The Death of the Fronsac

by Neal Ascherson

1940. The Fronsac, a French warship berthed on the Clyde, explodes suddenly. This is the pivotal moment that will dictate the lives of many in the years ahead. It is in Maurycy's story (a Polish soldier stationed in Greenock, locally known as Mike) that the themes unfold. This is a fascinating, historical fiction with much to savour, especially its sincere and humane depiction of the Polish experience during and after the war.


It was true that everyone was asking me - asking us - when we were going home. The mood in Scotland had changed. Once heroic guests when we stood alone with Britain against Hitler, we had become guests who had overstayed their welcome. In Edinburgh and in Glasgow, I had seen 'Poles Go Home' painted on walls over fading 'Second Front Now' slogans. Painted by the same people, I suspected.
At Union Street, I read the papers carefully. There had been a packed-out rally in the Usher Hall in Edinburgh, where a Church minister had been cheered as he abused the Poles as scroungers and Papists. They were hanging on in Scotland to take the jobs in mining and steelmaking which belonged to our men coming back from the war. Didn't the Poles have their own country to go to? They should be rounded up and sent home.
He was contemptible. But I was tired of dodging that question. 'I am thinking about it ...' The truth was that my own decision to stay in Britain was fast dissolving, and I had to admit it. Many reasons: those warnings from the Colonel and the Commandant, this sudden hostility in Scotland, that hope of Wisia's that Polish ground under my feet would bring me to myself. And Helen.


The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason

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