September 28, 2020
Much has been written about the historic Yalta Conference in February 1945, when Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt met to decide the future of the postwar world. Little, however, is known about the role played behind the scenes by three young women. In “The Daughters of Yalta,” Catherine Grace Katz ‘22 tells the story through the eyes of Sarah Churchill, Anna Roosevelt and Kathleen Harriman, the daughter of W. Averell Harriman, the U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union. Skillfully written and meticulously researched, it’s an extraordinary work that reveals the human side underlying the politics. “The continued success of the alliance of Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin,” Ms. Katz writes, “was precariously balanced on the strong personal relationship among the three men.” They came to Yalta with very different agendas. Stalin was planning a Soviet expansion into Eastern Europe but Roosevelt, less concerned about Europe, wanted to enlist his help against Japan. Churchill thought Roosevelt was naive about Stalin, especially when it came to the Soviet leader’s designs on Poland. To get to Yalta the delegates made a hazardous daylong drive from Saki airfield through barren country and razed villages. “Nearly all the buildings lay in scorched ruins,” Ms. Katz reports, “alongside charred remains of trains, tanks, and other instruments of war, as if General Sherman had risen from the dead for an encore march to the sea halfway across the world.” The destruction was not only the work of the Nazis but of Stalin, too, a vestige of the state-sponsored famine that killed millions long before the Germans arrived.