History of a Disappearance: The Story of a Forgotten Polish Town

Filip Springer's History of a Disappearance: The Story of a Forgotten Polish Town is a searching work of historical journalism that tracks the life and death of a tiny Silesian mining village. Translated from Polish, it is a memorial to a town that seemed constantly subject to the brutal whims of history, a force that Springer memorably visualizes as "a beast that knew only how to sow chaos and destruction."

Kupferberg stands at the top of a mountain intermittently mined for valuable minerals like copper and silver. The town's early history is marred by war, brutal winters, fires and disease. A part of Germany, it survives the world wars relatively unscathed, until the Soviet counteroffensive reaches Kupferberg, and Polish police and soldiers arrive with orders: "Treat the Germans as they have treated us." All Germans are expelled, and the place is renamed Miedziana Góra and absorbed into Soviet-occupied Poland.

The bulk of History of a Disappearance focuses on the motley, occasionally eccentric inhabitants navigating the hazards of Communist rule. Miedziana's doom comes in the form of uranium mining, undertaken with a minimum of safety considerations for the workers and their families. The overexploited mountain eventually begins to give way beneath the town, causing large parts of Miedziana to sink into the earth. Springer says in his epilogue, "I don't suppose it's a good thing not to notice the disappearance of an entire town," and thanks to his fascinating history, Kupferberg seems unlikely to fade from memory. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.

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