Thursday, March 15, 2018

WWII Memoir by Jurkowski & Wright and A Surprising Discovery By Kossakowska

Between the Swastika and the Bear by Jurkowski and Wright

Between the Swastika and the Bear - A Polish Memoir 1925 - 1948 
by Andrew Jurkowski and Lisa Wright 
Cave Art Press in Anacortes, Washington, 2017

Between the Swastika and the Bear is a compelling memoir about a young man’s survival of the Nazi and Russian occupations of Poland. Born in 1925, Andrew Jurkowski enjoyed a peaceful boyhood on his grandfather’s farm in western Poland until the Nazi invasion of 1939. For the next six years, he and his family endured the occupation, determined not only to survive but to fight back with small acts of defiance until Germany was defeated.

Instead of bringing relief, the end of the war brought new dangers as Poland was taken over by Russian-led Communists. Andrew, then a young man of twenty, was sentenced to a labor camp. He was forced to choose between death and a dangerous escape to the West. This book is Andrew Jurkowski’s account of his experiences in the vanished world of rural Poland before, during, and after World War II.

Please direct your request for a complimentary copy of Between the Swastika and the Bear - A Polish Memoir 1925 - 1948 by Andrew Jurkowski and Lisa Wright to:

Kathleen Kaska, Marketing Director, Cave Art Press
13589 Clayton Lane, Anacortes, WA 98221

Please note that complimentary copies are only available for reviews to be published or for bookstores to preview the book before stocking. 

A Surprising Discovery - Love Letters of Wacław Kossakowski
An Update by Irena Kossakowski-Clarke

I am the author of A Homeland Denied, the story of my Dad, Wacław Kossakowski, a student of maths and astronomy at Warsaw University in 1939,  before he was transported to a Siberian labour camp.
The book of his incredible journey was published last year. To my amazement, I received an email from a lady in Warsaw a few weeks ago. This lady had bought the book for her Mother, Regina now 98. It was translated over several months by the grandson as only he could understand English and through him they emailed me.

It transpires that to their astonishment, the book is about the childhood sweetheart of Regina, my Dad Wacław. They had grown up together in the small village of Kapice near Białystok; they attended the same village school and became extremely close. Aged 11, Dad gained a scholarship for a prestigious boarding school in Suwałki, but they saw each other when he was home for the holidays and later did correspond frequently.  When he was 17, he was accepted into Warsaw University and they continued to write letters. In  September 1939 when Germany attacked Poland and the war began, Dad joined the army cadets but was taken prisoner by the Russians just two weeks later when Russia invaded Poland.

There are 20 letters in all, several of six pages.  All  were written in neat handwriting and are kept with their envelopes. The last  three letters were sent from the internment camp in Ukmerga, Lithuania where Dad was a prisoner for several months before being transported to Siberia. They  reek of propaganda, but are also poignantly sad and despairing, yet full  of hope. He desperately wanted to hear news of his family and was unsure of what would happen and where he would have been going.

The letters tell a story of a love that was destroyed by the war and yet was never forgotten. He was a young student, 17 years of age; the last letter was written when he was 19 years old, just weeks before deportation to Siberia. Sadly he was unable to receive any letters from Regina though she wrote constantly over the years. They both presumed each other dead.

After leaving Siberia with the 2nd Army Corps commanded by General Anders, Mr. Kossakowski served in the Middle East and participated in the battle of Monte Cassino. He was assigned to the1st artillery survey regiment, topography  division. Unable to return home after WWII ended, for fear of imprisonment or even death, he came to England and met my Mother (Irene Clarke, born 12 March 1921, died  in 1990), whom he married in 1950. They had three children.

Meanwhile, in Poland, Regina also married. At this time, there was a strict censorship of communication with the West, under the communist government in Poland and Dad did not receive any news of his family until 1959. For twenty years after the start of the war, he and they had been thought dead. Of Regina there was no news.

Dad died two years ago just before the publication of the book and sadly does not know of these letters being kept safely all this time. I hope to have them all translated and published as a book. Dad was born on May 19, 1919 and died on August 12, 2016.

A poem by my Dad was included in the last letter he wrote to Regina, from the internment camp Ukmerga, Lithuania. 1940, weeks, written before he was transported to gulag in Siberia.  This poem is reproduced below,  translated from the Polish by Stella Overall.

                                                                                                    ~ Irena Kossakowski-Clarke

Lost in thought

When I am away from you and I contemplate loneliness

I recall all the past moments and hours
One image of the past I repeat for the hundredth time 
As this is the only thing that I  have left

I remember each moment spent with you 

I remember each word you said to me
How these moments quickly flew away 
The moments of no return

Now, when I am here and I have to spend my time here

Lonely, I drink the tear wept with sadness
Now, I live of my memories and keepsakes
I want to feed my soul with these. 

I feel a miss-you kind of ecstasy when I remember 

Oh, will I remember it in future the same way I do now that I am young?
Oh my dear, you will not give me the reason to forget
I beg you -I swear!

Wacław Kossakowski
Translated by Stella Overall

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Easter Workshop at the Pilsudski Institute and Our Favorite Things

  palmy_wielkanocne 4
Easter Workshop at the Pilsudski Institute 

On March 24, at 3 p.m. the Pilsudski Institute of America invites all children with parents to an Easter Art Workshop dedicated to making Easter Palms.  Under the guidance of Jola Szczepkowska the workshop's participants will make their own, traditional Easter Palms used in liturgy on Palm Sunday (a week before Easter), and as Easter decorations at home.   Registration: 212-505-9077 or The institute is located at: 138 Greenpoint Ave., Brooklyn NY 11222.

These hand-made Easter Palms may become, in time, cherished objects that are associated with fond memories of family, childhood, togetherness, celebration... in other words, Objects that Speak.

Objects that Speak

The Polish American Historical Association has designated a portion of its website to documenting Polish American experience through objects brought by immigrants from Poland and cherished by their descendants.  Moderated by Prof. Anna Muller, this section includes already several such objects - photographs accompanied by stories - and we are always looking for more. In the site's introduction, Prof. Muller writes:

Old furniture, books, dolls, pottery, so much old stuff… all these various objects encircle us and take up crucial living space. Do they add anything to our lives? We often treat them as an addition to our lives, as a sign of prestige and possession. They tell the story of who we are, the hobbies we have, sometimes the fear or ambition that consume us. Perhaps they simply pollute the space around un with unnecessary memories of various moments we experienced, people we used to know, journeys we took or only dreamt of taking, things that symbolize fulfilled or unfulfilled potential or dreams. They do participate in our lives, they are elements of material culture, they help sustain our social lives, but do they perhaps also live separate lives from us?

Here are some pictures and stories gathered so far.  To submit your idea please contact
Prof. Muller (, or
PAHA Executive Director, Dr. Pien Versteegh (, or
PAHA Communications Director, Dr. Maja Trochimczyk (

Theresa Veltri (with the help of Anna Muller and Talylorann Lenze)

A Singer sewing machine may have been a staple of many 1900s women’s households, but for Janina Andrzejczak, it was also a way to maintain and pass on culture. “My mom used to make all of our Polish dance costumes,” the Janina’s daughter, Theresa Veltri remembers. “Three of the four of us kids used to take Polish dance lessons every Saturday, ending the year each May with a dance recital.  We were even in the Hamtramck Parade one year with our Polish costumes.” [...]

The clothing wasn’t Janina’s only effort to pass on her Polish culture to her children. “My mom… was also a fantastic cook always making traditional Polish food like pierogi, gołąbki, soups, and other foods…. She would always cook lamb for Easter,” Veltri notes. [...] Around Easter, Veltri remembers always seeing an Easter lamb statuette surrounded with pysanky. She and her siblings didn’t paint the colorful eggs themselves but were aware that the delicate art came from Poland.
To read more, visit PAHA Website.

Czesław Blechinger (with the help of Anna Muller and Talylorann Lenze)

During World War II, young Czeslaw Blechinger and his family were brought to Germany as forced laborers. They departed from Otynia Poland, a town south of Lwow, with only essentials and a decoratively wrought mortar and pestle.  The two brass pieces were intended to prove Blechinger's father’s technical craftsmanship competence, so they were not used on a daily basis. Blechinger explains that his father had “worked in the shop area, where railroad cars were maintained. A foundry was also in the shop, that’s where the mortar and pestle were made.”

When WWII ended, the mortar and pestle came with the Blechinger family to the displaced persons (DP) camp, called Bergen-Belsen. It was a former Nazi concentration camp where thousands of prisoners died including Margo and Anne Frank. ... To read more, visit the PAHA Website.

Karen Walczyk Prescott

The 10K gold ring inlaid with rubies and pearls has the initial J inscribed on it. It traveled from Przasnysz, Poland in 1908 to the United States, shortly after my grandmother, Henryka Kolakowska Bulawa was born. Originally the ring had belonged to her great-grandmother, Jozefa. Henryka's mother, (Jozefa's daughter), had returned to Poland after only a year of lliving in the US in order to honor her beloved mother's death. Jozefa's will stipulated that the ring would be passed on to her first grandchild, whoever that might be. Already pregnant, Stanislawa would save the ring for Henryka and bring it back to the US....
To read more,visit the PAHA Website.