Piotr Wandycz was born in Cracow, Poland on September 20, 1923. When the Soviet Union invaded Poland in 1939, he left the country with his family, eventually reaching France in the spring of 1940. Living in the unoccupied zone, he graduated from the Lycée Polonais in Villard de Lans and then attended the University of Grenoble receiving a Certificat d’Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine. In 1942 he succeeded in reaching Great Britain where he was commissioned as second lieutenant in the Polish army and where he remained until 1945.
After the war, Wandycz was admitted to Cambridge University where he received a B.A. in history in 1945 and an M.A. thereafter. He pursued his studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science and was granted a Ph.D. in 1951 on the thesis “Liberal Internationalism: The Contribution of British and French Liberal Thought to the Theory of International Relations.” During this time he completed one year at the College d’Europe in Bruges, Belgium.
Wandycz emigrated to the United States in December of 1951 (naturalized in 1960) and began his academic career teaching the history of East Central Europe at Indiana University in Bloomington (1954-1966) and then at Yale (1966-97) as associate professor, professor, and Bradford Durefee Professor. His administrative duties included working for the Director of Graduate Studies in the History Department and serving as Chairman of the Russian and East European Council and Director of the Language and Area Center (one of ten in the U.S.).
From 1063 to 1965, while on leave from Indiana University, he held a fellowship at the Center of Russian and East European Studies at Harvard. During the semesters of 1960, 1967, and 1975, he taught at Columbia University as visiting professor. He also lectured at the Central European University in Budapest and the University of Goteborg. He was named a visiting scholar at the Rockefeller Foundation Center at Villa Bellagio (1975), Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen in Vienna (1993), Geisteswissenschaftliches Zentrum für Geschichte und Kultur Ostmitteleuropas in Leipzing (1997), and guest scholar of Z. Zaleski Foundation in Warsaw (2000).
Wandycz read papers at conferences and gave lectures in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Ukraine, and the United States. Elected to both Polish Academies of P.A.U. in Krakόw and P.A.N. in Warsaw, he was also named an honorary member of the Polish Historical Society (PTH) and of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies (AAASS). From 1990-2008 he served as President of the Polish Institute of America and was on the executive board of the Piłsudski Institute in New York and several institutes in Poland. He was also named a fellow of Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences.
The editorial and advisory boards on which he served includes Acta Poloniae Historica, International History Review, Polin, Kosmas, Slavic Review, Polish Review, Przegląd Wschodni and the series Polskie Dokumenty Dyplomatyczne (Warsaw).
Wandycz authored and co-authored 20 books and around 500 articles and reviews. The major works include France and her Eastern Allies (Minneapolis, 1962) and The Twilight of French Eastern Alliances (both awarded the G.L. Beer Prize of AHA and the Vucinich Prize of AAASS); Soviet-Polish Relations (Harvard, 1969); The Lands of Partitioned Poland (Seattle, 1970), which is also available in Polish; The United States and Poland (Harvard, 1 980); and The Price of Freedom (London, 1992), which was translated into Italian, Polish, Lithuanian, Czech, Hungarian, Bulgarian, and Ukrainian.
Wandycz was a recipient of numbers grants, fellowships, medals and awards, to include IREX AAASS, Guggenheim, the Hlávka medal of the Czechoslovak Academy of Science and of the city of Krakόw. He was presented with four Festschrifts (three in Poland and one in the U.S.). The universities of Wrocław, Jagiellonian, KUL (Catholic University), and the Sorbonne-Paris bestowed on his doctorate honoris causa.
In 2013 the president of Poland awarded him the Commander’s Cross with the Star of Polonia Restituta. He is listed in Who’s Who in America, the Directory of American Scholars, Polonia Slownik Biograficzny, Honorowa Księga Nauki Poskiej, and Złota Księga Nauk Humanistycznych, among others.