Monday, 16 March 2015

Army of Worn Soles - Scott Bury

Title: Army of Worn Soles

Author: Scott Bury
ISBN: 978-0-9879141-8-7
Publisher: The Written Word
This book is a fascinating 'memoir in novel form'' of a Canadian caught up in the maelstrom of the Second World War, far from home and in an army that he never imagined he would be fighting for. The author's father in law, Maurice Bury, is the subject of the book who, as a young Ukrainian immigrant to Canada, finds himself returning to the village of his parents with his mother in the mid-1930's while his father continues to struggle to makes ends meet in Montreal. His village is in a disputed region of northeastern Europe called Galacia which, although formerly part of Ukraine, was now part of Poland as a result of the dislocations following the First World War. The region that the young Bury lived in was further sub-divided into Soviet and German areas of control after the conquest of Poland by those two countries. As regional tensions increased, Bury, along with his friends and peers in Soviet occupied Poland was drafted into the Soviet army (despite proof of his Canadian citizenship) and, as a result of his education,he was made an officer and commander of an anti-tank section.

The story goes on to detail his training, combat and finally capture by German forces. His experiences as a prisoner - the deprivation, boredom and illness - make for sobering reading just as his recognition within the camp by a German officer who turns out to be his closest childhood friend, who had been caught on the German side with the delineation of Galacia, borders on the incredible. Further, that individuals successful efforts at freeing Bury through forged papers and facilitating his escape to the rump of Ukraine still governed by the Ukrainians serves as a testament to bonds of friendship that over-ride the limits of war.  That story in itself is so astounding that it could only happen in the confusion of war.

The author has drafted an eminently readable gem of a book that is representative of both Canada's immigration story and an incredible family history. Bury's experience's shed light on the realities of the eastern experience in a number of ways: the persecution of the Ukrainians by the Poles, the interaction between the Jewish, Polish, Russian and Ukrainian communities, the pre-war life of Ukrainian youth and the pride of Ukrainian heritage and Canadian citizenship. By doing so, it highlights and assists with comprehending the nature of society in that part of the world.

Bury, the author, translates his subjects experience's in such a way that the reader can appreciate the challenges, successes and failures encapsulated in Maurice's story. The book is not long but carries the reader forward as Maurice is swept up in the insanity of Eastern Europe in 1939 and beyond. As a fictional work, thus book would be noteworthy for its imaginative story, however, as a work of non-fiction it is simply astounding. Well worth a read.



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