The Accidental Anarchist by Bryna Kranzler
Published by Crosswalk Press
Our story begins in Poland at the dawn of the 20th century, when the country is occupied by Russia. Our hero, Jacob Marateck, lives in Vishigrod with his parents and brothers, and is conscripted into the Russian army to fight in the Russo-Japanese war which is centred in Manchuria. He is part of a constant stream of foot soldiers sent to do battle with the enemies of the Czar. He neither cares for the Czar nor his enemies and just wants to serve his time and head for home, with as little damage to body and mind as possible.
Jacob’s diaries form the basis for this book which has been carefully transcribed by his granddaughter Bryna, ably assisted by her parents, who undertook the translation of the journals. The resulting story is a fascinating tale of war and the utter futility of countries throwing their young men at each other until one of them runs out of steam, or moves on to another conflict. Horrifying images are described by Jacob as he travels from his home to the various battlefronts and the difficulties he encounters along the way.
In those days, as in many before and since, Jews were not the most popular citizens of Russian-occupied Poland, and their treatment in the army was no different. The hardships were many, and the tales of death and destruction numerous, but somehow Jacob survived to tell his story. He travelled thousands of miles in the service of the Czar, facing occasional imprisonment, death sentences, and terrible deprivation which made his survival all the more amazing.
A fascinating story, which brings to life those violent and troubled times, through the words of someone who was there. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a well written historical biography and is interested in European history.