Monday, July 1, 2013

Who was Tadeusz Wittlin? An Introduction by Peter Obst

Wittlin in Anders' Army, 1942
Tadeusz Wittlin (1909-1998) is probably one of the least known Polish writers who have had an outstanding career in the United States. Born in 1909, he attended the University of Warsaw earning separate masters degrees in law (1932) and the arts(1933). Soon he gave up the practice of law in favor of a position as an editor on the staff of a satirical magazine, Cyrulik Warszawski (Warsaw Barber). By then he had already published volume of poetry and a novel. When World War II began in 1939 he joined the Polish armed forces and soon found himself in Russian captivity. 

Freed under an agreement worked out by Gen. Sikorski when Germany turned on its former Soviet ally, Wittlin travelled across Russia to join the Polish Army being formed at Buzuluk in the Southern Ural Mountains.He served as a Public Relations Officer and an editor of Parada, a news magazine published for the Polish Armed Forces. After the war he briefly worked in Paris before emigrating to the United States where initially he was a translator and writer for Radio Free Europe and Voice of America. In 1959, he became editor at the United States Information agency’s Polish language publication Ameryka which enjoyed a large circulation in Poland. In 1961 he brought Genia Galewska, his pre-war fiancée,to the United States from Poland an they were married in Washington, DC.

Wittlin and wife in Washington, D.C., 1958

Wittlin published 16 books that include Time Stopped at 6:30 (about Katyn), Commissar: The Life and Death of Lavrenty Pavlovich Beria, and a set of sketches about his time in Russia, entitled A Reluctant Traveler in Russia

His last book was Szabla i Kon (The Saber and the Horse), a biography of Gen. Boleslaw Wieniawa-Dlugoszowski in which he included some of his own experiences from the inter-war period in Poland. He died in 1998,followed by his wife Genia in 2012.During their time in Washington, D.C., they kept an open house for Polish writers, artists and intellectuals. 

Among photographs and papers that were left as a part of his archive is a fascinating study of the passing of the Beat Generation in the early 1960s. This book was at first entitled Tales from the White Horse Tavern and later renamed Left Bank, New York. It still awaits publication. 

Additional information about Tadeusz Wittlin may be found at:


Reprinted from PAHA Newsletter, vol. 69, no. 1 (Spring 2012)

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