Joseph Conrad never ceased to condemn the violence and brutality of Russia, whose forces are today destroying cities and raping and murdering civilians in the Ukraine war. Russian troops recently passed Berdichev, 200 km southwest of Kyiv, where Conrad was born in 1857, and near Zhitomir, where he lived as a young man. Raised in Ukraine by Polish parents, Conrad grew up under Russian rule. In his childhood, the local society consisted of Russian officials, Polish landowners, Jewish merchants and Ukrainian peasants.
After Conrad’s father, Apollo, became involved in the Russian-suppressed Polish Revolution of 1863, he and his family were exiled to the harsh climate and brutal life of Vologda, a penal town 250 miles northeast. east of Moscow. Conrad had a heartbreaking relationship with his dark, guilt-ridden father that had a profound effect on his life. Apollo’s political essay “Poland and Muscovy” (1864) describes Russia’s centuries-old oppression of Poland and condemns Russia as “the terrible, depraved and destructive embodiment of barbarism and chaos”, as ” the scourge of humanity” and as “the negation of human progress”. Apollo believed that Catholic, democratic Poland was historically destined to protect Western Europe from the ruthless hordes of Moscow. Conrad adored his patriotic father but disliked the disastrous policy of Apollo who had traumatized his childhood and believed that the pursuit of revolution was futile and destructive.As a teenager, Conrad fled the morbid atmosphere of Polish martyrdom to the freedom of England and life in sea.