cover image Between East and West: Across the Borderlands of Europe

Between East and West: Across the Borderlands of Europe

Anne Applebaum. Pantheon Books, $24 (314pp) ISBN 978-0-679-42150-4

Traveling the uncertain land between Eastern and Western Europe, Applebaum recounts her three-month journey and the people she meets, typified by a man who was born in Poland, raised in the Soviet Union and now living in Belarus-yet he has never left his village. The territorial borders of many towns in Eastern Europe have been redrawn so often over the centuries that such villages are called kresy, meaning they belong to no one in particular. The American-born Applebaum, who is the foreign editor of the London Spectator and has residences in Poland and England, shows herself as a journalist of sturdy competence, smart and shrewd. She speaks Polish and Russian and is well read in Eastern European history. Applebaum travels from kresy to kresy in dilapidated private autos she hires, although on occasion she must walk; the few hotels are seedy and homes where she is sometimes invited to sleep aren't markedly more comfortable. But she's not deterred; Applebaum's receptiveness encourages borderlanders to tell her the myriad of ways that political partitioning has subjugated their personal lives, cultural traditions and languages. She in turn explains to us the nationalism motivating these newly independent people as they try to redefine their true heritages. (Oct.)