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Polonia Library

Polonia Library Bookshelf
 A PERSONAL FAVORITE: I admit my main interest in reading "Jadwiga's Crossing" was personal. Having recently discovered that my great-grandfather was one of the earliest Polish settlers in Dunkirk, New York, my decision to pick up a copy of  "Jadwiga's Crossing" was made in the hope that the book would include information about my family. After all, some of the characters in the book were actual Polish immigrants, so 

This comprehensive work discusses such things as the background to WWII, the Poles' cracking of the "invincible" German ENIGMA Code, Polish alliances and preparations for war, the Polish Air Force and Navy, the course of the 1939 campaign, the German and Russian occupation zones of Poland, biographies of key figures, survivors' reminiscences, etc. Unlike most other books on this subject, Williamson gives significant details about the Russo-Polish war in eastern Poland in 1939, countering the mistaken notion that Poles offered almost no resistance to the invading Soviets. 

No sooner had Poland been resurrected in 1918, in the wake of WWI, than the Germans and Russians began planning to destroy the new Polish state. Writing in 1922, at a time when Hitler was barely a blip on the political screen, General Hans von Seekt, the Commander-in-Chief of the German army, stated that Poland's existence was intolerable to both Germany and Russia, and that Poland must disappear. (pp. 6-7). 

Although Polish industry was too small to even begin to match the modernity and quantity of German war production, a bright spot was the existence of a number of arms factories that earned the praise of British visitors. (pp. 27-29). For instance, the Stalowa Wola steel mills had been made from scratch just 18 months before Colonel Sword's visit, with the first gun rolling off the assembly line only several months later. It had a high standard of works and plant that was far superior to the parent Bofors equipment factories in Sweden. (pp. 28-29). 

The author includes discussion of Polish civil defense before the war. He quotes a British observer who was impressed with it. (pp. 47-48). 

Williamson debunks the myth of the Polish Air Force getting destroyed on the ground in the first day or two of the war. The planes had been scattered to secret airfields to avert such an occurrence. (p. 70). He provides examples of Polish aerial combat against the Luftwaffe and against German military objectives. 

As for another perennial Polonophobic myth, Williamson comments: "Far from charging tanks and armoured cars, Polish cavalry was trained to withdraw to cover and use their anti-tank guns." (p. 83). Also: "The cavalry, far from indulging in useless deeds of derring-do, were often used effectively. Armed with anti-tank rifles and dismounted, cavalrymen were able to surprise and 
destroy German armoured units." (p. 167). Examples of cavalry success are included. (p. 88, pp. 93-94). 

Several temporary Polish combat successes are noted, such as the Battle of Mokra and the Bzura counteroffensive. The Poles also managed to blow up the Tczew bridge near the Corridor despite the herculean efforts of the Luftwaffe and German commandos to prevent it. For this, the Germans later murdered 19 Polish officials and railwaymen in reprisal. (pp. 80-81). 

Poland was overwhelmed by the two military giants. However, some 100,000 Poles managed to escape into Romania, Hungary, and the Baltic States. (p. 136). They continued the fight for Poland. 

Williamson touches on the Polish forces fighting in 1940 France, and comments: "The final praise of the Polish fighting man was given by no less a person than Marshall Petain in June 1940, when he told Sikorski that he had witnessed the 1st Polish Division on the eastern front in France drive back four German divisions. He added that `if there had only been ten Polish divisions, victory would have been certain.'" (p. 169). 

- This review was originally posted on Amazon.com by Jan Peczkis, a top 500 reviewer
Americans call the Second World War “The Good War.” But before it even began, America’s wartime ally Josef Stalin had killed millions of his own citizens—and kept killing them during and after the war. Before Hitler was finally defeated, he had murdered six million Jews and nearly as many other Europeans. At war’s end, both the German and the Soviet killing sites fell behind the iron curtain, leaving the history of mass killing in darkness.

Bloodlands is a new kind of European history, presenting the mass murders committed by the Nazi and Stalinist regimes as two aspects of a single history, in the time and place where they occurred: between Germany and Russia, when Hitler and Stalin both held power. Assiduously researched, deeply humane, and utterly definitive, Bloodlands will be required reading for anyone seeking to understand the central tragedy of modern history.

When I started reading Bloodlands, I thought maybe I could keep a mental tally of the deaths of all the different ethnic groups that were victims of both Stalin's and Hitler's terror, but the body count quickly grew into the many millions and I lost count. After reading this book, I feel I have a better understanding of the history of World War ll, especially how planned starvation was included as a weapon against the innocent; in addition to the horrors of gas, bombs and bullets. Stalin and Hitler were even more diabolical than I had thought. I recommend this book to anyone who wants a better understanding of World War ll and its evil underpinnings.
Sugared Orange: Recipes & Stories from a Winter in Poland
by Beata Zatorska (Author), Simon Target (Author) 

The seasonal focus of this stunning memoir cookbook brings to life the food, festivals, and traditions of the long, cold winters spent through a rural Polish childhood. From St. Nicholas' Day to the vigil of Christmas Eve and the mid-winter revelry of a Sylwester New Year's Eve Ball, the touching story picks up where its predecessor, the award-winning Rose Petal Jam, leaves off. Featuring 47 new recipes, the lush design and lavish visuals provide inspiration and nostalgia along a winter journey that takes in the cities of Lublin, Warsaw, Kraków, and Lódz, as well as some of Europe's oldest forests and the frozen Mazury Lakes. Part armchair travel but mostly a sumptuous personal narrative enhanced by many well-known romantic paintings and poems, this glorious cookbook demonstrates a deep love for Poland on every page.

"Push Not The River" was recommended to me by an old buddy of mine. I read it, liked it, and now I would like to recommend it to you. "Against a Crimson Sky: A Novel" is the sequel and it is on my list to read soon.  "Push Not The River" illustrates how the events of post-revolutionary France (The Reign of Terror) contributed to political instability in Poland and divided the Polish aristocracy. How factual the story is I can't say for sure, but the novel is based on a real diary so much of the novel rings true. At any rate, "Push Not the River" is an extremely well-written historical romance with all the elements of love, scheming, violence, irony, and tragedy usually associated with this literary genre. It also gives vivid descriptions of the customs, culture and traditions of both the rich and poor of Poland during the era leading up to the Second Partition

I am delighted to learn that the third book in the trilogy "The Warsaw Conspiracy" has recently been released and is now available through Amazon.com. I highly recommend all three!

220 Familiar Songs!
As the nineteenth century comes to a close in Partitioned Poland, the village of Miscka sits almost unchanged on the banks of the Vistula River. This is the story of the three great families of Miscka: The Rozanskis enjoy the status of landed gentry, with land rights and a genealogy that stretches back to the times before feudal law. 

The Kryzostanskis have been the privileged caretakers of the estate for as long as the Rozanskis have held the land. 

The Hebdowskis, once landed gentry themselves, have lived as peasants ever since they sought refuge from the invading Russians who confiscated their land. 

All three families are unforgettably joined by love, pain, struggle and hope. The story unfolds against a rich tapestry of Polish ceremony and tradition, and builds to a far-reaching climax.

Three families emigrate from the same village in Poland at the turn of the 20th century. Their reasons for leaving their ancestral village, as well as their socio-economic backgrounds are uniquely diverse. 

Karol Rozanski, the first to settle in Philadelphia, is from the privileged landed gentry. He came equipped with an engineering degree and the cultural demeanor of years of breeding to establish himself as a leader of the textile industry as well as secure a seat on the board of the Chamber of Commerce. 

Albert Pancross was the farm foreman of the Rozanski manor estate in Poland. At Karol's invitation he immigrated to Philadelphia to farm his own land. 

Felix Obrotski, a former butler to the Rozanski manor, is determined to be his own man and enter the field of finance. His wife Helcha, has had the advantage of studying couture design in Paris and has hopes of operating her own couture for the elite of Philadelphia. 

The book describes their lives and attitudes as they adjust to the dynamic cultural and industrial influence of this historic era.

Mikołaj Kopernik
Who is the most exciting Polish-American private detective in fiction today? 

Joe Kozmarski – and he’s returning June 21 in A Bad Night’s Sleep.
Advance praise for A Bad Night’s Sleep

“Fans of gritty PI novels will relish Shamus-finalist Wiley's third mystery featuring Chicago detective Joe Kozmarski (after 2010's The Bad Kitty Lounge). Early one morning, while staked out at a construction site to prevent thefts of building materials and equipment, Kozmarski spots two uniformed patrolmen pull up in a police cruiser. When he observes the cops helping a gang that arrives soon after make off with spools of copper wire, the gumshoe calls 911. Four squad cars pull up within minutes, and a firefight erupts. One of the resulting deaths puts Kozmarski, a former cop who was cashiered from the force in disgrace, in a difficult position. His only way out of the mess involves him infiltrating a wide-ranging conspiracy. Kozmarski, a well-developed flawed hero, would be right at home in a Chandler or Hammett novel. The relentless pacing makes the pages fly by, and the hard-edged prose is bracing.” 

– Publishers Weekly (starred review) 

“In Michael Wiley's dark-souled detective, his cynical cops, his convincing story, we get a gripping classic PI novel, with this enormous bonus: this guy can WRITE. Clean, sharp, breathtaking prose.” 

– SJ Rozan, Edgar-winning author of On the Line 

"A Bad Night's Sleep is a terrific read that will indeed cost readers some sleep. Michael Wiley pulls you into the action on page one and doesn't let up until the last satisfying chapter."

 – Alafair Burke, author of Long Gone

“A Bad Night’s Sleep is top-notch P.I. reading. Wiley knows how to keep the fires stoked." 

– John Lutz, New York Times bestselling, Edgar- and 
Shamus-winning author 

“Sobering, tough, and hard-boiled, Michael Wiley's A Bad Night's Sleep is a great read – a slick and suspenseful tale of corruption and redemption in the Windy City, from a terrific PI writer at the top of his game.” 

– Kelli Stanley, Bestselling, Bruce Alexander Award-winning author of City of Dragons and The Curse-Maker

Here’s a ride along the razor’s edge. Nobody attends church in Michael Wiley’s hard-charging tour with an ex-cop out along the moral boundaries. Wiley offers an unfazed look into the heart of corruption, hammering on the thriller pedal as he drives deep into Chicago’s underbelly. 

– Kirk Russell, author of Redback and the John Marquez novels

Also from Michael Wiley:

A mystery about a dead nun with an inconvenient past and an indiscreet tattoo.

The Last Striptease, which is set in Chicago, features private investigator Joe Kozmarski, who searches for the killer of a Vietnamese beauty while also romancing his ex-wife and taking care of an eleven-year-old nephew

Michael Wiley: author of the Joe Kozmarski series
Krystyna Skarbek, 
aka Christine Granville
Krystyna Skarbek, OBE, GM, Croix de guerre (Polish pronunciation: [krɨˈstɨna ˈskarbɛk]; Warsaw, 1 May 1908 – 15 June 1952, London) was a Polish Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent. She became celebrated especially for her daring exploits in intelligence and sabotage missions to Nazi-occupied Poland and France.
She became a British agent months before the SOE was founded in July 1940 and was one of the longest-serving of all Britain's wartime women agents. Her resourcefulness and success have been credited with influencing the sabotage 
organization's policy of recruiting increasing numbers of women.
In 1941 she began using the nom de guerre Christine Granville, which she legally adopted after the war. A friend of Ian Fleming, Skarbek is said to have been the inspiration for Bond girls Tatiana Romanova and Vesper Lynd.

Pan Tadeusz
Written by Adam Mickiewicz
Translated by Kenneth R. Mackenzie
An epic tale of country life among the Polish and Lithuanian gentry in the years 1811 and 1812, Pan Tadeusz is Poland's best known literary work and has been translated into every European language. Of the three English versions, Kenneth R. Mackenzie's is considered the best.

Although it has for its background the stirring period of history between the declaration of the Constitution of the Third of May and the launching of Napoleon's Russian campaign, it is not these events which are the subject of the poem. The plot has the typical elements of a romantic, historical novel: a feud between two ancient families, a love story crossed by the feud, a mysterious, figure who dominates the action, and a number of eccentric supporting characters humorously depicted.

To Poles of all generations, the life, the scenes, and the characters embody the ideals, sentiments, and way of life of the whole nation. But Pan Tadeusz is not a poem in praise of Poland. It is about a corner of that heavenly country to which all men belong, and that is the basis of its universal and timeless appeal
Forgotten Holocaust: The Poles Under German Occupation 1939-1944
Written by Richard C. Lukas
Foreword by Norman Davies 
The Poles experienced an enormous tragedy during the German occupation. The genocidal policies of the Nazis resulted in the deaths of about as many Polish gentiles as Polish jews, a fact too often overlooked in accounts of the Holocaust. 

"There is no doubt that from the very beginning of their occupation the Nazis were intent on destroying Poland as a nation, and in his absorbing account of wartime Poland, Richard Lucas outlines the variety of means that they employed for the purpose."
The New York Review of Books

"Lukas tells the story with an outrage properly contained within the framework of a scholarly narrative."
Washington Post

RICHARD C. LUKAS is the author of eight books, including The Forgotten Holocaust, Did the Children Cry?, and Out of the Inferno. Until his retirement in 1995, he was adjunct professor of history at the University of South Florida, Ft. Myers Campus. He holds a Ph.D. from Florida State University. He has received awards from the Anti-Defamation League, the Kosciuszko Foundation, the Pilsudski Institute, and the American Council for Polish Culture.

Richard Lukas presents the compelling eyewitness accounts of these and other Polish Christians who suffered at the hands of the Germans. They bear witness to unspeakable horrors endured by those who were tortured, forced into slavery, shipped off to concentration camps, and even subjected to medical experiments. Their stories provide a somber reminder that non-Jewish Poles were just as likely as Jews to suffer at the hands of the Nazis, who viewed them with nearly equal contempt. 
In the 1930s Sula Benet, then a student at the University of Warsaw, began to study the life of Polish peasants, a subject which led to many field trips before and after World War II. Concentrating on the regions of present day Poland, the author presented a basic portrait of peasants and peasant ways throughout the diverse, elastic and curiously consistent area that is Poland. "Nevertheless", says the author "The values and to some extent the specific customs described here are shared by all Poles." Since its publications in 1951, the book has become a cherished classic for all students of Polish life and lore, and is now being reprinted as a tribute to the author and her enduring work. 
Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture 
(Jews of Poland) 
If you are a Pole or Polish-American living in this country, you have probably been called a dumb Polak. You have also probably been told that Poles are stupid, lazy, anti-semitic, and brutal. 

You have heard this from your friends and the people around you. When I was a four-year old refugee from Germany, I heard it from a boy my own age who lived next door to me. Later, I heard it where I worked and lived. And always, of course, I heard it from the media, from TV shows, movies, books, and music. 

I never understood it. I saw Poles who were smart, caring, helpful, and idealistic, and I wondered where the stereotype of the brute Polak came from. 

Danusha Goska's new book answers this question. Publication Date: July, 2010 

In this controversial study, Goska exposes one stereotype of Poles and other Eastern Europeans. In the "Bieganski" stereotype, Poles exhibit the qualities of animals. They are strong, stupid, violent, fertile, anarchic, dirty, and especially hateful in a way that more evolved humans are not. Their special hatefulness is epitomized by their Polish anti-Semitism.  Bieganski discovers this stereotype in the mainstream press, scholarship, film, in Jews' self-definition, and in responses to the Holocaust. Bieganski's twin is Shylock, the stereotype of the crafty, physically inadequate, moneyed Jew. The final chapters of the book are devoted to interviews with American Jews, which reveal that Bieganski—and Shylock—are both alive and well among those who have little knowledge of Poles or "In this most important work, Dr. Goska's style incorporates those necessary ingredients that justify writing as an art form: her grammar is impeccable, even while the pathways of her sentences can be unpredictable. Her imagery is robust, but yet it never 
gets in the way of the underlying premises of her arguments. Moreover, her thinking is crisp, and her knowledge of this very sensitive topic is thoroughly evident. Indeed, the reader cannot help but be persuaded by the logical unfolding of the positions she brings to this necessary work. Above all, she establishes that all-important trust in her readers: that while she may jostle their previously-held constructs, she will also protect them on a literary journey that could be harrowing and dangerous in lesser hands."
—Dr. Michael Herzbrun, Rabbi Temple Emanu-El, Rochester, NY 

More Reviews:

"Stereotypes of Poles have been commonplace in Western society. Danusha V. Goska presents a comprehensive overview of such images in a balanced fashion. She offers no apologetic for genuine instance of Polish anti-Semitism. But she also exposes those rooted in outright prejudice with no foundation in fact. An important contribution to improved Polish-Jewish understanding."

—John T. Pawlikowski, OSM, Ph.D., professor of Social Ethics, Director, Catholic-Jewish Studies Program Catholic Theological Union Chicago 
"A powerful, provocative, ultimately profound work of scholarship regarding the stereotypification of Poles and its implications not only for Polish-Jewish relations in the Old World and the New, but also for anyone wishing to fathom the interworkings of class and ethnicity in an America that has all too often fallen short of its promise."
—James P. Leary, folklorist, University of Wisconsin

Jan Karski was first to tell the Allies about the Holocaust 
- only to be ignored!
“Everything was shabby and drab now; the crippled houses with empty and blackened window-frames stood like rows of blind people. Everywhere lay masses of broken glass, that first victim of war… but what gave Warsaw its new look was the noisy shapes in grey-green uniforms barking their every word and roaming the streets and open spaces of the city."

-From the book “Fighting Warsaw – The story of the Underground State” by Stefan Korbonski

Fighting Warsaw is an extraordinary human story. The author, leader of the Polish Underground State, portrays the years of the German occupation during the second world war, and the beginning of the anti-Soviet underground activities thereafter. His story presents the entire organisation, strategy and tactics of the Polish underground, which included armed resistance, civil disobedience, sabotage, and boycotts. This new edition contains an introduction by his wife Zofia as well as 16 pages of previously unpublished personal photographs. 
Polish Orphans of Tengeru -The Dramatic Story of Their Long Journey to Canada 1941-49 is the story of 123 Polish Catholic Displaced Person (DP) orphans who were brought to Canada from East Africa in 1949 as part of the settlement of the postwar DP crisis. They arrived in East Africa in a mass exodus of Poles out of the gulags of Siberia in 1942 and 1943.
As they were being moved from Tanganyika in 1949, through Italy and Germany to Canada, the situation became an international incident. Warsaw protested that Canada and the International Refugee Organisation, with the active collaboration of the American and British governments, were kidnapping the children to use as slave labour on Canadian farms and in Canadian factories, tearing them from their families in Poland. The incident even reached the floor of the General Assembly of the United Nations, and dragged the Italian, British, and American governments before all was said and done.

Jan Karski (24 June 1914 – 13 July 2000) was a Polish World War II resistance movement fighter and later scholar at Georgetown University. In 1942 and 1943 Karski reported to the Polish government in exile and the Western Allies on the situation in German-occupied Poland, especially the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, and the secretive Nazi extermination camps.

"The Peasant Prince: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Age of Revolution"

Nobel Peace Prize winner, Solidarity leader, Lech Walesa: "This important book familiarizes Americans with a mutual hero who shaped the future of both of our nations, Poland and the United States."
Trail of Hope: The Anders Army, An Odyssey Across Three Continents by Norman Davies

CLICK HERE for details

New Perspectives in Polish Culture: Personal Encounters, Public Affairs collects essays that examine the public-private dynamic as Polish culture-from the nineteenth century to the present day-interacts with the tensions, ambiguities, and idiosyncrasies of European modernity. The authors of these essays discuss Polish poetry, fiction, theatre, and literary and cultural theory. Writers and artists discussed in these essays range from Adam Mickiewicz and Joseph Conrad through Witold Gombrowicz, Miron Białoszewski, Czesław Miłosz, Zofia Nałkowska, and Tadeusz Kantor to Sławomir Mrożek, Tadeusz Rożewicz, the poets of bruLion, and the latest dramatists, as well as many other authors active both in Poland itself and in the Polish diaspora.

Adorned in Light: The Stained Glass of Corpus Christi Church, Buffalo, NY
Edited By
Tamara Trojanowska, Artur Placzkiewicz, Agnieszka Polakowska, 
and Olga Ponichtera
Rarely do I find a book so engaging that when I sit down to read a chapter or two I find that hours have passed and I've devoured 100 pages. This is such a book. From the opening sentences I could tell I was in the hands of a wonderful writer, and so I settled in on a Sunday afternoon and what a treat I received. I love how the book seemlessly merges the Polish history of WWII to the journey of a family displaced and arriving in Tarzana, CA in the late 50's. Frank paints each scene with a passionate emotional color that is neither self-serving nor heavy handed. Instead, the writing and the stories of the experiences flow from and into each other in a magical and captivating way. This is truly an enchanting novel. 

As with all really good memoirs, I found parts of my own past in here, and I quickly and deeply connected with many of Frank's experiences, fears and the hopes of his family. If you're looking for a wonderful read and an opportunity to relive and even make sense of some of your own child experiences and memories, then I highly recommend Passage From England. In the end, we're all more similar than we think, and I know that you, too, will find a piece of yourself in this endearing book. 

- This review was originally posted on Amazon.com by Mike Brooks of Los Angeles, CA
Don't forget your public llibrary!

Before purchasing any books, be sure to 
check with your public library. If your local library does not have the book you are looking for, in may cases they can get it for you through interlibrary loan.

Click on images for book details.
Currently on the 
Polonia Library Bookshelf:
Each of the above books is based on a certain moment in the history of Auschwitz shown from the perspective of those who took part in these events, as well as those who witnessed them. The books, recommended for readers 14 and older, were published In co-operation with The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim. If you are interested in finding out more about the collection, CLICK HERE.
there might have been some mention of my father's father, Ambrose Johnson (Amboży Jasiek), who according to census records had arrived in Dunkirk some twelve or thirteen years before Jadwiga. She would have know him, I bet. more
The Katyn Order: A Novel by Douglas W. Jacobson

The German war machine is in retreat as the Russians advance. In Warsaw, Resistance fighters rise up against their Nazi occupiers, but the Germans retaliate, ruthlessly leveling the once-beautiful city. American Adam Nowak has been dropped into Poland by British intelligence as an assassin and Resistance fighter. During the Warsaw Uprising he meets Natalia, a covert operative who has lost everything--just as he has. Amid the Allied power struggle left by Germany's defeat, Adam and Natalia join in a desperate hunt for the 1940 Soviet order authorizing the murders of 20,000 Polish army officers and civilians. If they can find the Katyn Order before the Russians do, they just might change the fate of Poland.

Adam Zamoyski's "Poland: A History" is my personal favorite.
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Henryk Sienkiewicz