In “Borderlines, Part 2” (News, June), Mr. Hugh Prysor-Jones takes on a great deal in covering a vast section of Europe.  Apparently, his understanding of some of the background is, at least in some places, a bit shaky.  To wit, he writes of “various Polish/Lithuanian empires.”  There most certainly was a Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which just as emphatically was not an empire.  That was left to the neighbors, who duly had empires and kaisers and czar/imperators, with all that has implied.  Could Mr. Prysor-Jones name an emperor of his rather snidely imagined “Polish/Lithuanian empire”?

His sneer continues through the “yearning” of Polish patriots for “the Krezy (pronounced ‘crazy’).”  The word is Kresy (borderlands/frontiers), and it is pronounced just as it is written, though one will naturally forgive a modern English speaker for not rolling the r.

These are the lands of my maternal ancestors who, like Marshal Pilsudski, were Polish-speaking Lithuanians, and so these are matters of which I have some knowledge and historical memory.  Caveat lector.

        —Fr. Raymond Gawronski, S.J.
Crestone, CO

Mr. Prysor-Jones Replies:

As the product of a Benedictine education, I can only expect to be taken to task by the Society for lack of rigor.

I fear my knowledge in almost all matters would be judged inaccurate in many circles.

I confess to a certain desperation in my use of such shorthand as “Polish/Lithuanian empires.”  I can’t think what else to call them.  Commonwealth is just too casuistical, and inaccurate in the same sense as the Polish monarchy, which was, of course, elective and famously described as “anarchy tempered by civil war.”

I was at school with the children of the exiled Polish marcher lords (Zamoyski, Sapieha, etc.) and have probably acquired some of their prejudices.

I also worked with charming, dashing Poles at the BBC World Service and learned both to love and mistrust what Prof. Tim Snyder called the “secret and unrealistic foreign policy goals” of the Polish state of the 1920’s and 30’s, which I fear are being revived today by Mr. Sikorski, the current foreign minister.

My own government in London is, I fear, not doing what it should, which would be to encourage a Baltic Union of Poland and the Scandinavians that might serve as a balance to both Russia and Germany, neither of which seems at present to be able to make up her mind.

I can only wish both Polish- and Lithuanian-speakers freedom and happiness in a difficult part of the world, which Mrs. Nuland, having oversold her frankly wicked policy in Washington, has now made even more difficult and dangerous for those who live in or near the Pripet Marshes.