Life story

‘The Double Life of Katharine Clark’, a true story of an escape from communism that reads like a heart-pounding spy thriller

An Insider’s Look at the Dark Realities of Communism in Eastern Europe in the Mid-20th Century, Through the Eyes of an American

Katherine Clark was an active investigative journalist between the 1940s and 1960s. She was the first female Allied war correspondent to enter Berlin in 1945. Her 1950s beat was Eastern Europe. There she spoke truth to power, which is what investigative journalists are supposed to do. But she told the wrong kind of truth about the wrong kind of power. So, unlike those widely adored today, like IF Stone, Clark was allowed to be forgotten. So far.

“The Double Life of Katharine Clark: The Untold Story of the American Journalist Who Brought the Truth About Communism to the West,” by Katharine Gregorio, brings Clark’s biography to the attention of a new generation of Americans . What a story it is.

Gregorio focuses the story on Clark’s years in Eastern Europe, when Clark covered anti-Soviet uprisings in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. More importantly, he reveals his efforts on behalf of Milovan Djilas, former Vice President of Yugoslavia. A fervent communist disaffected by communism, he was stripped of his position and the privileges and power that came with it after denouncing Yugoslav totalitarianism.

Clark, then a freelancer, was living in Yugoslavia with her Time correspondent husband. They had befriended Djilas and his family before his fall. Their friendship continued thereafter. This friendship led her to help Djilas publish magazine articles and two seminal books, “La nouvelle classe” and “Terre sans justice”, in the West. These are among the earliest works from behind the Iron Curtain revealing the failures of communism. Clark helped translate these works into English, smuggled them out of Yugoslavia, and found publishers for them.

Gregorio’s story is factual, but it reads like a John le Carré or Alan Furst spy thriller. Gregorio takes readers into the forgotten world of 1950s communism. She shows how Clark and her husband worked through the cracks of the communist system and evaded the secret police to cover up stories and get Djilas’ documents to the free world. . Gregorio also shows the challenges Clark faced as a journalist in the then male-dominated news industry.

“The Double Life of Katharine Clark” is an exciting read. He recovers Katherine Clark from ill-deserved obscurity. Clark was Gregorio’s great-aunt, which gave Gregorio access to Clark’s family lore and archives. Gregorio combined this with extensive research into the period. The result is a story that holds particular relevance today, when so many are enamored with socialism, forgetting the lessons of the past about its flaws.

“The Double Life of Katharine Clark: The Untold Story of the American Journalist Who Brought the Truth About Communism to the West” by Katharine Gregorio (Sourcebooks, March 2022).

This article originally appeared in American Essence magazine.

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