środa, 27 listopada 2013

Ingrid Bergman and her American Relatives

Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm


Lanham, MD: Hamilton Books. The Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group (2013),

Lanham. Boulder.New York.Toronto.Plymouth,UK

ISBN      978-0-7618-6150-8

E: book  978-0-7618-6151-5

124 pages

*In Polish:  Aleksandra Ziółkowska-Boehm,''Ingrid Bergman prywatnie'', Warszawa: Prószyński i S-ka (2013), ISBN 978-83-7839-518-8


List of Photographs: from the Archives of Norman Boehm v

Foreword vii

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction xi

1 American Relatives 1

2 Childhood: Ingrid’s Swedish and German Family 11

3 Early Years 17

4 First Two Visits to America: Ingrid Visits Her American Relatives 21

5 Her Beauty, Her Height 27

6 Casablanca 29

7 Hollywood 31

8 Petter Lindstrom 33

9 Leading Men Actors 37

10 Roberto Rossellini 39

11 Anastasia and the End of the Second Marriage 55

12 Lars Schmidt 67

13 Her America 73

14 Italians, Swedish 79

15 Pia and the Rossellini Children 83

16 Love for Acting 89

17 Illness 93


Epilogue: For Love and Glory 99

Annex: A Few Selected Scanned Letters to Aunt Blenda, Carl

Norman, and Norman 101

References 113

About the Author 115


“Ingrid will best remembered for her part in “Casablanca”, staring with Humphrey Bogart in 1942. It was one of the many films, plays and TV documentaries she acted in during her lifetime. She lived to act, saying she left her shyness behind when she stepped on the stage. As a tall, sensuous and beautiful Swedish woman, she began acting early in life, in London, Paris, America and Sweden. She won many awards, including three Oscars, during her lifetime. The book describes the relationship with her American relatives, the Boehm. Cousin Norman Boehm visited with her during her lifetime. Correspondence between Aunt Blenda Boehm, her son Carl and grandson Norman reveal the nature of the actress. The author, Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm did not meet, but research and family contacts with Ingrid bring her to life.
Ingrid’s first marriage to Peter Lindstrom ended in bitter divorce over the child, Pia, all this happening while Ingrid was pregnant with Roberto Rossellini’s child. (After her divorce she married Rossellini and later had three more children with him.) This caused a huge scandal, with Senator Edwin C. Johnson denouncing her on the floor of the Senate. She was finally forgiven 22 years later, in 1975. The Rossellini marriage ended in 1957 when Rossellini became involved with another woman. Later Ingrid marries Lars Schmidt, a marriage which lasted for 17 years.
Ingrid maintained close contact with her children (they did not live with her as Rossellini had custody of the children), stopping work for 18 months to stay with her daughter Isabella when she had serious surgery. She also maintained contact with the Boehms and other family members; much of the correspondence is provided here.
Bergman was diagnosed with cancer in 1974 and struggled with it, continuing to act until she became too weak. She died on August 30, 12982, at the age of 67. She will be remembered as a beautiful actress, and a warm, generous, kind and compassionate person”
Florence Waszkelewicz Clowes, Books in Review, POLISH AMERICAN JOURNAL, October 2013, pg. 23
What a nice book written by Aleksandra Ziółkowska-Boehm, a well known scholar of literature, the author of numerous biographies and contemporary history. Ingrid was a kin of Norman Boehm, the author’s husband. The book presents correspondence between Ingrid Bergman and her relatives residing in the United States.Z iolkowska has cleverly interwoven family letters with the biography of the actress. Ingrid Bergman had a life fulfilled. Her roles in films and theatrical creations provided audiences with joy and pleasure. Bergman is probably one of the few actresses who inspired a spontaneous acceptance. Readers of Ziolkowska’s book will be rewarded with generally warm feelings."
Maja Cybulska, Ex Libris, Tydzien Polski, London, April 27, 2014

Ingrid Bergman was loved by critics, directors, writers, and above all by audiences, not only of cinema, but the theater as well.
Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm was able to tell all that should be said about the actress but also about her artistry that grew as much from native talent as from her extraordinary personality.
Bergman’s adventures in acting helped her become someone else, someone who did not feel fear. As a girl, she was kind to others, and so it remained for the rest of her life. The book by Ziółkowska - Boehm recalls not only the history of Ingrid Bergman and her family, but also what happened to her three husbands and four children.
From the letters cited by the author, Bergman is shown as one oriented in the fate of her loved ones. Always interested in their lives, she was appreciative of any sign of feelings for her from them.
Hardly surprising is the fact that the documents provided by the author’s husband were interpreted with a great culture by Ziolkowska-Boehm. The reader will find a beautiful portrait of a woman and an artist, one that anyone would like to be near or in her presence.
Andrzej Józef Dabrowski, Play it again, Ingrid! PRZEGLAD POLSKI, NOWY DZIENNIK,. New York, May 2014
Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm includes many tales, and much more in her book. After Norman visited his famous cousin Ingrid Bergman and her husband Roberto Rossellini in Paris on his first company vacation, he wrote that he was "treated royally in France": "a high speed spin around Paris late at night in a Ferrari"; a party in the home of the painter Jean Renoir. On his next holiday, he spent a weekend with Bergman and others, including Yul Brynner, in Deauville, France one time dancing with the Swedish actress and Rita Hayworth. He continued to meet Ingrid Bergman over the years (she died in 1982). He is clearly entranced with his cousin, writing in the foreword of Aleksandra's book that, aside from having the talent to win three Oscars, Bergman "was blessed with warmth, generosity, compassion, devotion, dedication and enthusiasm".
Al-Ayyam Al-Jamilah, Spring 2014


"Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm’s “Ingrid Bergman and Her American Relatives” states that in fact, Bergman had no Jewish ancestry. A careful genealogical investigation was made of a maternal cousin in the 1950s before he could be granted a work visa for Saudi Arabia, which formally banned Jews from entering the country."
Benjamin Ivry, Ingrid Bergman's Lifelong Love Affair With the Jews, Forward, Sept. 1, 2015


I found it a great pleasure to learn that the famous star of stage and screen had time for her American relatives. Being an extremely busy person, she found and allocated time to stay in contact, if only briefly, with them. Here is a true tribute to the woman’s character. Ingrid Bergman was and is still loved and respected by her many loyal fans. Similarly, Ziolkowska-Boehm’s book clearly discloses the same feelings for her by the American relatives.

(Beverly Martin. Google.com)

By reading the enjoyable book by Aleksandra Ziolkowka-Boehm, I learned that there were Americans related to Ingrid Bergman. Throughout her career, she was always portrayed as the Swedish actress and as being totally European. For me, another revelation was her German ancestry that was never disclosed by the media. Why should such a fact be “covered up” when the largest ethnic part of America’s population was of German ancestry? (Klaus Schneider)
Being of Italian ancestry, I very much admire and appreciate how delicately the author Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm was able to bring about respect and understanding for Roberto Rossellini, the husband of Ingrid Bergman. As a director, Rossellini achieved great respect and recognition for his talents. The author led me to have empathy for him as well as Bergman over the stigmas of their relationship and the failure of marriage. (Anthony Perlosi)
The author has cleverly interwoven the career of Ingrid Bergman with the relationship the actress had with American relatives. Over a time span of nearly forty years, Bergman maintained contact with these relatives. The warmth and gratuitousness of the famous actress is beautifully portrayed by Ziolkowska-Boehm from Bergman’s letters to and personal contacts individually described. Here we learn of a very famous woman caring for, and treating accordingly, her not so famous relatives. (Virginia Degiorgio)


I do admire your writing a great deal – it is as if you are speaking yo the reader.  And I do review a great many any books
 Florence Clowes, Vero Beach, Florida, 11/22/2013
“What a wonderful tribute to a special lady”.
Jean Wahl, Wilmington, Delaware, January 2014

I read your book ….whenever I read about mamma I get very sad and miss her a lot.
I sent the copy of your book to mamma's archive at the Wesleyan University in Connecticut where all paper concurring her is kept.
Isabella Rossellini, August 3, 2015
.The book was so interesting I could hardly put it down. Ingrid was indeed a very beautiful woman, and a strong one with what she had to through.
Ruth Grabner, Washington, NJ, August 28,  2015

czwartek, 4 lipca 2013

Polish Hero Roman Rodziewicz Fate of a Hubal Soldier in Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Postwar England

Polish Hero Roman Rodziewicz Fate of a Hubal Soldier in Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Postwar England 
Lanham, MD and Plymouth, UK: Lexington Books, 2013
978-0-7391-8535-3  • Hardback, 2013
978-0-7391-8536-0  • eBook
978-1-4985-5696-5  • paperback, 2017

Reviews, Opinions:

“I read this book about a Hubal soldier in one breath with delight. It will make such a wonderful contribution to a greater national recognition of what transpired during the difficult war years. It is a story that shouldn't be forgotten, and I think Ziolkowska-Boehm has done extremely well in providing a vivid picture of what was taking place”.
-Zbigniew Brzezinski, John Hopkins University and Center for Strategic and International Studies; former national security advisor to President Carter

"Recent Polish history abounds with heroic people and deeds, and it is a noble task of talented writers to tell their stories. Dr. Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm takes a prominent place among them. In a fascinating, lucid narration she tells us about another hero, Roman Rodziewicz, born (1913) of Polish parents. His first 10 years were spent in Manchuria; in 1923 he repatriated to Poland. After the outbreak of WWII, he volunteered to join the first guerilla unit of major "Hubal" Dobrzanski, and served with him until his commander’s death. Later on, he distinguished himself in many clandestine actions, Imprisoned by the Nazis Germans, he was liberated by the U.S. Army. He spent the rest of his colorful life in England where, now 100 years old, he resides. Thus, Dr. Ziolkowska-Boehm book represents a first-hand account of his heroic life."
-Jerzy Krzyzanowski, Ohio State University

“Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm has done it again -- another fine book about Polish courage and character. Polish Hero Roman Rodziewicz: Fate of a Hubal Soldier in Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Postwar England carries Roman Rodziewicz-- and us -- from Japanese-occupied Manchuria in the 1930s to the German invasion of Poland in 1939, and from the unspeakable horrors of Auschwitz to, finally, the life of a brave Polish survivor in postwar Great Britain. It is a story of earthshaking, violent events but also a very personal story of courage, patriotism and lost love”.
- Stanley Cloud and Lynne Olson, authors of A Question of Honor: The Kosciuszko Squadron-Forgotten Heroes of World War II.

“Among all European wars, World War II stands out, and will always do so, as the most significant and meaningful conflict since the Western tradition stood firm against Orientalism at Actium. It was no mere struggle over borders, but rather a conflict of ideas: of humanism versus barbarism. But the victory of the Allies, while reemphasizing liberal democracy and respect for the human individual over the Hitlerite system of dehumanizing racial exploitation did not signify a victory for the entire continent. For Poland, the first country of all to stand up to the Nazis in 1939, liberation in 1945 was a hollow phrase, and resulted in merely the replacement of one totalitarianism with another. Aleksandra Ziółkowska-Boehm's new book, Polish Hero Roman Rodziewicz: Fate of a Hubal Soldier in Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Postwar England is important in that it brings to the English reader the full diapason of the Polish situation before, during, and after the conflict. It is a welcome addition to the American library of World War II history, told, as always, in the inimitable and engaging prose of a true master of reportage”.
-Charles S. Kraszewski, Kings College
“Polish Hero Roman Rodziewicz: Fate of a Hubal Soldier in Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Postwar England contains much more than the account of one young man caught in a terrible war. It is a multi-faceted memoir, as told to Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm, who renders this staggering and sweeping story with skill, and who does great service in drawing out from this modest hero the story of his incredible life. The tale of Roman Rodziewicz begins with a childhood of Dickensian vicissitudes and then transforms into a harrowing personal account of a great historical tragedy, a sweeping story of the horrors of the 2nd World War. From his harrowing experiences as one of Poland's first partisans through to his captivity at Auschwitz and beyond, Roman's odyssey is sure to push the breadth of our imagination. Reading this account not only provides a testament to the capacity of one man to prevail through great darkness, but it also illuminates for the reader the possibilities of heroism and endurance that can reside within us all”.
-Matt DeLaMater, Military History Press

“The author does, indeed, write about the Polish military hero Roman Rodziewicz in this volume. She shows the whole man and examines his entire life as it unfolds in his memoir as well as in his retelling”.
— The Sarmatian Review, January 2015
Fate of a Hubal Soldier in Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Postwar England
by Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm
Lexington Books, index, photos, 134 pp.
Rodziewicz was born in 1910, into a privileged class on the family estate in Manchuria. He spent the first ten years there, hearing tales of Poland and the daring escapades of past fighters and patriots. Plans to establish Poland’s freedom were foremost on everyone’s mind.
In 1922 Poland was once again a nation but Japan invaded Manchuria and Roman and his sister were sent to his grandmother’s estate in Wilno. This voyage took many months, stopping at ports around the world. The rest of the family planned to follow, however, both his mother and father died before they could make the journey. Roman and his sister both attended school, but Roman was expelled for causing trouble with his teachers. He decided to enlist in the Surwalki Calvary Brigade and served there for two years, before returning to his uncle’s estate, planning to learn how to manage the large farm.
In the fall of 1939 at the outbreak of war he joined his squadron and met Major Henryk “Hubal” Dobrzanski. They became famous for fighting the Germans in the forests of Poland. They marched toward Grodno, but had to fall back to the Lithuanian border. There they met with Colonel Jerzy Dabrowski who ordered the regiment to disband. Hubal refused, declaring he would take charge and continue to fight to return to Warsaw. They were the last active unit with no base for supplies and surrounded on all sides by the enemy. The inhabitants of Kielce welcomed them with open arms, supplying them with ammunition, food and shelter. Dobrzanski fought on for the next nine months before being killed in battle. Rodziewicz had kept a diary of their activities during this period, which are provided in this book. For the next thirty years Roman continued to live out his experiences, feeling he was a patriot, not a hero.
The group disbanded and Roman was later arrested and imprisoned in Auschwitz. He saw huge transports of people gassed to death. A year later, Roman was transferred to Buchenwald. In 1945 the area was bombed by the Allies and the inmates were transferred to Czechoslovakia and later Austria. It was in Salzburg that the German commander allowed them to escape, declaring the war was over. He went to Italy where he met Melchior Wankowicz, who wrote a book about his escapades and declared him a hero.
Later, living in London, he married and had two children. He frequently visited Poland but remained in England for the rest of his life.
Florence Waszkelewicz-Clowes, Books in Brief,  Polish American Journal, February 2014


I do admire your writing a great deal – it is as if you are speaking yo the reader.  And I do review a great many any books

 Florence Clowes, Vero Beach, Florida


"The narrative is immediately gripping and compelling - the reader feels in the moment from the first sentence without it ever becoming "sensationalizing". The competent, even tone is perfect for subject matter describing such horror".

-Suzan Sherman, New York, NY - Creative Non-Fiction

Excellent book, very interesting, especially the parts where Roman was in Auschwitz and how he survived there, also when he reunited with Halina. I stayed up late night to finish it because it was difficult to put down.
Dr. Michael J.Wahl

The book is a fascinating read and whilst I knew most of the story there are some gaps that you helped to fill in.
Leon Rodziewicz, Utah



„In the book about Rodziewicz and the Hubal story, everyone can put the questions about life and the costs of their decisions.  No one can have the only answer, because everything is based on belief, how strong are our beliefs and the virtues we value”.

- Marcin Kula, Warsaw University


“I am 95 years old, and I am now facing the task of looking through my collection of books that I have gathered most of my life. It is my intention to give away many titles. Several times in my life, when I have to move from one place to another, I never left my books behind. I always gave them to others.

Now with my life collection before me, I must decide which books to give away, and which still to keep. Some of them will stay with me to the end.

Many times I will face a difficult decision…which titles are important enough and should stay with me? To that dear category belongs your book.

When I was young, I wanted to be Pan Wolodyjowski… now the character of the Hubal soldier Rodziewicz also talks to my fantasy.

During World War II, I was not like Roman Rodziewicz, the hero of your book, in Auschwitz and Buchenwald. I was at Sachsenhausen.

I was among a few hundred Polish comrade – they were my brothers. I learned that my Jewish blood is the same color as Polish blood – and that we were both beaten by the same executioner.

I hope that the coming edition of your book will become a part of your work for recognition of and pride in being Polish that I found in you to be so dear and appealing. I wish the book and all the best.

Dr. Marcus Leuchter

Museum of Holocaust, Houston


„From one place to another, this is the motto for a most interesting book that should be read by everyone interested in history, events of life and its sudden changes”.

WPK, NOWE KSIAZKI Nr 1 (779), January,1984 


„It is rather rare to have such an interesting biography – difficult and hard. But what a history”.

Maciej Siembieda „Wachmistrz Hubala”, TRUBUNA OPOLSKA Nr 30, 6-7 February 1988


„The book tells the story of Roman Rodziewicz – a member of the Hubal’s party. The book contains many interesting facts from the main hero’s life in Russia and Manchuria, however, most of all, it relates in the form of a diary the Hubal’s campaign. On the basis of Roman Rodziewicz’s story, a book of Melchior Wañkowicz „Hubalczycy” („Hubal’s men”) came into being”.

„From Place to Place in the Wake of Hubal’s myth”. (POLONIA PUBLISHER)


„A most interesting and genuine story about the legendary Hubal soldier”.

Zbigniew Mierzwinski, SLOWO POWSZECHNE 21/23 August 1997


„The book shows how the one accident can change someone’s whole life, how difficulties make some people stronger, and the destiny of the historical waves. The book also shows how the ordinary people under the pressure of circumstances can turn into real heroes”.

„Uporzadkowac swiat wokol siebie”, PIELGRZYM (Toronto) May 1997


     "Polish history roads… Polish destinies. It is something very nostalgic and genuine in those real events, that took Roman from Manchuria to Lawski Brod, pushes him to take part in the war, fight by the legendary partisan Hubal, and to act in conspiracy. To survive the prisons, interrogations, Auschwitz and Buchenwald, and to join the Polish Army’s Second Corp. in Italy. Because of Communism that was imposed in Poland, Roman didn’t return to his homeland, he stayed in England. Here he is, a hard working immigrant, working in coal mines. From the child of a privileged family, he was relegated to that of a non-descript hard worker.

There were thousands like him from the Polish Army, hundreds of thousands now mostly gone, and in graves all over the globe.

The book shows an extraordinary man and extraordinary generations similar to him, and the book honors those brave people”.

“Ocalic od zapomnienia”, MYSL POLSKA Nr 12 (60), November 1997



“The book remembers the partisan Hubal legend that is so fascinating in Polish culture and history”.

  Wieslaw Rogowski, NOWE KONTRASTY, January 1998    


"It is a life of „a wandering Pole”, because history made him move from one place to another. It is a fragment of Polish history, so cherished in Poland. The book is written with a beautiful flair and can be read as a romance story; it keeps your interest and has also some fragments which are very touching, several that can bring one to tears. The book relates a beautiful story of one person’s life, written in a beautiful way and full of details and smells and sounds of those times”.

 Mirosława Pałaszewska "W cieniu legendy Hubala", NASZ DZIENNIK, 23 March 1998, Nr 46 s.7

The life of Mr. Rodziewicz is rich in human and patriotic values. The author's skill in storytelling makes this an absorbing and moving story that I could not tear myself away from.

Andrzej S.Porwitt, Philadelphia, PA www.amazon.com.


It is written with genuine talent and feelings for the hero's life. I had tears in my eyes reading about his misfortunes, about meeting with his former fiancé Halinka after years had passed by. The book can be a base for a great movie scenario about the hero's life, Roman Rodziewicz. It has a fascinating plot, action and a "lost great love".

Michael Kopacky, Washington, D.C www.amazon.com

It is a third edition of that extraordinary book dedicated to the man who survived the World War II, Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

His life in England as an immigrant warms the heart of the reader”.

Leonard Ratajczyk, Schaumburg, Illinois, May 27, 2000 www.amazon.com


I learned a lot about Poland and Polish people from the book. I am from a young generation, and those years are a history for me. Maybe now I can understand my parents and my grandparents”..

A reader from Kalisz, August 2001 www.amazon.com


I saw the film about Hubal and now the book about one of his soldiers. Very beautiful and very informative. I like the parts where the writer shows the estates in Kresy, its virgin beauty, rules and behavior…Everything gone with the wind

A reader from Chicago, February 15, 2001   www.amazon.com


„The description of the land that is gone and the behavior of the people are touching because it is written by a present modern day writer in a modern way. I like her sometimes archaic sentences – about fishing, hunting, etc. (...)”.

Olgierd Terlecki, Kraków 13 lipca 1979

(review for the Krakow publisher House Wydawnictwo Literackie).


„I had a great pleasure in reading that book, all the descriptions of the estates - the land, houses and its people”.

Karol Wañkowicz, London, 12 June 1984


„I like the form of the book, very informative and very beautiful”.

       Stanislaw Gliwa, London


“I read the book several times. It is most wonderful and informative”.

Andrzej Przybylski, Szczyrk, 15 July 1985


„What an artistic way to show those years… How sad that the hero couldn’t contact his loved ones in Poland after the war”.

Prof.dr Stefan Wesolowski, Warszawa, 7 May 1989 


„I am taken by the style of Aleksandra Ziolkowska, I do like this talented writer’s way of playing with words very much”.

S.Kwiatkowski (letter to Radio Polonia), 13  May 1988


„Z miejsca na miejsce” I read withour stopping. I choked a few times with sensitivity”.

Nina Koma (letter to Radio Polonia, Boom, Belgium, 27 March 1988


„The most wonderful part for me were the first 30 pages. The drawing of the times and land, the childhood years – full of nostalgia, colorful and also melancholic. Very beautiful”.

Szymon Kobyliński, Warszawa, September 18, 1997


„I read the book without stopping and even cried reading about the meeting of the hero with his old former fiancé, Halina”.

Rafal B. Jacyna, Philadelphia, PA, 14 March 2000



Also of Interest

Other Imprints

niedziela, 16 czerwca 2013

Melchior Wankowicz Poland's Master of the Written Word

Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm

Melchior Wankowicz Poland’s Master of the Written Word

Foreword: Charles S. Kraszewski 

Lexington Books, Lanham, MD, 2013
Lanham-Boulder-New York-Toronto-Plymouth,UK
232 pages, hardcover

ISBN 978-0-7391-7590-3
e-book: ISBN 978-0-7391-0
paperback 2017 : ISBN 978-1-4985-5633-0


Dr. Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm has written an excellent book on her master and guru, Melchior Wankowicz (1892-1974). Generally recognized as an unsurpassed master of literary journalism, he had set high standards for that type of writing, distinguishing himself with his 3 vols. study "Monte Cassino" (1945), dealing with a major victory of Polish troops in WW II. Serving as Wankowicz's associate for two plus years, she has become an expert on her subject, and aptly demonstrated how much she has learned from her master. The book, written with her elegant style, sparkled with anecdotes and humor, may very well serve as a perfect example of a modern Polish contribution to American literary studies.
- Jerzy Krzyzanowski, Ohio State University

I found this book fascinating and delightful. Ziolkowska-Boehm recorded with freshness and directness her memories of one of Poland's greatest writers. This is clearly a great book.
- Karl Maramorosch, Rutgers University
Wankowicz combined first class literary writing with outstanding reportage. He was a free spirit, going against the tide of émigré opinion by returning to then communist Poland for good in 1958. But he also protested publicly, with other writers, against communist repression of Polish culture in March 1964 —  after which he was  briefly imprisoned and put on trial on rigged charges. Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm, a prolific author herself, and Wankowicz’s secretary in the last years of his life, has written a fine, documented account of this extraordinary individual and his writings.

 -Anna M. Cienciala, University of Kansas

An intimate portrait of Wankowicz, the writer, public figure, family man, and one-time prisoner of the Communist regime. Important documents accompany the narrative.
- Piotr Wandycz, Yale University


“I met Wańkowicz at one point in his career and I was certainly a very youthful reader of his account of the battle of Monte Cassino. Every since then, his ability to capture the nuances, sounds, and emotions of wartime have been etched in my memory”.

-Zbigniew Brzezinski, Washington, D.C.,  John Hopkins University and Center for Strategic and International Studies

I have read your good book Melchior Wankowicz with much interest. It is my opinion that you have repaid him very well for any debt that you may owe him.

Bob Ackerman, New Alexandria, PA, August 4, 2013


“Great book! I just finished reading the chapter on the 1964 trial, and the primary sources are wonderful. It’s a wonderful sketch of the tension between the writer and the Party (e.g. Poles vs. Russians).

The most outstanding quote, in my opinion, is from Wankowicz, on p. 145:

I dislike people who hate a nation. When in the September days I was walking through a field with my daughter and a German pilot came shooting at the defenseless shepherds from the sky, my daughter told me: “It unsettles me that I cannot hate the Germans. I then felt rewarded for the years dedicated to her nurturing”.

Your part in the story is also very interesting".

Bruce E. Johansen, August 5, 2013

“Ziolkowska-Boehm had the distinct advantage of being a literary collaborator and secretary to Wankowicz, resulting in a broad portrait of his life. The book contains sources, eyewitnesses, interviews, and conversations Melchior Wankowicz had with his wife, friends and co-authors. He is considered to be the father of Polish reportage, developing his own style of reporting as a war correspondent during the Second World War under General Wladyslaw Anders. His ability to capture the nuances, sights, sounds and emotions of the common soldier in the field made him a favorite with the population for the rest of his life. His writings included culture, optimism and old fashioned Polish humor.
A section of his three volume book, “Battle of Monte Cassino”, considered one of the best of that battle, is included here, translated by Charles K.Kraszewski.
In 1924 he co-founded a publishing house, Roy Publishing and introduced Polish readers to American and English writers, as well as Soviet literature in addition to Polish writers. In Sept. 1949 he was evacuated to Palestine. With the Nazis determined to obliterate the Polish race, he became interested in studying how the Jews maintained their national identity through the twenty years of dispersal in a way that helped Polish society understand Jewish culture. As a war correspondent attached to the Polish army he moved with them to Egypt, Italy, Cypress and other countries. The end of the war found him exiled in England, and later lived in America for ten years. Unhappy there, he returned to Poland in 1958. His writing helped shape the Polish national conscience, giving citizens the strength and comfort to withstand the Communist regime.
He didn’t belong to any political group, always independent and love by the public for his independence and view of life. In 1964 he was put on trial by the Communist regime for signing a letter of defiance along with 33 other writers, which was broadcast on Radio Free Europe. The U.S. Embassy offered assistance, because Wankowicz was an American citizen, which he refused. The trial ended with imprisonment of three years, suspended because of his age. He died ten years later, in 1974.
A chapter on the author’s association with Wankowicz explains the insight she had and her ability to gather his works and letters from others. She edited his selected works, providing extensive notes at the end of each chapter, in addition to the bibliography. His fascinating life will be of great interest to all writers.

Florence Waszkelewicz Clowes, Books in Brief, Polish American Journal, October 2013


"I was eleven years old when I witnessed a lively and rather agitated conversation that my parents had during supper. With a lot of excitement in her voice my mother recounted how she went to a bookstore after work and came across a famous Polish writer, Melchior Wańkowicz, who had just been released from prison by the communist regime in Poland.

Bookstores in Poland have always been and still are full of readers and the writer was literally encircled by them as soon as he entered the bookstore. Everybody wanted to shake his hand, ask a question or just look at him from a close distance.

I sensed that there was something unusual about this encounter and I could appreciate the thrill of meeting a famous writer but it took me a couple more years to fully comprehend the magnitude of arresting and putting on trial one of the most prominent and most popular contemporary Polish writers just for sending abroad a paper – “Speech-Project” – that was then broadcast by Radio Free Europe. The paper contained material that in the eyes of the communist regime slandered social and political relations in Poland. The “Speech Project” prepared by Wańkowicz followed “Letter 34,” a protest signed by thirty four writers (including Wańkowicz) against a government decision to limit the amount of paper allotted for printing books and newspapers. (At that time book production in Poland was already at the lowest level among the socialist countries.)

The trial of Melchior Wańkowicz became a cause célèbre. Eleven years after the death of Stalin, arresting and prosecuting a seventy-two-year old prominent Polish writer and public favorite was highly odd practice, even by the communist standards of justice. Virtually all western newspapers, including Time Magazine, published extensive commentary about the regime’s ridiculous prosecution of Wańkowicz.

The defense called some renowned and respected Polish writers and intellectuals as witnesses. Alas, one of them, Kazimierz Kozniewski, whom Wańkowicz considered a close friend since before the war, also a friend of the writer’s two daughters, testified against him. Kozniewski was not only a traitor but also a secret agent and one of the most devoted employees of the Security Office and then Security Service in the history of Communist Poland.

The trial lasted three days and ended with a sentence of three years in prison. Facing harsh criticism in Poland and abroad and numerous interventions by famous writers and intellectuals as well as prominent politicians such as Robert Kennedy, the communist regime in Warsaw backed off and freed Wańkowicz.

Obviously, when I listened to my parents’ conversation about the writer, forty years ago, a lot of these facts were unknown since the trial was held in camera and only very general information was provided to the public by the Polish mass media. Many years after Wańkowicz’s death, new evidence and testimonies began emerging and thanks to meticulous work and painstaking efforts by the independent scholar and writer Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm, both Polish and English readers can now appreciate the most recent book about one of Poland’s greatest writers.

Published by Lexington Books, Melchior Wańkowicz – Poland’s Master of the Written Word, is not merely a well documented account of Wańkowicz’s struggle with communist justice system. (Ziolkowska-Bohem had already written a separate book on this subject in 1990 available in Polish only.) It is a captivating although somehow eclectic portrait of a great humanist with a pragmatic approach to life, a prolific hard working writer, bon vivant, thinker, husband, father and most of all a fabulous reporter and storyteller.

The book is not, however, a biography. Each of its eleven chapters can be read separately. I devoured it in no time as I did almost all of Wańkowicz’s books. Yet, when the editors of CR asked me if I could write a review of Ziolkowska-Boehm’s “Poland’s Master of the Written Word” I initially hesitated. Some time ago, while teaching a course, “Introduction to Polish Studies,” at McGill University I asked students (some of them of Polish origin) if they had read or at least heard of the most famous Polish writers: Stanisław Lem, Sławomir Mrozek or Nobel Prize laureates Henryk Sienkiewicz and Władysław Reymont whose books were translated into most modern languages and published in many countries, the answers were not very encouraging.

I decided to read some of Wańkowicz’s books again before sharing my humble opinion with readers of CR on Ziolkowska-Boehm’s latest work and try to assess if the contemporary generation of Polish literature aficionados could relate to them. I firmly believe that both young and older readers would find most of Wańkowicz’s works not only fascinating but probably more appealing (particularly to the Polish diaspora in the USA and Canada), than the books of his famous predecessors.

It suffice to open “Tworzywo” (“Matter”) – Wańkowicz’s reportage from Canada where he travelled 18,000 miles to write stories about Polish immigrants who succeeded in their new country despite numerous setbacks, severe hardship and misery. It almost reads like a fiction but as most of his writings, “Tworzywo” is based on facts. As Ziolkowska-Boehm writes in Poland’s Master of Written Word: “Tworzywo” includes many real events, statistical data, and human histories; in this book, even the cited letters of one protagonist – Bombik – are authentic. We find real conversations, facts, and people at every step.

Aleksandra-Ziolkowska-Boehm is an unrivalled connoisseur of Wańkowicz’s works. During the last two years of the writer’s life she was his secretary and ultimately became his friend and associate. She had unlimited access to his personal archives but also the privilege to participate in his private everyday life. She took full advantage of this extremely rare opportunity that she now shares with us in her excellent book full of interesting, sometimes hilarious sometimes heartbreaking details about Wańkowicz’s life, his entourage and, last but not least, about the origin of some his works.

Here is one example, explaining where the title of my favourite Wańkowicz book comes from: “He also gave the book a final title “La Fontaine’s Carafe.” He chose it to emphasize the diversity and objectivism of his views and opinions. The title came from an anecdote. La Fontaine was once asked to settle a dispute arisen among the revelers gathered in the inn. In the middle of the table there stood a crystal decanter with wine. Sunrays were coming through the window and reflecting off the carafe. One of the revelers said they were reflected red. Another denied, saying they were blue. The third one said they were pink. When asked, La Fontaine went around the table and said that each of the men was right: depending on the side you were looking from, as the sun refracted in the carafe, it showed different colors. What was most important, as he said, was to see all the colors together, to understand there wasn’t just one.”

Melchior Wańkowicz – Poland’s Master of the Written Word comes at a good time. The author of Battle of Monte Cassino was one of the most famous Polish writers in the last century. I am convinced that thanks to Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm latest book, Melchior Wańkowicz will always have plenty of readers.

Leszek Adamczyk COSMOPOLITAN Review 2013 Vol. 5 No. 3 / Bookson , November 14, 2013


“A biography of a popular Polish writer who is generally considered to be partuclarly skillful in writing reportages and columns”.

“Sarmatian Review”, January 2014
Aleksandra Ziółkowska-Boehm, Na tropach Wańkowicza po latach [On the Trail of Wańkowicz, after Many Years] Warszawa: Prószyński i S-ka, 2009. Pp. 600. ISBN 978-83-7648-261-3.

Reportage is one of the more interesting genres for an author to work in. On the boundary between journalism and history, it requires of the practitioner the reporter’s eye for matters of public interest, and the historian’s sense of the gravity of the events he or she is reporting on — which in turn is something between a sixth-sense receptivity to the hidden wheels of history and a gambler’s faith in his system as he places down his chips before the roulette wheel spins. It is a genre that, while immersed in historical (and ephemeral) reality, requires a poetic talent for engaging prose: something that will bring the experienced in flagranti again to vivid life on the cold pages of the book in the reader’s hands. It is no surprise, then, that so great a poet as Zbigniew Herbert took up the reporter’s pen in The Barbarian in the Garden. However, the greatest of the practitioners of reportage, like Ewon Kisch and Ryszard Kapuściński, didn’t just dabble in it— they made their living from it, as did perhaps the greatest of the lot in Poland, the hero of this collection, Melchior Wańkowicz.

Na tropach Wańkowicza po latach, from the able pen of Wańkowicz’s secretary and propagator of his works, Aleksandra Ziółkowska-Boehm, is the opening volume in a praiseworthy sixteen-part re-issue of Wańkowicz’s works by the Prószyński and Co. publishing house in Warsaw. Whether the receptor of the series is himself a Wańkowicz scholar, or just beginning to become acquainted with his works; whether he or she reads it at the beginning of the adventure, after it, or while following the writer on his journeys across two continents, in war, peace (and during the subtle war waged between Polish society and the PRL régime), Ziółkowska’s book is an engaging, informative and indeed encyclopedic consideration of Wańkowicz and his writings. It is, in short, a model for how the collected works of a noted author ought to be handled by the series editor to whom they are entrusted, and by the publisher who decides to take on the project. It provides a necessary historical and biographical context for the series of books, which are so full of interest in their own right, that most readers will not stop at the volume they chance across in the bookstore, but will be pulled on to read several more, if not the entire slate. For once, it seems, a publisher (a subspecies of our kind most often motivated by financial concerns), gets it right.

Na tropach Wańkowicza po latach is a collection of thirty essays written by Ziółkowska-Boehm, a practitioner of reportage herself, whose interests range from Polish literature and history to the plight of Native Americans. An intimate literary collaborator of Wańkowicz, her splendid obsession with his published works makes her not the perfect, but really the only person who could contextualize the gigantic career of the writer in an accessible, yet meticulously documented, fashion.

The thirty essays — some previously published, in The Polish Review and elsewhere — are arranged in loose chronological order. They range from the pre-war account of Wańkowicz’s role in the creation of Rój publishers (“Roy,”during its wartime hiatus in New York), which published, among others, the poems of Kazimierz Wierzyński, and the first edition of Witold Gombrowicz’s Ferdydurke, through a moving account of Wańkowicz’s 1974 funeral. While all of the essays are intriguing — and readers of Monte Cassino and other of Wańkowicz’s works will be quite pleased with those dealing with the genesis and surrounding realia of his famous books — it is those which reveal the man Wańkowicz, who he was, and especially who he was in regard to the Communist authorities who at times tolerated, and at other times persecuted him, that are most noteworthy and valuable.

Ziółkowska constructs her complex and many-sided portrait of Wańkowicz from four main sources. First, there are the eyewitness accounts, such as her description of the funeral — how different a picture one gets from the relation of a person who was actually there, than from the relation of the official, Party reporters covering the event:

Od bramy trumnę nieśli między innymi Krzysztof Kąkolewski i Jan Józef Lipski. Na czele konduktu pogrzebowego szedł biskup Kraszewski, księża, ojciec dominikanin reprezentujący kościół parafialny przy Dominikańskiej. Telewizja, która filmowała uroczystości pogrzebowe, starannie omijała udział w nim księży […] Nim zasypano grób, odezwał się nowy głos. Stojący tuż nad mogiłą mężczyzna odczytał z kartki parę zdań. Mówił, że wszyscy będąpamiętać Katyń i obchodzić jego rocznice. Potem dowiedziałyśmy się z Martą [Erdman, córką Wańkowicza], że to był Wojciech Ziembiński, późniejszy członek KOR-u (389).

[From the gate, the casket was borne by, among others, Krzysztof Kąkolewski and Jan Józef Lipski. At the head if the funeral procession walked Bishop Kraszewski, priests, and a Dominican father representing the parish church on Ul. Dominikanska. /State/ television which transmitted the funeral, took great pains to avoid showing the priests/…/ Before the grave was covered, a new voice was heard. A man, standing near grave, read a few sentences written down on a sheet of paper. He said that we would all remember Katyń and observe its anniversary. Later on, Marta [Erdman, Wańkowicz’s daughter] and I learned that this man was Wojciech Ziembinski, who later was to be a member of KOR].

But these are not simply the memoirs of a person who knew the protagonist (as are, for example, the Discretions of Mary de Rachewiltz, Ezra Pound’s daughter). Ziółkowska draws expertly and generously from the published works of others, building a model corpus of secondary sources that help in the fleshing out of the character of Wańkowicz from perspectives other than her own. In her description of the manner in which the PRL régime sought to hijack the funeral of the writer so often at odds with them, she cites Aleksander Małachowski’sintroduction to the 1993 PWN edition of Wańkowicz’s Ziela na kraterze [Herbs around the Crater]:

Marcie Erdman, córce Pana Melchiora, zaoferowano wspaniały pogrzeb na koszt państwa, gdy tylko przyleciała z USA. Musiałem się sprzeciwić, gdyż kilka dni wcześniej Pan Melchior przetrzymywał mnie i moją żonę do trzeciej nad ranem i wymógł na nas przyrzeczenie, iż nie dopuścimy do oficjalnego, rządowego pogrzebu, bo „oni zechcą się sfotografować nad moją trumną […] Pogrzeb Pana Melchiora, zgodnie z jego wolą, był kościelny na koszt rodziny (391).

[A soon as she got off the plane from the U.S., Marta Erdman, Melchior’s daughter, was offered a splendid funeral for her father, paid for by the state. I had to object to this, as just a few days earlier, Melchior kept me and my wife by his side until three o’clock in the morning, and made us swear that we would not allow the state to organize an official, government-sponsored funeral, for “they’d certainly like to be photographed over my coffin”/…/ Melchior’s funeral, according to his will, was a religious affair, the costs of which were borne by his family].

Thirdly, there are, of course, citations from Wańkowicz’s own writings. Although Na tropach Wańkowicza po latach is not a biography, in essays such as „Na końcu języka” [“On the Tip of the Tongue”] glimpses of Wańkowicz the man, before he became Wańkowicz the writer, abound. There we meet him, in his reminiscences, as a child in the eastern marches of Poland, long lost to her eastern neighbor; there we are treated to Wańkowicz’s own prose, such as this vignette from Karafka La Fontaine’a [La Fontaine’s Carafe]:

Myślę, że język to jak potężny prąd; wpada weń gnijąca gałąż, zwiędłe liście, gnój, błoto z kąpiących się krów, pot pławionych koni, zawartość spływających kloak — spójrzmy w dół o kilka kilometrów, już się to wszystko wyozonowało, już nurt przejrzysty. Język to potęga samooczyszczania się (336).

[I think that a language is like a powerful stream. A rotting tree limb, withered leaves, manure, mud from cows bathing upstream, the sweat of horses through a ford, the effluvia of emptied cloaca, all fall into it – but just gaze it a few kilometers downstream: it is completely clear, it sparkles like crystal. A language has a great power of self-cleansing].

What is this but something that falls just barely short of a Baudelairean prose poem? Ziółkowska’s talent for centering the reader’s focus on such examples of Wańkowicz’s writings brilliantly showcases her critical sense for using them, not merely as illustrations of a biographical thesis, but as an thrilling advertisement for Wańkowicz’s books —the raison d’être of the Prószyński series — encouraging the reader of her book to pass beyond it, into the writer’s works.

As we noted before, Ziółkowska-Boehm is herself an accomplished writer of reportages. The fourth of her sources —sometimes the most insightful — are those that arise from her reporter’s legwork. Much of the information upon which the chapters dealing with Wańkowicz’s arrest and political trials comes from her accessing newly available state documents from the IPN archives, and interviews with some of the participants of his persecution (which began with his signing of the Writers’ Union open letter of protest in 1964). Fascinating, both for its content and the effective reportorial strategy it portrays, is her 1990 interview with the prosecutor who conducted the Wańkowicz case on behalf of the régime. On p. 246, in reply to her question “What did your contacts with Wańkowicz look like during the interrogation,” he replies ingenuously:

—Nie wiem, czy Pani ma to w archiwum, ale pan Wańkowicz na końcu sprawy powiedział mi komplement: „Panie prokuratorze — powiedział — ja tej Polski Ludowej nie lubię, ale jako Polak powiem panu, że cieszę się, że Polska dochowała się takich urzędników jak pan”.

Rozmawialiśmy zawsze w dobrej atmosferze, on rozumiał, że muszę wykonywać swoje obowiązki, a ja traktowałem go z dodatkową atencją, nie jak przestępcę… Tyle przecież zrobił dla literatury… Sam odebrałem wykształcenie humanistyczne, literatura zawsze mnie interesowała.

[„I don’t know if this is found in your archives, but, at the end of the case, Mr. Wańkowicz paid me a compliment. ’Attorney,’ he said ‘I don’t like thus People’s Poland, but as a Pole I’ll tell you that I’m happy that Poland had fostered such officials as yourself.’

“The atmosphere of our conversation was always good; he understood that I had to carry out my duties, and I treated his with extra attention, not like a criminal…After all, his services to literature were so great… I myself had a humanistic, liberal education, and literature always interested me.”]

This from a person who, at the beginning of the interview, but one page previously, protested Nie byłem krytykiem literackim, ale zdawałem sobie sprawę z rangi pisarstwa Wańkowicza i z jego pozycji jako literata, zdawałem sobie więc sprawę, że proces wzbudzi wielkie zainteresowanie, które może się odwrócić przeciwko krajowi. [‘I’m no literary critic, but I was aware of the caliber of Wańkowicz’s writing and his position as a writer. And so I realized that this case would arouse much interest, which could turn against the country”].

From this it seems apparent that the prosecutor entered the interview with a certain mistrust; he starts flinging about asterisks and reveals his motivation as that of a representative of the system currently ruling “the country,” who, in effect, did approach Wańkowicz as a threat, in short, a “criminal,” albeit only in a political sense. Then, when set at ease by his interlocutor that this interview will not be an “interrogation” itself, he loosens his tie and begins revealing his “humanistic education,” his “interest in literature”and starts shining the apple for the artist, whose services to letters he is now able to critically appraise and applaud. Ziółkowska’s handling of the interview is a masterful, classroom example of the work of a skilled reporter, who subtly unmasks her source and warns the reader, trust him (and other old, official sources) at your own risk.

Doublethink and Newspeak, as Orwell explains to us, are art forms in their own right. The métier of the author of reportages — and in this, the genre may indeed be as old as Herodotus — also partakes of the artistic, insofar as the real information presented us by the reporter is“packaged” in the attractive, poetic style described above. Sometimes, it is not so much the sources, as the reporter, that we must approach with careful tread. The subjective often gets the upper-hand in reportage — witness Herbert’s spiteful and simplistic characterization of Erza Pound, met by chance on his Italian travels in Barbarian and formed from hearsay and published information from only one perspective, and dealing with only one aspect of the great poet’s life. Witness too Melchior Wańkowicz himself, who suggests to the Polish readers of W pępku Ameryki [In the Navel of America] that the state of Utah is ruled according to the theocratic principles of the Church of Latter Day Saints, or, in Atlantyk-Pacyfikthat the “American police” possesses a full set of the fingerprints of just about every citizen of the Republic in which, as a matter of fact, the individual’s right to privacy is so jealously guarded, that the Federal government can’t even dream of introducing a system of national ID cards, even in this age of the global war on terror. I mention this, not in disparagement of Wańkowicz, whose writings I myself value greatly, but in support and praise of the many-faceted reportage which is Aleksandra Ziółkowska-Boehm’s Na tropach Wańkowicza po latach. Meticulously researched, innovative and challenging, as well as written in a pleasant style, it is a trustworthy, really indispensable, guide to the great writer, and his writings. In her objective scholarly base of sources, and in her unique subjective perspective on the writer she knew and admired, like her publisher, Ziółkowska gets it right.

Prof. Charles S. Kraszewski, King’s College, Pennsylvania,
THE POLISH REVIEW, New York, No 2, 2010, pg 249-254

The latest book on Melchior Wankowicz (1892-1974) by Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm introduces the reader to the father of Polish reportage and master of the word. In the foreword, Charles S. Kraszewski acknowledges the importance of the book and its contribution to understanding Wankowicz and his lace in Polish culture. In the Preface: Melchior Wankowicz- Polish Hemingway" Ziolkowska-Boehm stresses that he "played a huge part in shaping Polish consciousness".(...) Chapter 2."The Trial of Melchior Wankowicz - 1964" is the most important and fascinating section of the book. The trail was occasioned by the action taken by the Communist regime during the last years of Wladyslaw Gomulka's tenure as General Secretary of the Polish United Workers Party (PZPR). It as directed against the intelligentsia, especially the writers, to force them to conform to communist ideology. (...)The final chapter is replete with anecdotes from the period when the author was a member of the Wankowicz household during the last years of his life, comments about her work as his secretary, and recognition and acknowledgement that is was his work ethic and his encouragement and belief in her that formed her as a writer in her own right. The book is a tribute to Wankowicz, the writer.
Review by Danuta Batorska, University of Houston,
The Polish Review, New York, Vol. 62, No.1, 2017, pg 121-124