Thursday, August 14, 2014

New Books on Polish American Topics

Letters from Readers in the Polish American Press, 1902-1969: A Corner for Everybody (Lexington Books, 2014). Edited by Anna D. Jaroszyńska-Kirchmann; Translated by Theodore L. Zawistowski and Anna D. Jaroszyńska- Kirchmann

 Polish Americans formed one of the largest European immigrant groups in the United States and their community developed a vibrant Polish-language press, which tied together networks of readers in the entire Polish immigrant Diaspora. Newspaper editors encouraged their readers to write to the press and provided them with public space to exchange their views and opinions, and share thoughts and reflections. Ameryka-Echo, a weekly published from Toledo, Ohio, was one of the most popular and long-lasting newspapers with international circulation.

For seven decades, Ameryka-Echo sustained a number of sections based on readers’ correspondence, but the most popular of them was a “Corner for Everybody,” which featured thousands of letters on a variety of topics. Letters from Readers in the Polish American Press, 1902–1969 is a unique collection of close to five hundred letters from Polish American readers, which were published in Ameryka-Echo between 1902 and 1969. In these letters, Polish immigrants speak in their own words about their American experience, and vigorously debate religion, organization of their community, ethnic identity, American politics and society, and ties to the homeland. The translated letters are annotated and divided into thematic chapters with informative introductions. The Ameryka-Echo letters are a rich source of information on the history of Polish Americans, which can serve as primary sources for students and scholars.

Smokey Joe and the General, a New Book by Ambassador Rowny

Rich with historical facts and fascinating photos, Smokey Joe & the General (Create Space, 2013, ISBN 978-1493538423) is a combination of Ambassador Rowny’s autobiography and the biography of his first Army boss, John Elliott Wood, known as “Smokey Joe” - who was the best trainer and innovator in the Army. Many of his training techniques and “out of the box” ideas were widely adopted as doctrine. …. For two decades, General Wood closely managed Rowny’s career seeing to it that he received plum assignments and became the first Army officer in his class to be promoted to the general officer rank. Rowny writes about his training under Colonel Wood prior to World War II and his service under him in Liberia and combat in Italy during the war. He then tells the story of his service in Korea where he served as General Douglas MacArthur’s official spokesman and was one of the planners of the spectacularly successful invasion of Inchon. Rowny built the bridge across the Han for President Syngman Rhee’s triumphant reentry into Seoul. He subsequently dropped an air bridge to rescue soldiers and Marines surrounded by the Chinese, permitting their successful escape.

He was in charge of the evacuation of Hungnam and assisted in operation “Christmas Cargo” Rowny led the Advanced Concept Team in Vietnam (ACTIV) to develop new techniques of using armed helicopters in combat. The armed helicopter later played decisive roles in the Gulf Wars and Afghanistan. After serving six years as military representative to the Strategic Arms limitations treaty negotiations, Rowny resigned in protest over President Carter’s signing the unequal and unverifiable SALT II Treaty. During President Reagan’s first term Rowny was Chief Negotiator of the START Treaty. During the President’s second term he was Special Adviser to the president for Arms Control. President Reagan awarded Rowny the President’s Citizen’s Medal citing him as one of the chief architects of Peace through Strength. Throughout these periods of service Rowny continued to be inspired by Wood’s far reaching ideas and his examples of physical and moral courage.

Poles Apart: The Tragic Fate of Poles During World War II by Jerzy J. Maciuszko with the assistance of Kathleen L. Maciuszko (Thought Works, Ltd., 2013)

This is a fascinating literary hybrid that combines the author’s autobiography with short biographies of his family and friends. What links all these narratives together is their historical significance as eyewitness accounts of the Polish story during World War II and in its aftermath. Jerzy J. Maciuszko, a native of Warsaw, Poland and a 1936 graduate of its University, represents thousands of young men who were drafted in late summer of 1939, fought valiantly in September against the overwhelming forces of the German invasion and were eventually captured by the German forces. Maciuszko’s detailed account of his five-and-a half years as a prisoner-of-war in several German camps is both moving and instructive as it focuses on human reactions in extreme situations.

The author’s story after the war is no less interesting as the reader follows him to London where he worked for the British Ministry of Education, and finally to the United States where he became a prominent representative of the Polish post-war émigrés. Maciuszko also records other eyewitness accounts shared with him by his family and close friends. Thus we learn the moving story of his brother’s suffering in Siberia, his mother’s involvement in the Warsaw Rising and probably the most striking story of Józef Stańczak, his parents and siblings who found themselves deported by the Soviets to Siberia. Stańczak, through Maciuszko, tells the readers of his harrowing journey east in the cattle cars, of the Siberian ordeal and then of his slow return west through Persia and Africa. After the war and after emigrating to the United States, Stańczak became known as the father of the op-art movement. Maciuszko’s book is populated with dozens of characters, some famous like Stańczak, and others just ordinary people who found themselves in extraordinary circumstances, and it is worth knowing all their stories.Jerzy J. Maciuszko died in 2011 after finishing most of the manuscript. Poles Apart is available on

~ Reviewed by Grażyna J. Kozaczka

The Polish Experience through World War II (Lexington Books, 2013),by Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm

 This volume explores Polish history through the lives of people touched by the war. The poignant and terrible experiences of these people are laid bare by first-hand accounts, including the hardships of deportation and concentration and refugee camps, as well as the price paid by the officers killed or taken as prisoners during WWII and the families they left behind. Ziolkowska-Boehm reveals the difficulties of these women and children when, having lost their husbands and fathers, they are exiled in Siberia, Persia, India, and then Africa, New Zealand, or Mexico. Ziolkowska-Boehm recounts the experiences of individuals who lived through this tumultuous period in history through personal interviews, letters, and other surviving documents. The stories include Krasicki, a military pilot who was one of 22,000 Polish officers killed in Katyń; the saga of the Wartanowicz family, a wealthy and influential clan whose story begins well before the war; and Wanda Ossowska, a Polish nurse in Auschwitz and other German prison camps. Placed squarely in historical context, these incredible stories reveal the experiences of the Polish people up through the second World War.

Polish Hero Roman Rodziewicz: Fate of a Hubal Soldier in Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Postwar England (Lexington Books, 2013) by Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm 

This volume traces the remarkable and tragic tale of Roman Rodziewicz, a true Polish hero of the Second World War. Roman’s childhood was spent in Manchuria where his father, first deported to Siberia, later worked as an engineer for a Chinese company. After the return to Poland, and prior to the German invasion of Poland, Roman attended military school at the Suwalki Cavalry Brigade. The brave anti-German activities of the Hubal partisans beckoned Roman and he joined them. About eight months later Major Hubal was killed. Rodziewicz escaped and joined the underground as an officer fighting the German occupation forces. Captured and tortured, he was imprisoned in Auschwitz and later Buchenwald. After the liberation, he joined the Polish army in Italy and at the end of World War II he settled in England, where he has lived and reached the age of 100 years in January 2013. The volume explores the incredible story of one Polish soldier of World War II, and provides an illuminating contribution to the historical record of the period.,

Melchior Wańkowicz: Poland’s Master of the Written Word (Lexington Books , 2013)  by Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm.  

This study examines the life and writing of famous Polish writer Melchior Wańkowicz, author of legendary work The Battle of Monte Cassino. Acclaimed by his readers and critics alike, Wańkowicz was famous for creating his theory of reportage, i.e. the “mosaic method” where the events of many people were implanted into the life of one person. Wańkowicz put into words the beautiful, tragic and heroic events of Polish history that provided a form of sustenance for a people that thrive on patriotism and love of their country. His books shaped national consciousness, glorified the heroism of the Polish soldier. Later in his life, Wańkowicz personally set an example by standing up to the Communist party that brought him to trial for his work. In this book, Ziolkowska-Boehm offers a critical examination of Wańkowicz’s work informed by her experiences as his private secretary. Her access to the author’s personal archives shed new light on the life and work of the man considered by many to be “the father of Polish reportage.” or

Dr. Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm is an independent scholar, author of many books, and recipient of numerous literary awards, including a fellowship in literature from the Delaware Divisions of Arts and a Fulbright scholarship.

New Sienkiewicz Translations by Peter Obst

 Various works of Henryk Sienkiewicz have been translated into English, at different times by different translators. The latest offering is “Henryk Sienkiewicz: Three Stories.” This very short collection presents three humorous stories by Sienkiewicz which have been nearly forgotten: “A Comedy of Errors” (based on small town life in the American West), “The Authoresses” (a sketch about children, not for children) and “The Third One” (a romantic comedy). Translator/writer Peter Obst has breathed new life into these lively tales and rendered them in an accessible and modern form for English speaking readers. For those who would like to sample the wit and humor of Poland’s most famous writer will be delighted by these stories, as they are world away from the somber reality and melodrama of the better known “The Lighthouse Keeper,” “Janko Musician,” and “For Bread.” The book, published by Wildside Press (with Jacek Malczewski’s painting “Vicious Circle” on the cover) is available from

Slicing the Bread, Children’s Survival Manual in 25 Poems by Maja Trochimczyk ISSN 978-1-62229-687-3 forthcoming on October 25, 2014

This unique poetry collection revisits the dark days of World War II and the post-war occupation of Poland by the Soviet Union that “liberated” the country from one foreign oppression to replace it with another. The point of view is that of children, raised by survivors, scarred by war, wary of politics. Children experienced the hunger and cold, witnessed the killings, saw the darkening blood spilled on the snow and hands stretching from locked boxcar windows. Some heardthe voices of murdered Jews like “bees in the breeze,” others learned never to throw any food away, because “war is hunger.”

 The poems, each inspired by a single object giving rise to memories like Proust’s madeleine (a spoon, a coat, the smell of incense), are divided into three sections, starting with snapshots of World War II in the Polish Borderlands (Kresy) and in central Poland. Reflections onthe Germans’ brutalkillings of Jews and Poles are followed by insights into the way the long shadow of THE war darkened a childhood spent behind the Iron Curtain. For poet Georgia Jones Davis, this book, “brings the experience of war into shocking, immediate focus” through Trochimczyk’s use of “her weapon: Language at its most precise and lyrical, understated and piercingly visual.” According to Pulitzer-Prize nominated poet John Guzlowski, Maja’s “poems about what the Poles suffered both during World War II and The Cold War afterwards are written with the clarity of truth and the fullness of poetry… Here are the stories of how the people she loved experienced hunger and suffering and terror so strong that it defined them and taught her, and teach us, the meaning of family.”

A fellow Polish-American poet, Linda Nemec Foster praises the “unwavering honesty” and “stark imagery” of Trochimczyk’s poetry that “bear witness to the hate that destroys, to the truth that restores, and to the poetic vision that honors our common humanity.” The Tieferet Prize winner and Poets-Café host Lois P. Jones points out the “vivid and heartbreaking detail” of poems that “will move you to appreciate the simple privileges and necessities of life.” As Jones wisely observes “It is the duty of the poet to convey story, but it is the art of the poet who can transform our often cruel and brutal history and affect forever, the way we look and listen to the world.” Poet Sharon Chmielarz concurs: “You will remember the taste of this book.”

 To pre-order a copy visit:

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