|Hardcover, 286 pages|
Borrowed from the library
Read June 2013
by Michael Winch
photographs by Czeslaw Jakubowski
On March 15, 1939, the autonomous Czechoslovakian province of Carpatho Ukraine declared itself an independent republic. On March 16, 1939, Hungary formally annexed the country.
Michael Winch was a UK journalist who came to Carpatho Ukraine that January, and this book chronicles his time in the province, and came out within the same year. At times meandering, it is an interesting anecdotal depiction of ethnic tensions in a contested piece of territory on the eve of World War II. Carpatho Ukraine had been under Czechoslovakian control since World War I, but Hungarian control prior to that, and there were also Ukrainian, German, Jewish, Russian, and Polish contingents within the territory-- not to mention the Ruthenians, the "men of the place" with "no allegiance beyond the frontiers" (9). There are many anecdotes that illustrate the problems, usually told in a light style; to believe Winch (and I'd like to believe him), the whole Carpatho-Ukraine incident was a comedy of errors.
The actual formation and destruction of the Republic of Carpatho Ukraine occupies very little space in the book, but I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, since it was only a day! The Hungarian invasion and its consequences is definitely the strongest and most fascinating part of the book.