Another very different book this morning (I have been trying to diversify a bit this year)
In Central and Eastern Europe, half of all Europeans had their lives transformed by the democratic revolutions that took place in the last decade of the 20th Century.
This book is an authentic record of the period, based on the author’s experiences. It is a gripping insider’s account of how the protagonists transformed European society.
It is partly a historical novel, partly a ‘roman a clef’, in which real life is overlaid with a facade of fiction. It differs from other novels of this genre in that real names have often been retained, thus enabling the reader to understand the historical context and to follow the development of the story over the last thirty years.
The main characters are two professionals, who, hidden from public view, delivered historic changes. The novel follows their efforts to steer two countries towards becoming more just and prosperous. It is an account of the moral challenges and dangers, including intimidation, threats and attacks on their lives. Neither of the two main characters are entirely who they are perceived to be. The English Banker is a Czech refugee, whilst the English Accountant is a claimant to the Russian imperial crown. Without people like them, half the societies of Europe would have remained as decaying swamps, and the integration of Europe might never have been accomplished.
Information about the Book:
Title: Red Wolves and White Knights
Author: Peter Kysel
Genre: Political Thriller
Publication Date: 28th January 2021
Page Count: 426
Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Reviews and purchase:
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56951128-red-wolves-white-knights
Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wolves-White-Knights-Peter-Kysel/dp/1913568369
Here is an extract:
‘We and the Americans abandoned Eastern Europe needlessly in 1945,” pronounced Jack Straw in the Saulire cable car cabin. Admiring the snow-covered peaks of the Savoie Alps, I paid no attention. Jack was a friend and a keen military historian. It was March 1985 and we were on a skiing holiday in Méribel with friends. Jack returned to his comment in the evening over an après-ski drink at the Aspen Park hotel bar and this time he had our full attention.
“During a meeting in Moscow, in October 1944, Winston Churchill proposed a secret deal to Stalin, to divide spheres of influence in Europe after the war. Stalin was surprised but accepted. The sell-out of Eastern Europe was finalised by Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt in Yalta four months later. As in Munich, the affected nations were excluded from the discussions.” Jack’s opinion challenged everything I had previously understood about the post-war order in Europe.
“After the war the Soviet Union annexed large territories of other European countries and turned eleven of them into colonies,” said David, gazing at the glowing logs in the fireplace.
“At Yalta Britain and America became the godfathers to a new colonial empire,” agreed Jack “Democratic politicians shook hands with dictators in Munich and in Yalta over the heads of the people involved. The saying ‘about us, without us’ could not have been more apt. The injustice inflicted by the three great powers on Eastern Europe lasted for forty-five years,” added our companion Jay.
My perplexity turned to exasperation.
“My homeland didn’t need to be colonised after the war?” I exclaimed. “Our family could have stayed together. My exile wasn’t inevitable,” and I continued with the rejoinder, “Then why? For what motives?” Jay shrugged his shoulders.
“Roosevelt was too ill to understand. Churchill wanted to save the British Empire with the acquiescence of the Soviets. Stalin was exporting revolution. But who knows?”
For the next few years, I lived with the suppressed pain of injustice. It felt pointless to rail against decisions that could not be changed. Sovietologists persuaded Western public opinion that the communist empire was strong. I was convinced that it would outlive me.
Then, in 1989, rebellions erupted throughout the Soviet bloc. Political and economic forces coalesced, forcing its regimes into existential crises. Jack was ecstatic. “Western powers have been relegated to the side-lines. The subjugated people are driving events. It’s no longer ‘about us, without us’. When the people demolish the infamous Yalta Doctrine, they will be liberated.” I was keeping my fingers
crossed, not sure that the rebellions would succeed.
But Jack was right. The Soviet Empire began to crumble. The world was about to change, and a new history was to emerge. Transformation to the new order was going to be messy and its outcome was uncertain. My own, ordered and calm family life in London was challenged on 7th December 1989 at 8pm.
Peter was born in occupied Czechoslovakia towards the end of WW2. When he was ten months old, his aunt Irena took him on a train journey, to escape the impending uprising against the German occupation of Prague. The train was bombed by the Americans, but they both escaped unhurt. Peter’s parents, who were employed as a tailor and a seamstress, remained in Prague.
Immediately after the war the parents, in their mid-twenties set up their fashion business. They were successful and were able to give Peter a better start in life than they had themselves. Initially the communist coup d’etat in February 1948 had a little impact on the family’s life. When a young Peter was indoctrinated at school into a convinced socialist, ready to lay down his life for the red flag of his pioneer group, this began to change. His parents realised that they were powerless to intervene.
In contrast, in his teenage years, after his mother remarried, Peter was marked for discrimination and harassment. At 13 years old, he was labelled “an enemy of the State”, despite his personal commitment to socialism. His crime was to have a father who was a successful and creative designer. Peter was barred from the education that his grades had earned him. At 16, a careless joke led to his arrest by the State Security.
Peter could not eliminate the negative political label bequeathed to him by his father. He was going to carry the sign of an “undesirable” for life. At 18 Peter was sent for a yearlong “re-education” by manual labour.
In the summer 1968, during a short window of political relaxation, Peter took the opportunity to travel to the UK, and while he was abroad, the Warsaw Pact invaded Czechoslovakia. His fate was sealed when the hard-line regime of collaborators was installed in Prague, giving him no option but to apply for political asylum.
Peter began a new life by washing dishes in a hotel, before becoming a student at Oxford, where he met his partner and future wife. They moved to London and had a daughter. Peter found jobs in the private sector, while his wife worked as a educational researcher in the public sector.
After the collapse of communism in Europe Peter published articles about the market economy, appeared in media and worked as a consultant in several post-communist countries. He formed and managed one the first investment funds for the post-communist countries. In 1993 the British government sent him to assist in the privatisation process in the Czech Republic and in the creation of its financial market. When the privatisation task was completed, and companies were publicly traded on the stock exchange, he returned to his family and another investment job in London.
His wife died, after a 36 years long partnership, in 2006. A year later Peter gave up a permanent job and in August 2009 his daughter married. She was the catalyst in Peter’s decision of becoming a writer.
Peter was formerly a director and chairman of charitable organisations, including InterChange Trust, The Hamden Trust and WAP Performing Arts College and the British Czech and Slovak Association, and is a trustee of the Friends of Czech Heritage.