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The Bookshelf

In Australia, finding books on Central and Eastern European history can be difficult. Finding books or written material, on Transcarpathia is near impossible.  The following is a list of books I have found in second-hand bookshops and occasionally in libraries.  Many of these are on the theme of World War II. Just recently I have noticed in Australian bookshops, that there are a more novels being translated from Eastern European languages available.  I have also included in the list, a few of these that I have purchased .  Sometimes a good novel can convey the emotional landscape of a historical period, far better than any number of dry textbooks.  Use the list as inspiration to broaden your reading.    (If you want me to look something up for you in one of these books, it will incur a transcription fee.) 

Alice Spigelman

The Budapest Job

Brandl and Schlesinger, 2018  ISBN 978-0-6482026-5-3

Alice Spigelman was born in Hungary and moved to Australia in 1956.  This unusual novel is set in 1989 at the collapse of communism.  This is not your typical American thriller.  On reading this,  I have the impression that the author has taken some very real historical events under Stalinism, and typical attitudes, and thought-patterns amongst Hungarians of the era and wrapped a loose fictional plot around this material.  Betrayal, collaboration, secret police. Watchfulness and paranoia. Turmoil and confusion.  It is a disturbing evocation of Hungary under Stalinism.  Events that  are mentioned in the novel  include the 1946 trial of Laszlo Rajk, the 1953 Jewish doctor's plot, a 1946 pogrom in Miskolc and a further Jewish murder in 1956 during the uprising.  I do not have enough knowledge of this period  to determine if these events are fiction or based on truth.

Serhii Plokhy

The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine

Published 2015/2016, Penguin Books  ISBN 978-0-141-98061-4

A clear,  balanced,  short history (not so short ! 395pp) of Ukraine.  All you ever wanted to know about Vikings on the Dnieper, the Golden Horde  and Cossacks.   There are lots of Cossacks :)   And some very useful maps.    A 'must read'  history book for those interested in the place of Ukraine in world history. 

Peter Frankopan

The Silk Road

Published 2015, Bloomsbury  PB ISBN 978-1-4088-3999-7

A history of the world from the perspective the Middle East and Asia via the trade routes of the Silk Roads.    Contains a good section on the Viking Rus' slave raids into lands held by the Khazars and Pechenegs. And the conversion to Judaism by the Khazars,

Sacha Batthyany

A Crime in the Family

Quercus Editions 2017  PB ISBN 978-1-78648-056-9, Ebook ISBN 978-1-78648-057-6

Originally published in German as Und was hat das mit mir zu tun? Ein Verbrechen im Marz 1945.  Die Geschichte meiner Familie

A courageous memoir exploring the involvement of his aristocratic family in war atrocities.

Arther Koestler (1905-?)

The Thirteenth Tribe: The Khazar Empire and its Heritage

Published by Picador, 1976/197  ISBN 0-330-25069-8

Arthur Koestler is best known for his political novel 'Darkness at Noon.

In this non-fiction work, Arthur Koestler gives an account of the Khazar empire. In the middle Ages, the Khazar Empire extended from the Black Sea to the Caspian, from the Caucasus to the Volga. The Khazars were placed  in a precarious position between two major world powers, the Eastern Roman empire and the followers of Mohammed. Koestler claims that the Khazars, converted to Judaism to resist pressure from both Christianity and Islam.  By the late 7th century AD the Khazars had subjugated the Magyars, Bulgars and made incursions into Ukraine.  In the 8th century AD, Muslims made a well-known incursion into France that was stopped by Charles Martel and the Franks. About the same time, Muslims were also attempting a pincer movement through the eastern approaches to the Volga, the Danube and the Byzantium empire..  'The main  contribution of the Khazars was holding the line of the Caucasus against against the northward onslaught of the Arabs.'  

Anthony Tihamer Komjathy

A Thousand Years of the Hungarian Art of War

Rakoczi Foundation 1982 (Toronto, Canada)  ISBN  0-91945-01-7

Michael Cigler

The Czechs in Australia

Australian Ethnic Press, 1983

Egon F. Kunz

The Hungarians in Australia

Australian Ethnic Press, 1985

Marian Kaluski

The Poles in Australia

Australian Ethnic Press, 1985

J.A.S. Grenville

Europe Reshaped 1848-1878

Fontana 1976

Sir Lewis Namier

Vanished Supremacies: Essays on European History 1812-1918

Harper, 1963

Stuart Andrews

Eighteenth Century Europe the 1680s to 1815

Longman, London, 1965  ISBN 0582 35172 3


Student textbook

William Edwards

Notes on European History: Volume V

Rivingtons. London, 1934


Written by a former schoolmaster, this was a textbook designed to help prepare students for exams.  It presents the main points of history in clear point form.

Norman Davies

Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe

Penguin, 2011   ISBN 978-0-141-04886-4


Contains two relevant chapers:

Chapter 9:  Galicia: The Kingdom of the Naked and Starving

Chapter 13: Rusyn: The Republic of one Day (15 March 1939)

István Pirigyi

A Magyarorszagi Görögkatolikusok Története (History of the Hungarian Greek Catholic Church) 1773-1920

Nyiregyhaza   1990, ISBN 963 00 1317 7   Hungarian Language

Károly Hetényi Varga

Papi Sorsok A Horog-Kereszt És A Vörös Csillag Árnyékában (The fate of priests under the shadow of the swastika and the red star)

Lámpás Kiadó, Abaliget, 1992      ISBN 963 7593 08 X         Hungarian Language


Compendium of brieg biographies of Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic Hungarian priests who were perswecuted under the Fascists and Soveiet regimes.  Contains photographs.  

Imre Szacsvay, Péter Szacsvay, László Legeza


Officina Nova, 1990, ISBN 963 7836 012  Hungarian Language


Coffee table picture book on Transcarpathia. Has a good list of Ukrainian, Russian and Hungarian equivalent names for towns of the Transcarpathian region.

Alajos Deschmann

Kárpátalja Műemléki (Transcarpathian Monuments)

Budapest, 1990   ISBN 963 555 7310   (Hungarian Language)


Picture book with brief histories of Transcarpathian towns.

Károly Kaffka

Az Utas Könyve: Kárpátalja (Tourist guide to Carpathian Region)

Kiadja, 1939     Hungarian language


A 1939 Tourist guide to Transcarpathia. this book has been digitized. See relevant page at

Géza Gulácsy

A munkácsi (kamjankai) régi magyar temető

Ungvar, 2009,  ISBN 978-966-7670-39-9   Hungarian Language


Compilation of gravestone records from the Kamjankai cemetery,  Mukachevo (Munkacs).    Please refer to  website page 'Munkacs Cemetery Data' for instructions on how to obtain information. Requires a transcription fee.

Aviel Roshwald

Ethnic Nationalism and the fall of empires: Central Europe, Russia and the Middle East 1914-1923

Routledge, 2001,  ISBN 0-415-24229-0

Andrew Wheatcroft

The Hapsburgs: Embodying Empire

Penguin, 1995, ISBN-13: 978-0-140-23634-7

Norman Davies

Europe: A History

Pimloco, 1997  ISBN 0-7126-6633-8


An overview of the history of Europe for the general reader.  Norman Davies specializes in the history of Poland, however this book  only gives a very general summary of eastern european history.

Zsuzsanna Ozsváth

When the Danube Ran Red

Syracuse University Press, 2010   ISBN 978-0-8156-0980-3


Memoir of living under German-occupied Hungary in 1944.

Eva Hoffman

Exit into History: A journey through the new Eastern Europe

1993(?) ISBN 0-434-34426-5


Eva Hoffman travelled though Eastern Europe just after the dramatic events that ended the cold war in 1989. She travelled from the Baltic to the Black sea though Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia and Romania.  She talked to a great variety of people, and used her bicultural perspective to explore Eastern European minds and sensibilities.  The book captures a moment in time when many people were struggling with  the transition from an unwanted past to an uncertain future. A very interesting sociological report.

Adam Zamoyski

Warsaw 1920: Lenin's failed conquest of Europe

Harper Press, 2008,   ISBN 978-0-00-725786-7

Anna Porter

Kasztner's Train

Walker and Co., 2007 ISBN-13: 978-0-8027-15968


Resző Kasztner negotiated directly with Adolf Eichmann to organize a train out of Hungary for almost 2000 Jews in 1944

Christine Keneally

The Invisible History of the Human Race: How DNA and history shape our identities and our futures

Black Inc. (Schwartz publishing), 2014, ISBN  9781863958066


Engaging exploration of genetic genealogy and evolutionary change.  Winner of the 2015 Bragg Press Prize for Science Writing.  Also shortlisted for several other literary awards.

Jonathan D. Shea and William F. Hoffman

In Their Words: Volume II: Translation Guide to Russian documents

Language and Lineage Press, 2014   ISBN 978-0-9631579-9-7


Genealogists translation guide to woring with Russian documents.  Has lots of practical examples.

William F. Hoffman and Jonathan D. Shea

In Their Words: Volume III: Latin

Language and Lineage Press, 2013, ISBN 978-0-9631579-8-0


Has useful explanations of Latin grammar and lots of practical examples taken from records al over Europe.

Jan Karski (1914-2000)

Story of a Secret State

A story of Polish Resistance. Jan Karski told the Allies in 1942  about the extermination of Jews in Europe.

Miklós Bánffy (Translated by Patrick Thursfield and Katalin Bánffy-Jelen)

They Were Found Wanting: Book 2 of The Transylvanian Trilogy, The Writing on The Wall (Erdélyi Tőrténet)

Arcadia Books, London, 2009, originally published 1937,   ISBN 978-1-905147-99-1    FICTION


In 1937, Count Miklós Bánffy published this novel of Hungarian aristocracy teetering blindly on the brink of World War I, oblivious of its impending demise.  It contrasts  lives of privilege and corruption with those of the Romanian peasant minority. Count Miklós Bánffy had led the government of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for five years in the 1890s. Some of this novel is set in the halls of parliament and the political arguments and manouvres of this era form a strong backdrop to the love affair between Balint Abády and Adrienne Uzdy.  It gives a wealth of detail about this society.  The translators won the Weidenfeld translation prize for this book.



Imre Kertész (Translator: Tim Wilkinson)

Fateless [Sorstalanság)

Vintage Books, London 2005 (first published 1975)  ISBN 9780099502524   FICTION


The story of Gyuri, a fourteen year old Hungarian Jew, detained and sent to Auschwitz.  The author, who was imprisoned in Auschwitz and Buchenwald as a youth,  was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 2002.




Péter Gárdos (Translator: Elizabeth Szász)

Fever at Dawn

2016, (2010, 2015), ISBN 9781925240771   FICTION


A novel based on the letters between the parents of Péter Gárdos, who were Jewish  survivors of the WWII concentration camps. It is lightly written and quite amusing at times.  In Australia it is marketed as  romantic fiction (I suspect  Mills & Boon fans will be disppointed.). The book does show the difficulties faced by many in the immediate post-war period 1945-1947.  

Sofi Oksanen

When The Doves Disappeared

Atlantic Books, 2015  ISBN 978 1 78239 125 8    FICTION


A great novel set in communist-ruled Estonia.  It is a  psychological novel with a dark heart.

Primo Levi

If This Is a Man: The Truce

Penguin, 1987 ISBN 0 349 10013 6    AUTOBIOGRAPHY


 Primo Levi (1919-1987) was arrested as a member of the anti-fascist resistance during the war and was deported to Auschwitz  His experiences are described in 'If This is a Man' and 'The Truce'.  Written in very lucid, unpretentious prose, he is one of the few survivors to speak of the holocaust with a gentle voice.  

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