Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The Historical Background of The Road

Now that I had mapped out the probable journey my Grandfather had take in 1870 I began to research the time and the place. What a terrible period it was for Poland. The country had been increasingly taken over by its three more powerful neighbours - Russia, Austria and Prussia - in 1772, 1703 and 1795.

click to enlarge image

After the last date, Poland ceased to exist. Not content with that, during the 19th Century, the three occupying powers tried to eliminate the very memory of the country. In the case of the area where my Grandfather was brought up, Prussians were encouraged to move east and settle the new territory. They were given land taken from the Poles, and the Polish language was discouraged and only German was taught in schools. This kind of historical background I found out by reading books like, Norman Davis’ great work:  God's Playground. A History of Poland.

For more detailed descriptions of everyday life of ordinary poor people I read The Peasants, four novels by Wladyslaw Reymont – they trace the life in a small village during one year –  the books each span a season: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. It is set slightly later than my story but it gave me a great insight into a kind of peasant life that had hardly changed for centuries.

All of this information was useful. I knew I could work some of the historical setting into the book, especially the war between Prussia and France in 1870 but I began to realise there was one thing I had to do before I could write the book – I had to visit the country. I had trace my Grandfather’s footsteps

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