piątek, 29 grudnia 2017

Interview with Prof. Neal Pease


September 29, 2017


Interview with Prof. Neal Pease 


- by Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm

Professor Pease, you have a master's degree from the University of Kansas, a second master's degree and a doctorate from Yale University. What was the subject of your master's thesis and doctoral dissertation?

-The subject of my master’s thesis, done at the University of Kansas, under the direction of Professor Anna Cienciała, had to do with the portrayal of Poland and issues dealing with Poland in the British press during the interwar years. My doctoral dissertation, completed at Yale in 1982, under the direction of Professor Piotr Wandycz, focused on relations between the Second Polish Republic and the United States in the years following the First World War, with an emphasis on financial relations, and their political and diplomatic repercussions, between the two countries. This became the basis of my first book, Poland, the United States, and the Stabilization of Europe, 1919-1933.

How did you become interested in the subject of Polish history?

-I am often asked this, since I have no Polish ancestry. It was unusual in my day for a “niepolak” to go into this field of study—less so, nowadays, when Polish studies have gone more “mainstream” in the United States, and many of the better scholars of Polish matters, of generations younger than mine, are of non-Polish background. In my particular case, the initial motivations were purely accidental, even trivial. I grew up in a college town, and as it happened, a goodly number of the kids I went to school with, and chummed around with, were sons and daughters of faculty in Slavic studies at my hometown University of Kansas. When I was starting my second year at KU, one of these friends suggested I join him in signing up for a course in Polish and east European history that, by fortuitous chance, was taught by Anna Cienciała. I found the course fascinating, in part because its material was entirely unknown to me. Professor Cienciała encouraged me to pursue my studies further, and convinced me to spend a year abroad participating in an exchange program between Kansas and Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań—and I never looked back, as we say. It also helped that these were the early 1970s, when very interesting things were starting to happen in Poland.

So, it can be said that to a large extent American historians of Polish origin - professors Anna Cienciała and Piotr Wandycz--contributed to the development or orientation of your interests and your research?

- I can safely say that, had I not had the good fortune of having been trained and mentored by Anna Cienciała and Piotr Wandycz, I never would have entered the field of Polish and east central European history. The debt I owe to their erudition, their example, and their kindly interest is beyond repayment. I can only hope that, in the course of carrying out my own career, I will have reflected well on, and done justice to the excellent preparation they gave me.

In your books and essays there are many interesting topics. One of them is the role of the Catholic Church in contemporary Polish history. You conduct courses on the history of Poland and Central Europe, the history of Christianity, including the Catholic Church. What archives do you use?

- Naturally, one uses different archives, depending on the particular subject one is researching, so my lifetime itinerary to various archives and libraries will reflect my list of publications. Over the years, I have probably spent most of my time in state and ecclesiastical archives in Poland itself, but because documents relating to Poland have been spread throughout much of the globe owing to the disruptions of war, dictatorship, and emigration, I have logged a good many hours and miles in the United States and London as well. Other collections I have consulted are as modest and nearby as in my home city of Milwaukee, or as famed and distant as the Vatican Archives.

Another topic of your lectures is the so called “Jewish revival” in contemporary Poland. Can an American student develop positive thinking about it?

- This is an extraordinarily interesting and important subject. It is not one that readers will find in my own published work to date, but it is one that I hope to get the chance to address in projects I am now working on that I hope to get into print eventually. In the meantime, there are numerous excellent scholars and commentators working on this subject, and I am eager to promote their work in my capacity as editor of the journal The Polish Review.

You lecture on the history of Western civilization - from the year 1500 to the present day. Other courses: Poland and its neighbors in 1795-1914, Poland and its neighbors - 1914-1945, Catholic Church from 1500 to the present. Can we expect books based on your lectures?

- The possibility of writing one or two books of this sort has occurred to me. For the time being, any of them would need to be added to the lengthy list of “things I’d like to get around to doing someday.”

You are a member of the Board of Directors of the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences (PIASA), also in the Polish American Historical Association (2011-2012 - President), and as well you are a member of the editorial board of Polish American Studies. Since 2014 you have been the editor-in-chief of The Polish Review, a reputable scientific journal opened in 1956. It is available in 575 not only American libraries. Do you agree that the ability to read selected texts is an important aspect because it is possible to influence the elites?

- I am honored to have been entrusted with the editorship of The Polish Review, with its distinguished history. It has a slightly unusual profile, in comparison with other journals in our scholarly profession. On the one hand, it is an academic publication, and of course we seek to maintain a high standard of scholarship, but it is not purely academic, in the strict sense: it is the organ of the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America, whose membership and leadership is composed not merely of academics, but professionals in other fields of Polish identity, or strong interest in Polish matters. For this reason, our potential audience might be somewhat broader than is typical for most scholarly journals, and to the extent this is so, we see this as a sign that the Review is fulfilling its mission.

You are the author of important books, essays, and scholarly papers. Interesting is your book: "Rome's Most Faithful Daughter: The Catholic Church and the Independent Poland, 1914-1939". (Ohio University Press, 2009). You write that when Poland reappeared on the map of Europe it was perceived as the most Catholic country on the continent. You write that, despite this, relations between the Polish Church and the Vatican were not entirely good, and at times were even difficult. You show the intricate relations between Poland and the Vatican. The Vatican counted on Poland's plan to "convert Russia into Catholicism", while the Polish government was reluctant to take part in this plan. These are not commonly known issues. How did you reach them? Was it mainly thanks to the recently released Vatican archives?

- This was precisely the subject that, to my mind, turned out to be the most complex and fascinating aspect of the book as I progressed through the project. In brief: the Holy See, under the leadership of Pope Pius XI (who had served as papal nuncio to Poland before becoming pope) thought that the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, while monstrous in itself, opened a historic opportunity to expand Catholicism eastward into the lands historically Orthodox; this was opposed resolutely by the interwar Polish governments, and to a large extent, by leadership of the Church in Poland, because the Vatican wished to convert the Orthodox to eastern-rite Catholicism, regarded as undesirable by its Polish counterparts as a hindrance to assimilation of Ukrainians and Belorussians into Polish culture, and out of fear that these efforts might further complicate the difficult relationship between Poland and the Soviet Union. Now, these matters were not entirely unknown, and careful readers of my book will note that I made use of a wide variety of published work. But I had an advantage over my predecessors in that I was able to make use of a goodly number of archival sources in order to fill out the picture. I did indeed find some relevant material in the Vatican Archives—but on the whole, I gained the most information from documents in Polish state archives, since this was a matter of considerable discussion—usually unsympathetic discussion—within Polish official circles.

Another book entitled "Poland, the United States, and the Stabilization of Europe, 1919-1933" (Oxford University Press, 1986) is the first publication on the relationship between Poland and the US after the First World War when Poland turned to America to improve its precarious situation. Based on the numerous archives, you show how the Polish leaders in the 1920s were expecting America to support stability in Europe, as Poland regained its independence after gaining the United States of America for political and financial support. How far has this policy and expectations of the United States maintained or changed?

- The heart of that book is summed up in the joking response I would make to colleagues and friends when they asked what I was working on: I would tell them it was a detailed account of something that did not happen, the „something” being the creation of a solid economic and political partnership between the fledgling 2RP and the United States. After the First World War, as is widely known, the US decided to reject President Wilson’s vision of a permanent American role in underwriting European peace and security, preferring to limit itself to financial investment in the Old World. What I discovered was that the Polish governments hoped to overcome American reluctance to support Poland politically and to win an alliance with the transoceanic superpower “through the back door,” so to speak, by attracting US loans and investments in the country on the theory that, sooner rather than later, Washington would feel the need to protect the independence and territorial integrity of a country where many American dollars were at stake. The flaw in the plan was that Americans by and large avoided investing in Poland—precisely because the country was so obviously at risk to the unfriendly ambitions of Germany and Soviet Russia, so it became a vicious cycle discouraging American commitment to interwar Poland.

That said, it strikes me now that I wrote that book during the era of the Cold War and the PRL, and in many ways my approach to the topic reflected a prevalent view of the time, that the absence of close ties between Poland and the United States was somehow a “natural” state of the relationship, dictated by unpleasant but stubborn geopolitical realities. In light of the strong partnership that has developed between the two countries since 1989, now I might approach the subject differently, and invite readers to regard the Polish policies of the 1920s as perhaps premature, but foresighted and prophetic, rather than simply chimerical.

In an essay titled "This Troublesome Question": The United States and the 'Polish Pogroms' of 1918-1919. "Ideology, Politics and Diplomacy in East Central Europe”. (Ed. Biskupski, M. B. University of Rochester Press, 2003) you quote a fragment of Herbert Hoover's journals (1874-1920). Hoover writes that in the news in April 1919 information about the "Pinsk massacre" was reported - the execution of 50 Jews executed at the command of the General of the Polish Army. Americans - at the request of President Wilson, with the approval of Paderewski - sent a delegation to investigate what had happened. It turned out that such an accident did not occur, that it was a lie. In the meantime, I read, for example, in Polish wikipedia, that historians do not judge the massacre in Pińsk unequivocally. Do you think it is important and possible to clarify this matter?

- Over the years there has been considerable discussion and controversy over the sufferings inflicted on Jews dwelling in the kresy in the chaotic aftermath of the First World War, particularly those areas affected by the warfare between Poland on the one hand, and the Bolsheviks and advocates of an independent Ukraine, on the other. These gave rise to lurid reports of perhaps thousands of Jews slain in pogroms at least partially attributable to the encouragement or negligence of Polish military or governmental leadership. While emphasizing that historians still disagree on these matters, in good faith, I think it is fair to say that most commentators agree that these accusations, while not groundless, were considerably exaggerated. The significance of the Pińsk incident was that it was reasonably well documented and verifiable, enough so to prompt the American government to launch an official inquiry into the broader charges of Polish mistreatment of Jews—and there is reason to believe that the U.S. State Department hoped that the verdict of the investigation would largely absolve Poland of blame, and, going further, that the American diplomats cared considerably less about the welfare of the Jews of eastern Europe than they did about protecting the image of the Poland they saw, in that interlude right after the war, as an important European ally of the United States.

But your question raises the larger issue, of the necessity of re-examining the history of relations between gentiles and Jews in the Polish lands. This is of primary and urgent importance, and has been much discussed since 1989, primarily having to do with the years during and immediately after the Second World War, but it can, and should, pertain to the entirety of Polish history. One of the principal signs of a mature and confidently democratic country is its willingness to explore and confront its history, including those issues that are painful or challenging. The record of Polish scholars since 1989 in filling in the “blank pages” of the country’s past, of challenging old taboos, and of correcting the historical record as needed, has been admirable. One hopes they will be able to continue this valuable work, and that they will encounter no such obstacles as those that have hampered the free inquiry of Polish historians in the past.

Interesting is the subject - how Americans write about their "mistakes and distortions". In my opinion they do it usually without tearing robes and lamentations. I read a very interesting book by Lynne Olson entitled "Those Angry Days. Roosevelt, Lindbergh and America's Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941 ", N.Y. 2013). The author, a well-known historian, writes about the years before America joined the Second War, and how strong were the anti-war and pro-German moods. Charles Lindbergh - American pioneer of aviation - in 1938 received a medal from Hermann Goering. 

The book has a separate 18 page chapter titled "Setting the Ground for Anti-Semitism," where the author writes that most American universities, including almost all "Ivy League" institutions, had a strict quota system (numerus clausus) for admission to studies. The university Yale Daily News quoted anti-Semitic commentary. The author writes that even after graduation the Jews had problems finding a job. The book has a lot of reviews, none of the reviewers referred to this chapter, a topic that almost nobody knows. Ability to reject, perhaps rather: retraction of many topics - this is an American characteristic (and can be seen from different perspectives). Maybe that's why the average American is so aware of America's "unique role"? Even Indians do not want to remind them of the painful periods in their history. The National Museum of the American Indian (opened in 2004) does not show the period of suffering, "Trail of Tears”. When I was collecting material for the book, the Indians themselves did not bring it up, but they proudly talked about their participation in the Second World War, the code talkers.

- Generally speaking, all people everywhere find it easier to speak of, let us say, the more glorious moments in their histories, and more difficult to recognize or admit those that do not reflect well on them—and all countries have them. In the case of the United States, you mention the destruction and displacement of the American Indians, and a long heritage of class based, “genteel” antisemitism. There is no denying these. Of course, there is also the matter of slavery and its legacy, which lasts to this day. At the same time, historians in the United States have been examining these questions, and others, quite vigorously in recent, and it is likely that their findings will gradually gain more acceptance in wider American society with the passage of time.

You are also interested in sport - soccer in Poland and baseball in the United States. In the essay "Diamonds Out of the Coal Mines: Slavic Americans in Baseball”, you write about the baseball star, very well-known, and much admired, Stan Musial. The legendary baseball player Stan Musial was of Polish descent. (I remember my husband talking about him with admiration and respect). Do you agree that team sport is a form of teamwork and that it is important especially in the early years of youth?

- I am indeed interested in sport, as a pastime of my own, and, as a historian, in the ways sport can reflect and make connections with what we might call „real” history, the meatier affairs of politics, society, economy, and culture. So I have taught, or plan on teaching, courses in the role baseball has played in American history, and soccer (piłka nożna) in world history. For instance, sport has played an important role in the history of the Polonia of the United States, largely because athletics traditionally has served as a significant entryway for acculturation of immigrant populations into American ways of life. And yes, Stan Musial is, by all odds, the greatest American athlete of Polish ancestry.

The question you pose about the usefulness of team sport in teaching youth the values of teamwork, fair play, and citizenship is very interesting. In fact, one can argue the point both ways, either that it does encourage these positive social attributes, or that it can do the opposite. There is probably no one answer. By the same token, there is no question that over the years many social thinkers, in the English speaking world at least, with its vibrant and highly developed sporting culture, have believed that sport can serve these desirable purposes, and that this is the main practical virtue of having young people learn and play these vigorous, organized games—one thinks of the British saying that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, which, while undoubtedly overstated, certainly summarizes an argument for the social benefit of sport.


The Polish version of this interview appeared in ODRA, Wroclaw, May 2017.

sobota, 18 listopada 2017


Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm


Foreword : James S. Pula

Lanham, MD: Hamilton Books, 2017,  
Lanham-Boulder-New York-Toronto-Plymouth,UK
ISBN 978-0-7618-6983-2 




Poland was the first country  to stand against Hitler’s  Nazi armies and the Red Armies of Stalin’s Soviet Union when, in Sept. 1939, at the beginning of World War 11,they both marched into Poland with the deliberate intention of dividing  the country and destroying it’s people. On August 22, Hitler claimed the object of the war was to “destroy the enemy.. That’s why I have given orders to kill without mercy all men, women and children of Polish descent…”
The eminent literary historian and master story-teller, Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm’s important and beautifully crafted book records the history of this horrific time through seven powerful narratives relating the experiences of diverse people, many of whom survived the atrocities of ethnic cleansing, the valiant Warsaw Uprising in 1944 and struggles beyond. The author brings her fascinating protagonists alive with a brilliant mix of intimate physical experiences and their profound thoughts of how the trauma of war affected their own philosophy of life and the meaning of it all. With these unforgettable true life-stories of special, yet ordinary people, who symbolize the sum of all persons,  Aleksandra has created an essential link in the chain of human chronicles that document the heroic epic history of Poland and the Polish people.
The author offers an invaluable bonus in the Annex where she relates how she personally perceives “creative nonfiction.”

Audrey Ronning Topping-- photojournalist, author "China Mission: A Personal History from the Last Imperial Dynasty to the People's Republic," winner of the “2013 Prose Prize for Media & Culture" from American Publishers.
The Second World War is a historical event so immense that it all too easily can become an abstraction. In Untold Stories of Polish Heroes from World War II, Aleksandra Ziółkowska-Boehm humanizes our recollection of the conflict by demonstrating its effects on the lives of surviving sons and daughters of Poland, the land most devastated by the war. Representing a vivid cross section of Polish society, and a telling variety of wartime experiences, these individual portraits of diplomats, warriors, and ordinary people caught up in extraordinary times reveal much about the fate of Poland in its time of greatest trial.
Neal Pease, Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

In Untold Stories of Polish heroes from World War II, Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm continues to inform, delight, and amaze readers who have (or soon will) know her as one of our most able chroniclers of Polish resistance to Nazi and Soviet invaders during World War II. These are the memories of surviving resistance fighters, mainly after the war. What unites them is their experiences as “brethren in those dark days,” a time of consummate cruelty by the Nazis, when the penalty of resistance under the Nazis was horrific: if a Polish resistance fighter killed German soldier, a hundred Poles were randomly executed. Saving Jews carried the death penalty. Polish citizens who sheltered Jews were executed, along with their families. Many of the survivors were scattered around the world after the war, from the United States to India, and elsewhere, working to retain a sense of Polish culture and history. Her "Annex I," on literary journalism, will evoke empathy and understanding from all who write. For the survivors, and generations to come, this book is invaluable testimony.

Bruce E. Johansen, University of Nebraska at Omaha


Some events in history are over remembered, others are under remembered.  Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm tell us the stories of survivors and heroes who have not made it to the front pages of newspapers, but who are every little bit as significant as those who have. She does so in an intimate way, as if she were telling secrets to a friend. You will not remain indifferent to the content of this book.
Ewa Thompson, Rice University


FOREWORD by James S.Pula

The eminent historian Thomas Carlyle, in his essay “On History” published in 1830, asserted that “Social Life is the aggregate of all the individual men’s Lives who constitute society; History is the essence of innumerable biographies.” While we might more properly say it is the sum of all people’s lives, not just men’s, Carlyle’s statement is a fundamental truth of the historical profession. History is, after all, not the accumulation of names and dates and recitations of what happened, it is an attempt to study people, how they behave, and why they make the decisions they do. It is an attempt to study how people interact in groups, what motivates them, and how their behaviour is influenced by both their own personal experiences and the external forces that act upon them. It is, in the final analysis, an attempt to understand the cause and effect relationships that form the chain of the human chronicle over time.
Carlyle also stated, in a subsequent publication, that “The history of the world is but the biography of great men.” Indeed, most often those who write biography have chosen to concentrate their efforts on “great men” or “great women” precisely in the belief that the progression of history depended, as Carlyle suggested, on the decisions of these “heroes.” Despite the fact that Herbert Spencer began challenging this idea as early as the 1860s, arguing instead that these “great men” were simply products of the social environments in which they lived, the so-called “Great Man Theory” was prominent among professional historians until after World War II when post-war scholars began to delve more deeply into social history.
Regardless of which of these theories one subscribes to, it should be clear that a full understanding of the historical process must include studies of the social and economic conditions of societies as well as biographies of the people on which a clear understanding of history is based—but not just the “great” people. Biographies of “average” individuals who exist in a society, have their own experiences and are acted upon by their surrounding environments, are essential to a clear and complete understanding of the past and its influence on the present. In this respect, Aleksandra Ziołkowska-Boehm has made a major contribution to furthering the understanding of World War II, and especially the part played by Poland and Poles, with her compilation of individual biographies of people who participated in many of its formative events.
Ziołkowska-Boehm’s protagonists include a variety of people and experiences that enhance the usefulness of the volume—Tadeusz Brzeziński, a member of the Polish diplomatic corps who was on assignment in Canada at the outbreak of the war and went on to serve as Consul General for the Polish Government-in-Exile in London; Rudolf S. Falkowski, a freshly minted pilot who escaped from the Soviet Union to fly fighters over Great Britain; Wiesław Chrzanowski who became a photographer of the Warsaw Uprising; Krystyna Brzezicka and Marek Jaroszewicz grew up in Warsaw where she served as a nurse during the Warsaw Uprising and he escaped to France before being interned in Switzerland; Maria Kowal was actually born while her parents were fleeing during the war, so her personal memories are of her post-war era move to the United States; and Danuta Batorska who grew up in the Białowieża Forest before she was forcefully deported with her family to the Soviet Urals, later escaping to the Middle East and eventually Mexico.
Tadeusz Brzeziński had already achieved status and an upper-class lifestyle when he arrived as a member of the Polish diplomatic corps to his new assignment in Canada in 1938. Born of Polish parents in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he enjoyed the advantages of study in Vienna, The Hague and Lwów where he received a doctorate in law and political science in 1919. The essay on Brzeziński includes valuable information on his attempts, while posted in Leipzig in the 1930s, to protest Nazi treatment of the Jews and to actively help them to escape by providing necessary documents. It also records his wartime services and post-war activities, providing original source materials of particular interest to researchers. The experiences of the father are well-complemented by the briefer commentary on his son, Zbigniew, who rose to prominence as the U.S. National Security Advisor under President Jimmy Carter. The younger Brzeziński’s recollections supplement his fathers, but also add his own observations of family life in the wartime and immediate post-war eras.
Rudolf Falkowski dreamed of flying as a young elementary school student when he also began keeping a journal of his experiences. The first passion would thrust him into the maelstrom of aerial combat, while the latter would lead to publication of his first book at age 88. Born into a family of modest means, he had difficulties in school but managed to enrol in a pilot training program which he completed in the summer of 1939 on the eve of the German invasion. Following the Sikorski-Majski Agreement in 1941 he managed to travel to Great Britain where his knowledge of flying earned him a pilot’s wings flying fighters. The author’s treatment of him includes lengthy quotations from his journal and their correspondence that provide valuable historical information of the times he lived through, as well as his own persona.
Wiesław Chrzanowski was born in Sosnowiec but grew up in Gdańsk where his father obtained a job in the shipyard until the family moved to Warsaw in 1930. His childhood appears to have been typical both in education and his enjoyment of sports. In 1939 he served in the defense of the fortress at Modlin, then joined the underground. With the beginning of the Warsaw Uprising, Chrzanowski determined to record the experiences of his unit. Some of his photographs appear in an album prepared by the Warsaw Uprising Museum, while others have appeared on Polish postage stamps. His work, numbering over 200 images and accompanying documentary text, forms a unique and irreplaceable historical record of virtually every aspect of his unit’s part in the Uprising, the people who defied the Germans for 63 brutal days, and his experiences in captivity. 
Krystyna and Marek Jaroszewicz were born in Warsaw, knew each other while growing up, but were separated by the war. Krystyna shared with the author memories of her childhood including a beautiful manor house in Gulbiny and visits to the eastern borderlands, as well as the painful experiences under the German occupation. During the war Krystyna served as a nurse during the Warsaw Uprising, providing her recollections of this and a postwar refugee camp in Switzerland. Marek’s father was a chemist and a prominent supporter of Józef Piłsudski, perhaps a little better situated economically and socially than most of the other protagonists who appear in the book. He was to enter Warsaw University of Technology to study architecture in the fall of 1939, but the invasion intervened. Joining the Polish armed forces, he escaped to the West but was interned in Switzerland with the fall of France. The two reconnected in Zurich and married in 1945. In addition to the wartime experiences, the dual-biography presents first-hand reflections on the experiences of refugees on arrival in the post-war United States.
Maria Kowal was from a small village in Volhynia. Her family had to escape from Ukrainian nationalists during the war and she was actually born in a church in 1943 during their flight. The family was eventually taken as laborers to Germany. Maria recalled as a young girl their post-war move to the United States and her experiences growing to maturity. Danuta Batorska was the daughter of a forestry administrator in the Białowieża Forest. With the war the family was forcibly relocated to the Urals when Danuta was only four. Later, she was evacuated to Teheran following the formation of General Władysław Anders’s army. From the Middle East, in the post-war years she went to the Santa Rosa resettlement center in Mexico. Her memories of the NKVD arrest, the forced exile, the journey to Teheran, and finally the Santa Rosa colony and her eventual settling down in the United States.
A strength of the volume is the variety of its protagonists—their ages and backgrounds are all different, they had different experiences, and they include the experiences of civilians and women, both of which deserve more treatment in the historical literature. Her handling of characters brings them to life, gives them personality, establishes a connection with the reader. Each of these is individually important in its own right. Yet, at the same time, the breadth of their collective experiences paints a broad picture of the many divergent encounters the war triggered. It is this very breadth that makes it more valuable in understanding the scope of wartime events and their effect on the people who lived through them.

 James S. Pula, Purdue University


piątek, 6 października 2017

Polish American Studies Review Senator Stanley Haidasz A Statesman for All Canadians

Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm
Senator Stanley Haidasz A Statesman for All Canadians

Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in Canada,
Montreal, 2014
ISBN 978-0-986-8851-1-2

all reviews:


sobota, 23 września 2017

Maria Szczegielniak Kunice

Maria Szczegielniak

Kunice, 29 maja 2015

Już kilka razy miałam okazję mówić o twórczości p.Aleksandry Ziółkowskiej- Boehm. Mówiłam wtedy przeważnie, choć nie tylko, o książkach, ktore dotyczyly naszej ziemi opoczyńskiej.
Dziś chcę powiedzieć o tym, co w życiu pisarskim Pani Ziółkowskiej było najważniejsze, a przynajmniej bardzo ważne - o spotkaniu i współpracy z wybitnym polskim pisarzem Melchiorem Wańkowiczem.

Chociaz współpraca trwala niewiele ponad dwa lata, ale był to okres bardzo ważny dla Pani Aleksandry. Jak sama powiedziała – od Wańkowicza nauczyła się warsztatu piarskiego.
Wańkowicz obdarzył panią Ziółkowską-Boehm wielkim zaufaniem i zapisał jej w testamencie swoje archiwum. Byl to niewątpliwie zaszczyt, ale łączył sie z duza odpowiedzialnoscia. Pani Ziółkowska wiele lat pracowała przy tym archiwum aby skompletować i wydać 16- tomowa serie pod nazwą „Dzieła Wszystkie”. Skoro Wańkowicz powierzył Pani Aleksandrze swoje archiwum, to byl przekonany, że oddaje je w dobre ręce i intuicja go nie zawiodła. A Pani Aleksandra nie zawiodła swojego Mistrza.

Osobę Wańkowicza i jego twórczość poznała Pani Aleksandra bardzo dobrze, czego dowodem są trzy książki, które mu poświęciła. Ja powiem o jednej z nich „Na tropach Wańkowicza po latach”.  Książka ta zawiera bardzo dużo materialu dotyczącego osoby Wańkowicza z różnych okresów jego życia. Wiele lat poświęciła na zbieranie materiałów do tej książki, i jak sama Pani Aleksandra powiedziała...”ta książka - to próby poszukiwania prawdy o Wańkowiczu jak o człowieku i pisarzu, którego twórczość jest cennym dobrem narodowym. Napisała też, że nie tylko podejmowała  tematy kontrowersjne dotyczące jego osoby. Na okładce książki „Na tropach Wańkowicza” jest napisane bardzo ciekawe zdanie  o Pani Aleksandrze: „Polemicznie podejmuje trudne tematy, które pojawiły się w ostatnich latach, w obronie Wańkowicza nie waha się zmierzyć z wielkimi nazwiskami polskiej literatury”.

Melchior Wańkowicz, to nie tylko wybitny piarz, ale i znakomity reportażysta. Wiele jego książek to reportraże.
Ja powiem o jednej z nich, dlatego że dotyczy ona ważniejszych wydarzeń historycznych, które działy się na naszej ziemi opoczyńskiej. Ta książka to „Hubalczycy”. Jest ona reportażem wojennym.

W tym miejscu zacytuję Pani słowa zaczerpnięte z książki „Na tropach Wańkowicza”, a dotyczą reportażu.

„Reportaż w dużym stopniu opiera się na relacjach uczestników i świadkow, które to relacje autor wiąże z własnym obserwacjami i komentarzami”.
Książka „Hubalczycy” oparta jest na relacji żołnierza oddziału majora Hubala – Romualda Rodziewicza „Romana”, którego autor spotkał po wojnie we Włoszech. W książce pojawiło się wiele nieścisłości, bo Rodziewicz nie widział wszystkiego o kolegach z odzialu. Pobyt w oddziale to nie był czas na długie Polaków rozmowy i zwierzenia, bo przecież żyło się w ciągłym stresie i zagrożeniu.

Kiedyś miałam okazję rozmawiać z p.Wandą Ossowską i zapytałam – jak rodzina i jak Ona przyjęła to, że Wańkowicz w „Hubalczykach” przeniósł brata Henryka do powiatu włoszczowskiego. Pani Wanda powiedziała – Poprosiliśmy autora o sprostowanie. Ja miałam trzecie wydanie „Hubalczyków”, ale nie bylo sprostowania.
Trzeba było przeczytać jedną z książek p.Ziółkowskiej – albo „Kaja od Radoslawa”, albo „Na tropach Wańkowicza po latach” żeby wszystko zrozumieć.

Wańkowicz zdawał sobie sprawę, że książka „Hubalczycy” zawiera pewne nieścisłości, dlatego po powrocie do kraju w 1958 r skontaktował się z Markiem Szymańskim – Hubalczykiem, który przygotował dokumentalną pracę i uzupełnione wersje wydarzeń. Po zapoznaniu się z poprawkami stwierdził, że musiałby zmienić całą książkę. Obydwaj doszli do wniosku , że nie będzie takiej potrzeby, a „Hubalczycy” Wańkowicza zostaną literacką forma opowieści o dziejach oddziału majora Hubala, dlatego następne wydania nie zostały poprawione.
Trzeba jednak podkreślić, że mimo wielu nieścisłości w książce Wańkowicz zasługuje na wielkie uznanie, bo dzięki swej pięknej opowieści - ogólnie mówiąc - spopularyzował sprawę Hubala i Hubalczyków. Wiele szkół przyjęło imię Hubala lub Hubalczyków, powstały Izby Pamięci. W dziesiątkach miast polskich są nazwy ulic Hubala lub Hubalczyków, nakręcony zostal film „Hubal” dla Polskiej Żeglugi Morskiej zbudowano statek „Major Hubal”.
Polskie Radio przyznaje coroczne nagrody zwane „Melchiory” za najlepsze reportaże radiowe.

Może zbyt dużo mówiłam o Hubalczykach, ale proszę to potraktować jako małą i niezamierzoną powtórkę z historii. Mówiłam też dużo o Wańkowiczu, ale to było zamierzone, aby podkreślić, że losy Wańkowicza i Pani Ziółkowskiej –Boehm splotły się na zawsze przez wspólną pracę.

Pani Ziółkowska na zawsze weszła do polskiej literatury, sama tego dokonała, swoim talentem , ogromną wiedzą i pracowitością, ale myślę, że przed Panią Aleksandrą jeszcze wiele dokonań, wiele wyzwań i wiele nowych książek, czego serdecznie życzymy.

Pani Aleksandro na koniec chcę powiedzieć coś, o czym wiele razy myślałam, o czymś, co wymyka się ze sztywnych ram- Mistrz i Uczeń - a co przechodzi w taki zwyczajny wymiar, i myślę, że to Opatrzność zesłała Panią Wańkowiczowi na najtrudniejsze lata jego życia. Kiedy poznała Pani Wańkowicza był człowiekiem wiekowym, schorowanym i samotnym. Choć miał wielu przyjaciół, to nie było przy nim najbliższych, żona pisarza już nie żyła. Jedna córka zginęła w Powstaniu Warszawskim, druga mieszkała w Stanach Zjednoczonych.

Była Pani przy pisarzu, kiedy chorował, kiedy przechodził trudną operację w Manchesterze. Byla Pani przy  nim do konca i to jest bardzo wzruszające i zasługuje na szczególną uwagę i pokazuje, że nie tylko wspólna praca była ważna, ale ważne było to, co nazwałam zwyczajnym ludzkim wymiarem, czyli szacunek, życzliwość, zaufanie, i wszelka pomoc okazana potrzebującemu, bo Wańkowicz potrzebował pomocy na ostatnim i najtrudniejszym etapie swojego życia.



 „Ileż spraw i faktów ocala Pani od zapomnienia. Czytając Pani książkę i śledząc losy bohaterów, zawsze miałam na uwadze słowa – lepszy dzień nie przyszedł już...
Doszłam do wniosku, że do niektórych z nich kiedyś, po latach, może nawet na przekór losowi, ale przyszedł, do niektórych niestety nie przyszedł. Do Joanny Synowiec przyszedł, do jej braci nie przyszedł. Lepszy dzień przyszedł również do Krystyny i Mariana Wartanowiczów. Po koszmarze wojennym odnaleźli się i mimo trudow życia na obczyźnie byli szczęśliwi. Myślę, że do Anny Bąkowskiej lepszy dzień nie przyszedł. Przeżyła trudne lata okupacji i jeszcze trudniejsze w powojennej Polsce.
Zwróciłam uwagę na zdania konczące drugą część książki „Czas i historia zmiotły wszystko, nie ma ludzi, nie ma grobów, nie ma budynków. Po podolskich winnicach Wartanowiczów została jedynie legenda”.
Pani Aleksandro, dziś już nie tylko legenda, pozostała pamięć, którą ocaliła Pani na kartach tej książki.
Przypomnę w tym miejscu, że w książce „Dwór w Kraśnicy i Hubalowy Demon” napisala Pani:
...„Dwór w Kraśnicy spłonął, ale pamięć została i aby tą pamięc ocalić piszę tę książkę”.
Tak też ocaliła Pani pamięć o życiu Wartanowiczów na Podolu. Obecne, a szczególnie przyszłe pokolenia tej rodziny będą Pani za to wdzięczni, bo to, co nie zapisane, nie utrwalone, zaciera się z czasem w pamięci.
Szczególnie jest mi bliska trzecia część tej książki „ Z miejsca na miejsce” W cieniu legendy Hubala” - ze względu na osobę Romana Rodziewicza. Wcześniej wydana książkę pod takim samym tytułem przeczytałam dopiero w ubiegłym roku. Choć nieobce mi było nazwisko Rodziewicza, to po przeczytaniu tej książki zafascynowała mnie jego osoba, jego przeżycia wojenne i powojenne.
Czytając książkę patrzyłam na jego przeżycia pod kątem ogólnego tytułu „Lepszy dzień nie przyszedł juz”. Jego życie bylo bardzo trudne i tych gorszych dni było niemało – a kiedy zdecydował co ma robić, wybuchła wojna, potem ciężkie przeżycia wojenne, w tym obozowe, i trudne życie na emigracji. Mimo to do Rodziewicza też przyszedł lepszy dzień. Ja lepszego dnia w jego życiu upatruje w tym, że miał szerokie grono wspaniałych przyjaciół, wśród których Pani zajmuje ważne miejsce. Przyjaźń z Panią zaowocowała książką. Rodziewicz jako żołnierz legendarnego Oddziału mjr Hubala sam wszedł do historii, a Pani pisząc tę książkę, utrwala jego pozycję w historii”.

Maria Szczegielniak, Sławno kolo Opoczna, 23 maja 2012


Cichy Bohater Solidarności i Wolności

Wczoraj poświeciłam swój felieton historii mojego ostatniego spotkania z człowiekiem, którego los rzucił za granicę, do USA, i tam jakby reprezentuje Polskę, zajmując się m.in. działalnością naukową.
Dziś też sięgnę za Wielką Wodę, by dodać jeszcze jedną historię, niestety już jakby zamkniętą, choć owoce jej są dalekosiężne. Otóż niedawno dostałam spóźnioną wiadomość o śmierci Pana Normana Boehm. To mąż polskiej pisarki, na stałe mieszkającej w USA, Pani Aleksandry Ziółkowskiej- Boehm. Pan Norman nie przypadkiem znalazł się w jej orbicie. Dodam też od razu, ze nie każdy nekrolog i nota informacyjna znajdują się na oficjalnej stronie naszego Ministerstwa Obrony Narodowej. Tylko zasłużeni ludzie są tam opisami. Posłużę się tym tekstem, bo sama nic mądrzejszego nie wymyślę przecież.
Tytuł notatki: Cichy bohater
Nie jest żadnym odkryciem, że na drodze do NATO Polska nie miała samych sojuszników. Wśród sił, które – z różnych przyczyn – nie były zachwycone tą perspektywą, znalazła się część amerykańskich elit politycznych i tamtejszej opinii publicznej.
W przełamywaniu negatywnego stosunku odegrało rolę wiele osób, znanych i nieznanych. Do tych drugich należy, niedawno zmarły, Norman Boehm (1938–2016). Ten Amerykanin o szwedzko-niemieckich korzeniach bezinteresownie i z powodzeniem włączył się w kampanię na rzecz Polski.
Kim był? Najkrócej – człowiekiem sukcesu, prywatnie – kuzynem wielkiej aktorki Ingrid Bergman. Wszechstronnie wykształcony (studia chemiczne i prawnicze), pracował w charakterze menedżera w koncernach naftowych ARAMCO (Arabian American Oil Company) w Arabii Saudyjskiej, dla Exxon (Esso) w Anglii, Norwegii i Teksasie. Zasłynął w 1976 roku wynegocjowaniem największego kontraktu w historii Esso i Shell, dotyczącego szybów wiertniczych na Morzu Północnym, na zawrotną ówcześnie kwotę 462 milionów dolarów. Zgodnie z najlepszą amerykańską tradycją miał też za sobą służbę wojskową, jako pilot marynarki wojennej.
Szczęśliwym zrządzeniem losu był mężem Aleksandry Ziółkowskiej, polskiej pisarki, zaangażowanej na rzecz Polski i Polaków na trudnym amerykańskim terenie. To jej zawdzięczamy, że Norman stał się – jak napisała – „niemal polskim patriotą”. Nie znając polskiego, zadał sobie trud poznania i zrozumienia niełatwej dla obcokrajowca polskiej historii. Wiedza ta stała się solidnym „oprzyrządowaniem” merytorycznym, gdy zaczynała się Wielka Gra o NATO. Dodatkowym atutem były jego umiejętności negocjacyjne oraz znajomość specyfiki amerykańskiego rynku politycznego z jego mechanizmami i niuansami.
Kluczowe znaczenie dla decyzji USA o przyjęciu Polski miał Senat. Aleksandra i Norman Boehm odegrali istotną rolę w ich reorientacji. Akcja polegała na zasypywaniu biur senatorskich listami i interwencjami. Norman Boehm wykorzystywał również media, w tym lokalne, co zmuszało indagowanych polityków do wyjaśnień.
Działania o charakterze lobbingowym przebiegały dwutorowo. Z jednej strony wywierano nacisk na polityków, z drugiej – na wyborców. Tych drugich należało przekonać i pozyskać dla sprawy polskiej, by z kolei oddziaływali na swoich senatorów, stanowych i federalnych. Jan Nowak–Jeziorański nazwał obrazowo tę technikę „masażem przez wyborców”. Zaangażowanie Normana wyraziście podsumował, jako wręcz nieprawdopodobną skuteczność. – Czegoś podobnego jeszcze nie widziałem – napisał w prywatnym liście do Aleksandry Ziółkowskiej–Boehm.
Warto zaznaczyć, że Norman Boehm do końca życia pozostał człowiekiem skromnym, ciepłym, powściągliwym i nie chwalił się swoimi dokonaniami na rzecz Polski, a było ich więcej. Takich przyjaciół brak najbardziej. Zawsze i wszędzie”.
Dodam od siebie, że podczas ich pobytu w Warszawie Pani Aleksandra zaprosiła mnie na kawę. Kawę własnoręcznie przygotował dla nas Pan Norman. Też była doskonała.

31.08.2016 r