Diary of a Former Communist:

Thoughts, Feelings, Reality

by Ludwik Kowalski

Dedicated to my wife Linda, and to our relatives.

May they never live under proletarian dictatorship.


This is my “book of life.” It is based on what I recorded in diaries, first as a teenager in the USSR and Poland, then as an adult, in Poland, France and the USA. It traces my evolution from a dedicated Stalinist into an active anti-Stalinist. Romantic affairs and other preoccupations are not totally ignored.

My notebooks were kept in an old green metal trunk. In late 2009, at the age of 78, I finally decided to open it. Up to then, I had never re-read the diaries. Their total volume was approximately three cubic feet. One thing became clear as soon as I started reading. Translating everything made no sense, considering poor composition, numerous repetitions, and too many details. But I began to see my life more clearly, and decided there was enough substance to be of interest to others. It is certainly a piece of a much larger picture in which numerous individuals were swept up by 20th-century ideologies.

Fortunately, my wife Linda helped me with the task of editing, as I translated from Polish to English. “Are you going to be embarrassed to read descriptions of episodes from my sexual life?” I asked before we started. The answer was “we are senior citizens now.” The description of my unusual life is likely to generate more questions than I can possibly answer.

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Ludwik holding the green coffer, April 26, 2010

Here is my story in a nutshell. Born in 1931 in Poland, I spent my early childhood, up to age 15, in the Soviet Union. During that time my idealistic father became a victim of the Stalinist regime; like millions of others, he was arrested and sent to die in Siberia. My mother and I returned to Poland after the end of WWII. That is where my undergraduate and graduate education were completed. In 1957 I went to France for postgraduate studies. After returning to Poland in 1963 with a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics, I was invited to a scientific conference in the US, and became a research associate at Columbia University. My teaching career began in 1969. A longer summary of my life is in the Chapter 1. Details, in the form of diary entries and added comments, are in the remaining seventeen chapters.

Two similar books

This book, produced in 2010, and another book, produced in 2009, have one thing in common; both are based on my diaries. The essential difference is that the older book (“Tyranny to Freedom: Diary of a Former Stalinist”) is commercially available in print only; the newer book, by contrast, is freely available on-line only. In writing the 2010 book I tried to benefit from comments made by reviewers of my 2009 book.

Some details

a) To protect privacy, most names appearing in the diary were replaced by single initials, such as L, K, or R. The assignment of initials was not always done consistently, leading to possible confusion. However, those individuals were minor characters. People who played important roles, such as Anya, Joliot-Curie, Pawlowski or Radvanyi, are identified by real names. I just couldn't find a better compromise between protecting privacy and preserving authenticity.

b) Anyone connected to the Internet can start reading this book by entering the following address into the browser's search-box:

http://csam.montclair.edu /~kowalski/life/intro.html

c) You've already done this; otherwise you would not be reading my book at your computer screen now. Another thing to know is that the book is free. Read it for as long as you wish or as often as you wish. And feel free to share the above address with anyone who might be interested.

d) The chapter you are reading now is the Introduction. Like any other chapter, it contains links for going to other chapters. Scroll to them now and go to any chapter you wish; then return to this introduction, or go to any other chapter. You will learn how to navigate this on-line book in minutes.

e) The text you will see in chapters is either blue italics, for original diary entries, or standard black for inserted comments. Ellipses in square brackets [. . .] , indicate that something was skipped, as little as a phrase or as much as ten pages, or more. Most diary excerpts are not dated but their sequence is correct, i.e. those shown later were also written later.

The Table of Contents is in the last chapter. Click here to see it.


Comments from readers will be appreciated.

Ludwik Kowalski
Professor Emeritus,
Montclair State University,

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Chapter 01 Brief Summary of My Entire Life click
Chapter 01A Two Letters from Siberia click
Chapter 02 Arguing with My Mother--Polish or Jewish? click
Chapter 03 Why is the Ministry of Security Investigating Me? click
Chapter 04 Death of Our Dear Comrade Stalin click
Chapter 05 Attitude Toward Religion click
Chapter 06 Cult of Personality Revealed click
Chapter 07 Aftermath of the 20th Congress click
Chapter 08 Meeting Joliot-Curie in France click
Chapter 09 Communists Killing Communists in Budapest click
Chapter 10 Fourth Year in Paris click
Chapter 11 Using the Nuclear Reactor click
Chapter 12 Will She Go to Poland with Me? click
Chapter 13 Back to Poland with the Doctorate click
Chapter 14 Leaving Poland to The US click
Chapter 15 Loose Ends--Recent Years click
Chapter 16 Six Questions and Answers click
Chapter 17 Table of Contents click