. During that time my idealistic father became a victim of the Stalinist regime; like millions of others, he was arrested and sent to die in Siberia. My mother and I returned to Poland after the end of WWII. That is where my undergraduate and graduate education were completed. In 1957 I went to France for postgraduate studies. After returning to Poland in 1963 with a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics, I was invited to a scientific conference in the US, and became a research associate at Columbia University. My teaching career began in 1969. After retiring in 2004, I wrote “Hell on Earth: Brutality and Violence Under The Stalinist Regime,” a short and easy-to-read book for those Americans who know very little about Soviet history. The printed versions of that book, published in 2008, and the current book, published in 2009, are available at amazon.com. Reviews are also available at that site.

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Cover of my 2008 book . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cover of my 2009 book

Online version of the 2009 book

This online version contains many more pictures than the printed book, and the text has been slightly modified. It contains sixteen short chapters. You are in the Introduction now. While reading any chapter, you can scroll to the bottom of a webpage to use links to any other chapter, or scroll to the top of the webpage to use links to the next or previous chapter.

In what follows, extracts from diaries appear in blue italics, clarifications and comments in standard black typeface. Ellipses in square brackets […] indicate that something was skipped, as little as a phrase or as much as ten pages, or more. Most excerpts are not dated but their sequence is correct, i.e. those shown later were also written later. The only exceptions are two added chapters, 15 and 16.

Apology to the Reader

Most often names of people appearing in the diary were replaced by single initials, such as L, K, or R. The assignment of initials to preserve anonymity was not always done consistently, leading to possible confusion. However, those individuals were minor characters, and people who played important roles, such as Anya, Joliot-Curie, Pawlowski or Radvanyi, are identified by their real names.

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Chapter 01 Brief Summary click
Chapter 02 Extracts From My First Notebook click
Chapter 03 Anya, Ika and Other Problems click
Chapter 04 Death of Our Leader click

Chapter 05 Last Years at Polytechnic click
Chapter 06 Beria was the Villain click
Chapter 07 Aftermaths of the 20th Congress click

Chapter 08 Warm Welcome in France click
Chapter 09 Communists Killing Communists Again click

Chapter 10 Fourth Year in Paris click
Chapter 11 Climbing Toward the Doctorate click
Chapter 12 The End of the Tunnel is Not Far click
Chapter 13 Back to Poland With the Doctorate click

Chapter 14 Missing Diaries click
Chapter 15 Year of Blessings click
Chapter 16 Appendix for Questtions and Comments click