Memoir as memorial: Lvov lives on at Leopolis press
Molly Ulam had been separated from her husband of 28 years for a few months when his health failed and he reached back out for her support. For eight years she shuttled between Charlottesville and Cambridge until Adam Ulam, the director of Harvard’s prestigious Russian Research Center and author of 20 books, died of lung cancer in 2000.
Now her Charlottesville home is also the home of Leopolis Press, founded by the Ulams six weeks before Adam’s death as a way to publish the scholar’s memoirs.
Understanding the Cold War, A Historian’s Personal Reflections, now in its second edition, tells the story of millions through the eyes of one. It is the history of WWII, European Jewry, American assimilation, and the rise of Soviet power, told by a towering expert.
“I had it copy-edited twice, which was expensive,” recalls Ulam, “but I didn’t care-– this was my memorial to Adam.”
Like his canonical classic, Expansion and Coexistence, Ulam’s final book is analytical and erudite. What it is not, despite its subtitle, is a personal reflection. “It’s a book written in old age by a sick man,” says Ulam, “it certainly has its short-comings.”
Like many Jews whose families were sundered by the Nazi regime, Adam Ulam kept his personal reflections to himself. His wife, born to southern aristocracy where roots are revered, was drawn to the mystery and tragedy of her husband’s past. She has devoted Leopolis to preserving the memory of his and countless other severed family histories.
The second publication from Leopolis (named for Lvov, Adam’s Polish birthplace) was a Holocaust memoir entitled Life Death Memories, written by Thomas Hecht, a New York lawyer who spent six years as a child running from death in occupied Poland. Leopolis, in partnership with the Miller Center, will soon be releasing a series of scholarly papers exploring Polish history and identity.
But Ulam’s greatest gift to her husband is in the pages of Understanding The Cold War that she added after his death. There, among the elegies from peers and reminiscences of friends, is a letter from a distant cousin relating the fate of Adam Ulam’s beloved older sister, who stayed behind when her brothers left Lvov in 1939. It is a tragic story, a personal story, and one that immensely knowledgeable Adam Ulam never knew.
Molly Ulam will speak about her husband, Adam Ulam, and the mission of Leopolis Press as part of the Virginia Writer’s Club series on Wednesday, November 20. She will discuss both Understanding the Cold War, by Adam Ulam, and Life Death Memories, by Thomas Hecht. Barnes & Noble, 7pm. Barracks Road Shopping Center. 984-0461.