Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Books on Polish and Polish American Subjects at Book Expo America in Chicago, May 2016

Polish American titles will be represented  at the Book Expo America (BEA) and BookCon Chicago (May 11 -14, 2016), which is the largest book show in the US. It will be held in Chicago this year in mid-May, and Poland is the featured country. The Poland exhibit is being managed by the Book Institute in Krakow and the Polish Cultural Institute in NYC, in collaboration with Aquila Polonica, a publisher of books on WWII experience in Poland and beyond.
Aquila Polonica's Terry Tegnazian  was asked to organize a “Books in English” section within the Poland exhibit. Thedisplay includes a generous selection of fiction and non-fiction books on Polish history published by Aquila Polonica, as well as poetry collections by John Z. Guzlowski's Echoes of Tattered Tongues (Aquila Polonica, 2016), Maja Trochimczyk's Slicing the Bread (Finishing Line Press, 2014), Trochimczyk's Chopin with Cherries anthology (Moonrise Press, 2010), Cecilia Woloch (Carpathia), Oriana Ivy (April Snow), Stuart Dybek (I Sailed with Magellan), and Linda Nemec Foster (Amber Necklace from Gdansk).

John Z. Guzlowski's Echoes of Tattered Tongues 

 Published by Aquila Polonica in March 2016, this critically acclaimed books has already attracted many positive critical responses. Foreword Reviews, one of the leading publishing industry trade media, chose Echoes of Tattered Tongues: Memory Unfolded, as one of only six books to highlight in its Poetry Feature in the Spring 2016 issue.

 Maja Trochimczyk wrote in Cosmopolitan Review:  “Some books take a lifetime to write, yet they can be read in one sleepless night, filled with tears of compassion and a heaviness of heart. John Z. Guzlowski’s book of poetic memoirs is exactly such a book: an unforgettable, painful personal history, distilling the horrors of his parents’ experiences in German labor and concentration camps into transcendent artwork of lucid beauty.” (January 2016)


The publisher writes: "In this major tour de force, John Guzlowski traces the arc of one of the millions of immigrant families of America, in this case, survivors of the maelstrom of World War II.  Raw, eloquent, nuanced, intimate—Guzlowski illuminates the many faces of war, the toll it takes on innocent civilians, and the ways in which the trauma echoes down through generations. His narrative structure mirrors the fractured dislocation experienced by war refugees. Through a haunting collage of jagged fragments—poems, prose and prose poems, frozen moments of time, sometimes dreamlike and surreal, other times realistic and graphic—Guzlowski weaves a powerful story with impacts at levels both obvious and subtle. The result is a deeper, more visceral understanding than could have been achieved through descriptive narrative alone."

"This is the story of Guzlowski’s family: his mother and father, survivors of the war, taken as slave laborers by the Germans; his sister and he, born soon after the war in Displaced Persons camps in Germany; the family’s first days in America, and later their neighbors in America, some dysfunctional and lost, some mean, some caring and kind; and the relationships between and among them all. As Guzlowski unspools the story backwards through time, he seduces us into taking the journey with him. Along the way, the transformative power of the creative process becomes apparent. Guzlowski’s writing helps him uncouple from the trauma of the past, and at the same time provides a pathway for acceptance and reconciliation with his parents. Ultimately, then, this is a story of healing."

"Because America is a land of immigrants with myriad and varied pasts, Guzlowski’s story may reflect pieces of your own family’s history, though details will of course differ. Something similar may also be the hidden story of one of your friends, or a colleague at work, or the sales clerk or waiter who serves you one day…or even, like Guzlowski, your professor of English literature"
Visit Echoes of Tattered Tongues: Memory Unfolded website:

Visit the Aquila Polonica Schedule of Events at BEA 2016:


Maja Trochimczyk edited Chopin with Cherries to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Chopin, and a number of Polish-American and American poets contributed their verse to celebrate the great composer, known very well on both sides of the ocean and around the world.

Chopin with Cherries: A Tribute in Verse 
edited by Maja Trochimczyk

This volume celebrates the 200th birth anniversary of Polish pianist-composer, Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849). Ninety-one poets are represented here; they live in the U.S., England, France, Mexico, the Philippines and Poland - with family roots in Poland, Australia, China, France, India, Italy, Malta, Mexico, the Philippines, Serbia, and other countries. The anthology includes more than 122 poems in English, and one important Polish poem, Cyprian Kamil Norwid's Fortepian Szopena, in a new English translation by Leonard Kress (this is the first English translation of Norwid's masterpiece, considered too difficult even by the translator of his entire oeuvre, Adam Czerniawski). English-language classics include verse by T. S. Elliot, Emma Lazarus and Amy Lowell.

Chopin is heard everywhere: in a Parisian church (Rick Lupert), on the plains of North Dakota (Thom Tamarro), in Ohio (Donna L. Emerson), in his birthplace in Zelazowa Wola (Margaret C. Szumowski), and on the radio (Ryan McLellan). Marian Shapiro considers the meaning of Chopin's art "as if each measure were a casual ripple in a spring stream of melting centuries." Australian-born poet Katrin Talbot envisions Chopin's music as an accusation for our failures:"'Why didn't you . . . ? Why did you . . . ?'" John Guzlowski writes about Chopin's music replacing traumatic memories of "the hollow surge and dust of German tanks" ("A Good Death"). Ruth Nolan hears Chopin in the desert, "between the spaces of darkness and sound, blown across the sand dunes into magnificence." Poets fondly remember playing or listening to the music associated with their childhood, evoking moments of happiness and feelings of nostalgia or loss (Trochimczyk's "A Study with Cherries" that gave rise to the title of the collection).

"The book's striking title brings the reader to Trochimczyk's own poem, "A Study with Cherries," where the musical motifs of one of Chopin's etudes transport the poet across space and time to the cherry orchard of her grandparents in Poland and offer her peace and fulfillment.... In Chopin with Cherries: A Tribute in Verse, just a glance at the chapter headings identifies the poetic interests in Chopin. Thus poets find inspiration in a particular musical genre such as waltzes, mazurkas, or nocturnes; they become fascinated by Chopin's life, illness, and death, and his relationship to George Sand; and, finally, they explore their own emotional responses to hearing or playing Chopin's music...." (From a review by Prof. Grazyna Kozaczka, The Polish Review, vol. 58 no. 4 (Winter 2013): 109).

"For those who have been moved by the music of Fryderyk Chopin, this new international anthology will be a treat... One breathtaking aspect of the anthology is the diversity of voices, both stylistically and geographically... [Among] the striking aspects of the anthology is the way in which the editor, Polish born Maja Trochimczyk, arranges the various sections, not only by musical forms, but also into sections like beauty and death, words that often come to mind when considering Chopin's life, his passions and his early demise." Christopher Woods in Contemporary World Literature no. 5 (February 2011).

For more information, visit Moonrise Press's site: http://www.moonrisepress.com/chopin.html

Slicing the Bread: Children's Survival Manual 
by Maja Trochimczyk

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 heard the 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 central Poland. Reflections on the Germans’ brutal killing 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.” The Tieferet Prize winner and Poets-Café host Lois P. Jones points out that “Maja brings the Warsaw of her youth and that of her ancestors into vivid and heartbreaking detail. These are words that will move you to appreciate the simple privileges and necessities of life. Slicing the Bread is a feast in our universal and ever present famine.” 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.”

Historical marker of a Nazi massacre of civilian Poles, by Maja Trochimczyk


 The Books in English section of BEA "Poland" display will show more than 100 books in English about Poland—including works of fiction, history, cookery, music, and much more—by a variety of publishers and authors. In addition to books of poetry by Guzlowski, Trochimczyk, as well as by Cecilia Woloch, Stuart Dybek, Oriana Ivy, and Linda Nemec Foster,  there are stories and novels by Maria Pilatowicz (Walking on Ice), Stuart Dybek, John Minczeski, Krysia Jopek, Leslie Pietrzyk, and James Mitchener. The memoirs include the Color of Courage by Julian Kulski.

The Color of Courage by Julian Kulski 

Aquila Polonica presented also the Color of Courage: A Boy at War: The World War II Diary of Julian Kulski (2014). This remarkable diary of a boy at war from ages 10 to 16 presents the thoughts, ideals, and actions of a young boy in occupied Poland. As the war unfolds through his eyes, we are privileged to meet a rare soul of indomitable will, courage and compassion. Kulski, the son of the Deputy Mayor of Warsaw, is a 10-year-old Boy Scout when the Germans invade Poland in September 1939. He soon begins waging his own private war against the Germans with small acts of sabotage.

At age 12, Kulski is recruited into the clandestine Underground Army by his Scoutmaster and begins training in military tactics and weapons handling. At 13, he accompanies his commander on a secret mission into the Warsaw Ghetto to liaise with leaders of the Jewish Resistance. Arrested by the Gestapo at age 14, Kulski is incarcerated in the notorious Pawiak Prison, beaten, interrogated at Gestapo headquarters, and sentenced to Auschwitz. After being rescued, he joins the Ninth Commando Company of the Underground Army, and at age 15 fights in the Warsaw Uprising of 1944. Taken prisoner by the Germans, 16-year-old Kulski ends the war in a POW camp, finally risking a dash for freedom onto an American truck instead of waiting for "liberation" by the Soviets.

Read more about this book: http://www.polandww2.com/color-of-courage/color-of-courage-about-the-book

My Sister's Mother by Donna Urbikas   

Donna Solecka Urbikas grew up in the Midwest during the golden years of the American century. But her Polish-born mother and half-sister endured dehumanizing conditions during World War II as slave laborers in Siberia. War and exile created a profound bond between mother and older daughter, one that Donna would struggle to find with either of them. At four o’clock in the morning on February 10, 1940, Janina Ślarzynska and her five-year-old daughter, Mira, were taken by Soviet secret police from their small family farm in eastern Poland and sent to Siberia with hundreds of thousands of others. So began their odyssey of hunger, disease, cunning survival, desperate escape across a continent, and new love amidst terrible circumstances.  After the war, Mira, Janina and her new husband—a Polish Army officer who had helped them escape the Soviet Union—are haunted by the past. Baby boomer Donna, born in post-war England and growing up in 1950s Chicago, yearns for a “normal” American family. In this unforgettable memoir, Donna recounts her family history and her own survivor’s story, finally understanding the damaged mother who had saved her sister.

The book has been described as “a gripping study of family dynamics, this is also a must-read for World War II history buffs” by Leonard Kniffel (author of A Polish Son in the Motherland) and “an unprecedented saga of a loving mother and her two daughters raised years and oceans apart . . .A unique perspective on the tragic deportation of Poles to Siberia” by Wesley Adamczyk (author of When God Looked the Other Way).  Allen Paul concluded: “. Her book is a primer for all who seek to understand the harrowing journey of the Poles during this fateful period."  Events are planned at the Kosciuszko Foundation on May 7 and at the Polish Museum of America in Chicago on May 22. More information www.danutaurbikas.com.

The catalogue of all books in English on display at BEA is found on Aquila Polonica website: 



Non-fiction and memoirs by Polish-American authors include Across the Atlantic: The Adamowicz Brothers, Polish Aviation Pioneers by Zofia Reklewska Braun and Kazimierz Braun (Moonrise Press, 2015). Among memoirs are Memoirs of Helena Paderewska edited by Maciej Siekierski, and memoirs about WWII traumatic experiences of their mothers by Donna Urbikas and Barbara Rylko Bauer.
Other books include titles on Polish history, such as Alex Storozynski's Kosciuszko,  Polish American history (Anna Jaroszynska Kirchman's The Polish Hearst), the two-volume collection of studies edited by Anna Mazurkiewicz, East Central Europe in Exile, as well as books on politics, sociology, literature and music. The latter consists of a whole series of titles published by the Polish Music Center at USC, two books published by Marek Zebrowski, both about Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Chopin and Paderewski, and Paderewski in California, and William Smialek's and Maja Trochimczyk's The Frederic Chopin: A Research and Information Guide (Routledge 2015) is also on display. 

Geraldine Prusko's Journey to Polonia 

(by Grazyna Kozaczka)

Journey to Polonia, Book One: The Polish Americans (Indianapolis: Dog Ear Publishing, 2015), Geraldine Prusko’s debut novel, takes on an ambitious topic of the epic journey of thousands of Polish peasants from the reality of poverty and persecution in the partitioned Poland of the late 1800s to the dream of prosperity and freedom in the United States. The information on the book cover suggests that Prusko’s own family stories of emigration from Poland inspired this novel, which the author promises to be the first one in a series.

The narrative begins in 1965 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with a dramatic scene of a sexual assault on a teenage girl returning home from school on a dark winter afternoon. As in many similar situations, the rapist is known to Olivia Medjeski – he is a cousin. And as in many similar situations at the time, Olivia is urged by the women in her family, by her mother and her grandmother, to just forget what happened to her, to keep quiet so she would not be blamed for the attack and further victimized by the community.

Yet how can this high school senior deal with the feelings of fear, disgust, guilt, and shame, while keeping it all to herself? Her mother suggests a way to begin the healing process: Olivia should investigate the history of her family, a family of Polish immigrants who settled in Milwaukee in the 1890s. For Olivia, the past creates a badly needed distraction and allows her to learn about some extraordinary women who endured many hardships as they kept their families together and continued Polish traditions in the new land.

Olivia’s investigation provides the framework for Prusko’s plot, constructed of separate stories chronicling the journey to America of Olivia’s four sets of great-grandparents. At first the reader gets to know Olivia’s ancestors within their original Polish setting. For the most part, they are all peasants although some of them managed to gain some education. Through their stories, Prusko investigates different reasons for peasant emigration and with great sensitivity shows the trauma of emigration: the leaving behind of all that was familiar and loved to venture into the frightening unknown. Some of the best, but also most disturbing, chapters of Journey to Polonia deal with the journey itself, from Polish villages by horse-drawn carts and trains, through Prussian ports and finally the ocean crossing in steerage to reach the port of New York.

Journey to Polonia is a chapter in the Polish American narrative albeit a family one. However, in the future editions of this novel, the author should consider changing the map insert to include an accurate representation of the partitions of Poland: Krakow was not a part of the Russian Empire. Likewise, it might be helpful to readers unfamiliar with Polish history to include precise information about the partitions.


NOTE: Items about books by John Guzlowski, Donna Urbikas and Geraldine Prusko are reprinted from PAHA Newsletter Vol. 73 No. 1, April 2016.

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