Biography Of Author/Translator
Kazimiera J. (Jean) Cottam, PhD
Born in Poland in 1930, I spent six years in involuntary exile in the Soviet Union (1940-1946). While in that country, I was not at all aware of Soviet women's contribution to the victory at the front. After my arrival in Canada, in 1949 I graduated from the Montreal High School. While attending Sir George Williams University in Montreal, I was nominated for the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. I was not awarded this fellowship, even though I qualified as SGWU's highest graduating student in Arts (1964). After obtaining my PhD (1971) from the University of Toronto, the sole female PhD candidate in Russian and East European history at the time, I was awarded the Kosciuszko Foundation Prize for my dissertation (1972) on a subject completely unrelated to my current writing.
However, the following year I secured a middle-level public service position at the National Defense Headquarters in Ottawa, which subscribed to a number of Soviet periodicals, and it was from these periodicals that I learned about Soviet women's impressive contribution to WWII effort at the front. Concurrently, I was invited to become a Research Associate of the Summer Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which facilitated my new research. During my brief employment at the Canadian Embassy in Moscow in 1988, I established a basis for pursuing pertinent research directly in the USSR. Finally, in 1989 and 1990 I again traveled to Moscow, where in 1989 I met with several Soviet women veterans as well as encountering a larger number of these veterans during their 1990 reunion with a visiting group of the American Women Airforce Service pilots of WWII (WASP). In 1991-1992 I taught an undergraduate course in Russian history at the University of Ottawa in addition to my public service position.
Following my retirement from this position, I contributed twenty items to the upcoming Military Women Worldwide: A Biographical Dictionary edited by Reina Pennington, as well as working under contract for my former employer. I am a recipient of the prestigious 1999 Zirin Prize sponsored by the Association for Women in Slavic Studies, granted to me for my ground-breaking studies on Soviet women who fought and flew during World War II. I believe that the unique story of Soviet women in combat in WWII had been largely ignored or misrepresented and it was high time to tell it as accurately as possible for the benefit of both academic and general readers. As an expert military translator and author who had been researching the subject for over twenty years, I believe that I was uniquely qualified to undertake the difficult yet rewarding task of writing, publishing and promoting my latest four books featured on this Web site.