Sweetest Enemy, written by Joanna Czechowska, is a continuation the story that began with The Black Madonna of Derby. It shows complicated lives of Polish immigrants of second and third generation, who live in Derby, England and their relatives in Poland. The first part entitled "The Black Madonna of Derby" takes place before and after World War II and winds up at the end of 70s. Please, check the review at: Black Madonna of Derby - Review.
"Sweetest Enemy" story begins in Gdansk's shipyard in the 1980 after establishment of Solidarity's Workers' Union. Poland's of Solidarity times is showed through eyes of Alex Lato. Alex is a shipyard worker by profession but an artist in heart. The narrative continues during Martial Law in Poland and in Great Britain until the middle 80s and beginning 90s.
Although, the characters are fictional, they are based in reality of life in Poland and England in these times. Both countries were undergoing transitions on political, economical and social levels. In Poland, the creation of Solidarity awakened the hope for freedom from communism. This promise was later suppressed by imposing martial law. Alex Lato escapes as a political refugee to Great Britain. Irena, his wife, still lives in Warsaw, Poland, where she works as a medical doctor. Pawel, their son, moved to Great Britain and married Wanda Baran, his second cousin. They have Anna, a lovely and talented daughter, which looks like Zosia, Wanda's late pretty sister.
Baran's family, among the Helena and Tadek with their adult children, Wanda and Jan with families, live in Derby, England. Derby used to be a stronghold of Polish immigration after World War II, but it is losing slowly its Polish character. The old generation of Poles is slowly dying out, the younger intermarry with Brits and assimilate to British business- like life. Jan Baran, Wanda's brother, became an owner of the small printing company and looks for ways to survive and expand the business. When Margaret Thatcher becomes prime-minister in Great Britain in 1979, she imposed austerity measures in order to heal the economy. British worker unions are squashed and many small businesses are struggling; in the same time, Solidarity workers unions are legitimized in Poland and greeted with euphoria in Western world. What a paradox!
The narrative gets more complex with changes in Baran's family lives. Wanda and Pawel had to prioritize what is the most important for them, while Anna, their daughter, is blossoming. Alex's arrival to London gives an extra twist to the Baran's family life. The story culminates with parallel trips of Alex and Baran's family to Poland in 1991. This is a year of hope in hearts of Poles, since they have a new democratically elected government and the Soviet Union is on the brink of decay. The new narrative is added with Helena's endeavor to try to find the fate of long-lost uncle who was a renowned psychiatrist in pre-war Poland.
"Sweetest Enemy" is a fascinating story. The story flows very well, Czechowska's language is well developed and characters' portrayal very good. There are couple of themes intertwined in the story and interconnected. The story builds up tension and suspense. Wanda's final statement "life is good" is not only encouraging but it keeps is in suspense for the next part, which will hopefully follow soon....
The book is available on Amazon
Sweetest Enemy, by Joanna Czechowska
The Black Madonna of Derby, by Joanna Czechowska
If you live in Great Britain: here is a LINK to Sweetest Enemy Amazon UK edition