środa, 18 marca 2020



Zbigniew Brzezinski, John R. Alley, Bruce E.Johansen, Radoslaw Palonka, Audrey Topping, Stanley Weintraub, Robert Ackerman, Homer Flute, Rod Trahan, Jesse Flis, Blazej Bierczynski, Anna Cienciala, Karl Maramorosch, Christopher Mick, Stanley Cloud, Lynne Olson, Jerzy Krzyzanowski, Piotr Wandycz, James S. Pula, Ewa Thompson, Angela Baldwin, Florence W. Clowes, Larry Cunningham, Charles S. Kraszewski, Wash Gjebre, Matt DeLaMater, John Knowles, Rosario Tronnolone, Virginia Degiorgio, Isabella Rossellini, Danuta Batorska, Jean Wahl, Leszek Adamczyk, John Carr, John Mensch, Mary Lanham


I was intrigued by Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm’s observations of American history, Native Americans, and Indian country. The fact that they are the views of a well-educated European with a well-developed interest in such subjects, rather than of a scholarly expert or an American insider, Indian or not, adds another dimension of interest to them. .... John R. Alley, PhD, Utah State University


 Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm takes us across the United States, visiting Indian Country, with insight and compassion, raising many issues along the way with the eye of a traveler from overseas (the book first appeared in Poland). Few people in this country know that the first craftsmen at Jamestown were from Poland, or that the family of Polish ancestry (relatives of hers) are carving a huge memorial to Crazy Horse in South Dakota. The book includes a number of wide-ranging interviews with people who are well known in Indian Country. This book provides fascinating reading from fresh perspectives. The interview with Rod Trahan is one of the most enlightening slices of reservation reality I have read in a long time. .... Bruce E. Johansen, PhD, University of Nebraska


Good reading not only for lovers of books on Indians. It describes the history and rich culture of the indigenous peoples of America against their current situation in American society. The author tries to eradicate stereotypes, makes readers aware of Indian contributions to the history of the United States and, at the same time, emphasizes difficulties they are forced to cope with in order to preserve their autonomy and cultivate old traditions. What plays a significant role is the autobiographical aspect which explains the author’s personal commitment in Indians lives. .... Wydawnictwo DEBIT, Bielsko Biala, Poland


As always, it is very well written. .... Zbigniew Brzezinski, PhD, Author, National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter


The book is the result of curiosity of the Indian world, and a try to understand the problems that are facing modern Indians. The author does not stop with a critique of the current situation but tries to look for the recipe for resolution and salvation. Her attempts are shown in the second part of the book by interviews with authors who know about Indians, as well as with Indians of several Nations. Giving voice to the Indians is for sure a great attribute of her book. Not minimized is the negative involvement of the American government and its policies whom the author blames for the current situation. Also, she blames the often mistaken writing/reporting by American writers.
.... Radoslaw Palonka, PhD, Jagiellonian University, Krakow


Spending part of my life growing up on the Cass Lake Indian reservation and being of Cree decent, I can appreciate the message and the plight of our people contained in this book. My grandmother who was a Native Medicine Woman taught me many things growing up. Many things have been lost in our culture, which I have tried to teach my grandchildren, but I am also painfully aware of the stigma that goes along with claiming our heritage. My hope is that one day books like this will assist in peoples understanding of the hardships that the Indian people have faced in the past as well as present day, so that we many all live together with compassion towards one another.
.... Angela Baldwin, South Dakota


I found the book really beautifully written, touching, absorbing and scholarly. The personal connection made it even more interesting.      .... Audrey Ronning Topping, Scarsdale, New York, photojournalist, author of books about China and Tibet


In a memorable line almost worth the book by itself, Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm has written, "Only in America can a person sculpt a mountain." Her great-uncle, Korczak Ziolkowski, "a Polish orphan from Boston," began the colossal memorial to near-legendary Sioux chieftain Crazy Horse in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Ziolkowski had a more famous predecessor. Also in the craggy Black Hills, Gutzon Borglum, an Idaho sculptor of Danish descent, carved into Mount Rushmore the images of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt; and earlier, on Stone Mountain in Georgia, the marching figures of Robert E. Lee and his Confederates. For Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm, however, the enormous sculpture of Crazy Horse is the starting point for a moving lament, framed by human faces from the land, about the conditions under which Native Americans, whose cultural and tribal lands were ravaged by settlers from abroad. Europeans, she observes strikingly, nevertheless adopted into their own culture some tribal laws and traditions from "Indians" who now live theoretically autonomous lives but in reality are wards of their conquerors--the most open of wounds.
.... Stanley Weintraub, Professor, author, biographer & historian


Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm has done a thorough job of sharply focusing on the plight of the Native American in the U.S. and, indeed, it is a sad state of affairs.

.... Wash Gjebre, Greensburg, Pennsylvania, retired "Post-Gazette"staff writer

It’s sad but true that our society hasn’t even begun to realize what harm has been done to the Native Americans starting at the beginning of the European colonization here. Aleksandra’s book will be a big help, I think, for educating the American public.                                                                                                                                 ….Robert Ackerman, Forest Conservationist, New Alexandria, Pennsylvania

The book „Open Wounds” depicts many of the past and present problems facing Native Americans as minorities in their own country, where bias, envy and jealousies are still strong influences among the Indian people, as portrayed in the author’s story about Crazy Horse being betrayed by his own people. This still happens today. Many non-Indians are misinformed about Indians and reservations because their only source of information comes from fictional movies and books. This leads to false perceptions that stereotype Indians reservations as the typical Indian camp with teepees and the Indians as the typical “hang around the fort Indian” waiting for the handout from government. These fictional movies and books do more harm to the Indian’s dignity by categorizing him as a lazy alcoholic with no ambition. In reality, all nationalities have a percentage of their people that fit in this particular category. Government run Indian schools have been both positive and negative the positive is that the schools have educated many of our Indian youth and gave them hope for a future, but the negative aspect is that the government run Indian schools deprived the Indian youths of their cultural heritage and ancestral language. This book outlines the tragic obstacles encountered by sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski while carving the statue of the Lakota Sioux war chief Crazy Horse. The sculptor experienced many similar situations that parallels the Indians’ situation.

Homer Flute, Apache, Trustee/CEO Sand Creek Massacre Descendants Trust, Anandarko, Oklahoma

“This is a complex history of the treatment and lives of Native Americans ever since the land was discovered. It contains a wealth of information the author gathered over many years from interviews, research, histories, and interviews with Native Americans or those who worked closely with them.

The plight of the Indians was caused by the American government in their treatment and disregard for their culture. People were routed to the wastelands of the continent; given reservations which the Government would withdraw if they wanted that piece of land. These reservations are usually remote areas, where the Indians received little support for housing, education or work. Consequently, many resorted to liquor or drugs. Today, there is hope for some tribes, with their casinos bringing in much-needed money. But not all tribes are so lucky. They still live without hope or inspiration.

From the early 1900s children were taken from their parents and schooled in American special schools, forcing them to speak only English and punished for any Indian rituals the children would observe. Many of these children ran away, wishing to retain their heritage. Others assimilated, went to college and returned to the reservation, with plans of improving the health and education of the reservation Indians. Some of course, disclaimed their heritage and joined the American society. Today these schools still exist, but more emphasis is now on retaining their language and culture.

The personal adventures of the author bring life to this history. Korczak Ziolkowski is a relative of Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm and she provides a history of that undertaking. The sculpture of Crazy Horse in the Black Hills of South Dakota will be ten times larger than the presidents’ heads on Mt. Rushmore. Today, the construction continues, under the supervision of Korczak’s wife, Ruth and her children. No government funds are provided, rather, funding comes from donations by project supporters around the country.

A chapter is dedicated to the Indian Code Talkers during World War II. They developed codes from the Indian language that were used in Europe and the Pacific. Philip Johnson, the son of Protestant missionaries, who grew up on a Navaho reservation, approached General Vogel with the idea of the Navaho language code. With twenty-nine Indians, a dictionary code was created which was successfully used in war areas.

The efforts of Ziolkowska-Boehm in compiling this information is to be highly commended”.

Florence W. Clowes, POLISH AMERICAN JOURNAl, Boston, NY, April 2010


“Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm, author of Open Wounds reveals her perspective on Native Americans and Indian Reservations in this potpourri of stories, interviews and observations.  The fact that she is a Native of Poland and received her Ph.D. from Warsaw University makes the book in the words of  John R. Alley of Utah State University ring true: 

“I was intrigued by Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm’s observations of American history, Native Americans and Indian country,” he observes.  “The fact that they are the views of a well-educated European with a well-developed interest in such subjects…. adds another dimension of interest to them.”

Dr. Ziolkowska writes with compassion and passion when it comes to Native American issues.  That developed in part because it was her great-uncle, Korczak Ziolkowski, who began the monumental sculpture of Crazy Horse in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Whether reading about her great uncle’s lifelong desire to honor Crazy Horse, or learning about the Code Talkers of World War ll, you will find Dr. Ziolkowska’s book informative, lively and packed full of interesting information. 

Finally you will find her chapter on St. Labre Indian School to be informative and reflective of her unique perspective.  Several of her interviews in the book are with people either formerly or currently affiliated with St. Labre”.

Larry Cunningham, Open Wounds, THE MORNING STAR, April 2010


“Ziolkowska-Boehm is a popular Polish writer with a gift for empathy and praiseworthy industriousness. Her books are numerous. By an accident of life she encountered American Indians and decided to dig deeper. The result is a very readable account of their plight and tragedy. While the tragedy is irreversible; it is good to see a book that gently lectures the winners. Ziolkowska-Boehm's book makes us reflect on the injustices of life and fate, perhaps prompting us to do a few things to remedy them”.   E.T., SARMATIAN REVIEW, April 2010


"I am not sure if there is any other country in Europe, where Indians are hold in a such unique esteem as in Poland. And when we add family connections with Korczak Ziolkowski, there is no surprise that Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm has decided to bring up that topic. This is not only great piece of Indians’ story, this is a great piece of literature".
Michal Sikorski, former editor-in-chief of "International Relations" Monthly (Poland), December 27, 2010

"Open Wounds" will bring much needed awareness to the many challenges still facing our Native Americans”.  Jesse Flis, Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians


“Aleksandra is a warm and genuine person with a flair for painting an accurate and detailed picture in your mind of many varied subjects she writes about”.

Rod Trahan, Montana


"Many books have been written about the history and cultures of Native American tribes. However, I know of no book until OPEN WOUNDS - A NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE that broadly portrays significant aspects of Native American history, cultural treatment, subjugation, suffering, failed education, etc. that has resulted in the subdued outlook for their future. With the advent of casino ownership, a minor number of tribes have obtained a degree of success financially and culturally giving their people an independence. But casinos only thrive in the populated areas. Tribes located in the remote Northern plains and Southwest desert areas do not have the opportunity to successfully operate a casino. These Indians people continue to suffer from lack of work (unemployment as high as 80%) shortages of food, health and dental services and educational facilities. The author's sadness for the circumstances of these original Americans will envelop the reader and cause a tear or two to flow in compassion for them".
Frank Appleton, BARNES & NOBLE

“Always interested in the history and treatment of Native Americans, I found that Aleksandra Ziolkowska Boehm's book provided a rare and compelling insight into the outcome of ill conceived policies by the Federal Government. Native Americans have been relegated to second class citizenship in their own country. What a shame!”
Peter Clark, BARNES & NOBLE


"The sad story and mistreatment of Native Americans has been well documented. But the result thereof in the current outlook for them has not... until now when Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm's OPEN WOUNDS - A NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE succinctly discloses in broad terms what has happened to them. An one example, many believe Indians are now well off because of income from casinos. Few realize that those tribes forced onto barren and distant reservation have not. The remote tribes have no casino or other sources of income, and some suffer unemployment rates up to 80% (Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation for example). Even worse treatment of Indian people has offered little, if any, opportunities for them to gain financial security. They are unable to even help themselves by use of financial aide from the wealthy tribes because state governments only allow the wealthier tribes to invest within the state the casinos are located. The list of problems goes on: health, education, welfare etc. The status of Native Americans is a gross blemish on the reputation of the U.S. in the eyes of the world. It is wonderful to have read such a book disclosing the true status of America's Indian people".
Carl Oberly, BORDERS, September 2010

"OPEN WOUNDS - A NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE by Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm presents a new and better understanding for the feelings of Native Americans and their hopes for a better future. The author uses a mechanism of broadly defining how the years of mistreatment at the hands of the Federal Government' and its misguided policies has resulted in despondency and despair. In another method of revelation, the author provides a series of interviews with real American Indians from the Apache, Chickasaw, Kiowa and Northern Cheyenne Nations. These are tribal representatives that speak with first hand knowledge of their peoples' treatment, the obstacles they themselves and others face and how they (but not all) have overcome the obstacles to achieve independence and even success. Through these interviews, the author manages to place the reader into the Indian's position and then to be able to experience their reactions, feelings and hopes. Every American would do well to read this book as it reveals another part of American's sad history where a minority was and continues to be mistreated".
Alicia Montgomery, GOOGLE BOOKS


It is a unique book - very informative and written with beautiful style. I have learned a lot about the current situation of Native Americans, that I never realized before. I wish we could do something more effective for them, to give them some perspectives in life, opportunities, particularly those to earn a living.
We owe Native Americans living on the remote reservations continue to live in poverty, ignored for years by the Federal Government. Our government always seems to be involved in other places and other countries business, not our own. Truly Open Wounds are still there.

Bill Adams, Amazon

This is the most comprehensive and totally honest description of the plight of Native Americans, or properly stated, INDIANS, that I have ever read. There is a consistent thread teeing events & their consequences.
I did think the book was expensive for a soft cover.
Amazon is the place where even obscure or O.O.D. books can be found.
Keep The Faith!!

Gidier, Amazon


Who would you rather be in your childhood: a cowboy or an Indian? It was always cooler to be the good guy the hero, the victors just like in a movie, wasn’t it? It is confirmed by a Chickasaw Indian, who the author conducted an interview with, that no child has even wanted and still does not want to be an Indian. Because in the movies it was cowboys who won, and the Indians who lost. The image of a blood-thirsty Native American, robbing the trains and attacking white settlers, copied over the centuries in the US, was finally brought homes thanks to western movies. And what is our knowledge about the native inhabitants of North America? About their life at the beginning of colonization, about the times of brutal expansion to the West, about their contemporary life? In the majority, it is based on what the television and the cinema provide us with and these are usually only a few useful pieces of information, because the issue of the American Indians does not belong to the popular one. However, even if we are willing to learn more, even full of good intentions, we can easily become tendentious, and as a result create an image of the Native Americans similar to our Polish Cepelia (Folklore and Artistic Manufacturing Center), surrender to our emotions, look from a perspective that is far from an objective one. That is why the book by Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm is so important and so special. The author examined the subject not only with passion and curiosity of a traveler, but also with a journalistic professionalism. That is why her work allows us to see the life of the Native Americans without the blind admiration that covers the mistakes made by themselves. Their life is analyzed from different perspectives their own, the whites, and the historic, economic and cultural one. Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm does not feel satisfied with only one answer, avoids Sunday tourist simplicities, bores into the topic, conducts interviews, which we will find in the book partly as a whole, partly in a form of anecdotes and paraphrases. She allows us to enter the world of reservations, casinos, Indian princesses, great chiefs and ordinary people. She refutes the myths, reveals the crimes, analyzes the behind the scenes of battles, e.g. she writes about the Native American wind-talkers a phenomenon the US have only recently learned about. She makes the reader realize, how tremendous was the participation of the American Indians in the creation of the United States and what the cost of the civilization progress were. For us, the Poles, the book would be especially interesting because of the lives of our country man Korczak Ziolkowski, who participated in building of the sculpture of four American presidents, but whose greatest work is the statue of Crazy Horse (the sculpture is being continued by the family of the artist). Surely, careful readers will not miss an interesting piece of information about what links Polish tar-makers, Pocahontas and the first strike of the history of American working unions. It will be difficult to close Americas Open Wound and put it back on the shelf just like that the American Indians are still a living history, the present and the future of the United States. And ours too as descendants of the European colonists (and then immigrants) and as a humankind.
Blazej Bierczynski, Dancing with the Indians, ANGUS AND ROBERTSON   15/01/2012


Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm


Purdue University Press, 2010

West Lafayette, Indiana

ISBN 978-1-55753-554-2

“I am a cat lover as well as a friend and admirer of Dr.Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm other fine publications and books. 

    I am sure that all animal lovers will find it truly wonderful, and all thinking people, even if they hate cats, will find it a profound, sensitive, insightful and funny book.

    Dr. Aleksandra's understanding of cats, and animals in general, goes beyond our common need for the unconditional love we receive from our pets. It reaches into our deepest feelings and spiritual needs in line with the Taoist and Buddhist philosophy of wisdom and compassion: that the belief in an absolute unity transcends all divergences, and all life is seen to be but forms of the Primal One.”

Audrey Ronning Topping /acclaimed author of six books and a prize-winning photojournalist/.

“Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boem should be highly commended for writing a book that conveys so well the author’s appreciation and compassion for animals”.

Robert Ackerman

“I have always liked cats admiring their grace, cleanliness and even their "quirks" that are interesting to say the least. The wonderful story about the very special cat Suzy gave me a new dimension of admiration for cats. Reciprocating with love, devotion and faithfulness is a cat's reward for that given to them by humans. The book by Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm is definitely a "good read". “

Carl Boehm


“I always like dogs and whole my life I had a one around me. Cats - in my opinion - were too self absorbed and aloof. After reading "On the Road with Suzy: From Cat to Companion" I decided to have a cat. Now, just one month later, I am in love with him and became a great admirer of all cats. My cat is very independent in a way that I respect him, but he is so loving and giving that I love him. Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm did a miracle with me, and I am very thankful! “
Bill Smart


"Many people would question Aleksandra's and her husband's decision to embark on a 2.5 months motor trip accompanied by their cat Suzy. Cats are generally considered not to enjoy automobile transportation. Then, we learn about thus special feline... calm, collected, warm, friendly; devoted and loving even under what must have been trying situations. Surely, Suzy has to be remarkable, unique and even brave to face challenges most cats never encounter. I can understand how she became a focal point and an integral member of the family. I wish Suzy many, many happy years.
What a beautiful book about the bond between a cat and humans!"

Mary Salkind, The Bond between a cat and humans, ALIBRIS, Sep. 10, 2010


“After reading "On the Road with Suzy" the first time, I was left with the feeling of why and how could I have always disliked cats as many others do. Surely, no one could dislike the sweet and loving Suzy. So, I reread Aleksandra's book and came to the conclusion that the love, caring and devotion she and her husband extended towards Suzy may have became a challenge to her. Her qualities of affection and faithfulness were almost like those of a dog but tempered a bit by the normal aloofness and pride of a cat. However, when it was time to be affectionate, loving and faithful, Suzy responded. She is a remarkable feline and most interesting to read about!”.  

David Keller, GOOGLE BOOKS

“If Suzy could talk and probably does in cat language, I believe she would say to Aleksandra and Norman: "I really love you for taking me in from stray status, for being with me during my pregnancy and birth on my five beautiful kittens, for striving to find good homes for my kittens because it was impossible to keep them, for always having time for me and tolerating my cat quirks and antics, for caring for me in sickness and in health, for always showing your love, affection and pride in me (and bragging about me too). You two are truly cat people, co we are a threesome"

This is a remarkable tale about a wonderful cat! “.   John Carr, ALIBRIS, September 2010

“Doctor Aleksandra is an animal lover. Her compassion for her cat, Suzy, makes this a book of discovery and adventure for all animal lovers.

Suzy found the Boehms, and stalking around their Houston apartment, won their hearts and soon became a member of the family. She accompanied them on trips either by auto or plane, a loving companion.

Aleksandra understood the need of compassion and love for animals, and they related to her. A description of a long cross-country trip with husband, Norman is hilarious, as they must make accommodations before and during the trip. Suzy survives and explores her new surroundings in Delaware. Later on Suzy even flies to Poland with her owners.

This is truly a couple who enjoy and deeply care for the welfare of their animals”.

Florence Waszkelewicz Clowes, The POLISH AMERICAN JOURNAL, Boston, NY, September 2010


This book created a new feline heroine Suzy. Like other known animals heroes , such as Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, she is a real and truly remarkable creature. We observe her over a 13 years period - since as stray cat she found herself the right couple - humans beings who welcomed her and who made life changes for her addition to the family. Suzy accompanied them on their trips, was in Indian territory for over two months, (and always stoic as an Indian), oversees many times, in her lady friend Aleksandra's - country - Poland.
She dedicated herself completely to that remarkable couple and enriched their lives.

This is truly an amazing story how humans and animals can fit into each other's lives and make a wonderful loving group.
Traveling with Suzy from Houston, Texas living in Wilmington, Delaware and traveling overseas is now part of the great literature about the animals and their bond with humans.

That book reminds me of RING OF THE BRIGHT WATER by Gavin Maxwell. Mr. Graham and his Mij the otter are truly remarkable like Suzy and her devoted couple Aleksandra and Norman.
Bill Adams, Amazon

What a wonderful tale! Suzy, the homeless Texas cat, won the hearts of a caring couple visiting her state. Their travels and experiences provide a heart warming rendition of how a devoted feline and loving humans bond and the happiness each brought to the other.

George Mitchell,

What a wonderful tale! Suzy, the homeless Texas cat, won the hearts of a caring couple visiting her state. Their travels and experiences provide a heart warming rendition of how a devoted feline and loving humans bond and the happiness each brought to the other.

George Mitchell, ALIBRIS

The reader does not have to be "cat person" to enjoy the heart-rending story of Suzy. Homeless, she adopted a concerned couple as only a cat can. Always appreciative and devoted to her new family, Suzy brought them untold happiness and joy in their travels together.

Wonderful book!

Henry Albright, ALIBRIS



Foreword: Bruce E. Johansen

Lexington Books, 2012, photos, notes, bibliography, 195 pp.

A moving and compelling account of what heroism entails and what suffering can be endured for the sake of a higher cause.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, PhD, Author, National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter, John Hopkins University and Center for Strategic and International Studies

In the clutter of books arguing the propriety of the Warsaw Rising, whether it should have taken place or not; in the avalanche of statistics and strategies, the flesh and blood people who lived through the heroic trauma are often overlooked. Ziólkowska-Boehm is a fine writer in the grand tradition of reportage established in Poland by her mentor, Melchior Wankowicz and her friend, Ryszard Kapuscinski. This sensitive and moving portrayal of Kaia deserves a place on the same shelf with Miron Bialoszewski's inimitable Memoir of the Warsaw Uprising.

— Charles S. Kraszewski, Kings College and The Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences

In pages of striking contrast, Kaia moves from a colorful, nearly idyllic life by Polish exiles in southern Siberia earlier in the last century to the graphic horrors of Nazified Poland—and then to the moving aftermath of loss and recovery.

— Stanley Weintraub, author of "The Last Great Victory: The End of World War II, July–August 1945"

Kaia’s memories, excellently recorded and commented on by Aleksandra Ziólkowska-Boehm, give the story of her happy childhood and early architectural work in interwar Poland; her active resistance to Nazi occupation; Soviet imprisonment; and of her part, as an architect, in the rebuilding of Warsaw in postwar communist Poland. It is also the story of her husband, Marek Szymanski, deputy to Major 'Hubal,' commander of a Polish Army unit, who refused to surrender in September 1939. Hubal’s Cross of Military Valor served Kaia both as a talisman for survival—and as a key link to her marriage. This is a 'must read' for all those interested in the history of World War II as it played out in a country fatefully placed between Germany and Russia.

— Anna M. Cienciala, University of Kansas

I read Kaia, Heroine of the 1944 Warsaw Rising, I always believed that Siberia was only a terrible place of suffering and dying, where very few of the expelled people survived the primitive conditions and harsh climate. For me, it was an eye opener to read about the role played by exiled Poles in places like Irkutsk and other Siberian cities and about those who went there voluntarily to participate in the building of the trans-Siberian railroad, as well as numerous Poles who became prominent Russian scientists, engineers, and writers. Kaia’s description of her heroic actions is so lively and masterfully presented that I felt like I was going with her from place to place, witnessing the wounding and death of several fighters and following Kaia through the underground canals. I liked very much the large number of photographs of participants.

— Karl Maramorosch, Rutgers University


“It was an eye opener to read about the Poles in Siberia, their lives and descriptions of the country--so different from my pre-conceived ideas. The world is such a cruel place and so many people have lived through so much. I realized once again how fortunate I have been in life--born and raised in Canada--where I have never suffered from hunger, war and occupation. But I almost envied Kaia and her friends the great comradery, the sharing of a pot of soup, a bed, a place of refuge-- a common cause where they were willing to risk everything for the freedom of their city and country-- but sadly at great sacrifices. Kaia is a story that deserves to be told. Stories such as this--and there are thousands, will soon be lost with the passing of time. Thank you Alexandra for keeping her's alive.”

- Marina Glista, Missisauga, Ontario, Canada


In the extraordinary, finely detailed story of Cezaria (“Kaia”) Iljin we see Poland’s history in personal microcosm.  Like Alex Haley’s Roots, this is much more than a personal memoir. It is the story of a people. For this reason, Kaia has received a wide readership and warm reviews in Poland, where the oral history of World War II and events that Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm describes are well-remembered. People there understand innately certain things that bear explaining to an American audience, even, sometimes, to the many Polish-Americans who have been “Americanized.”

(…) First, the scale of the horror and suffering will strike many Americans like a blow. Some of us may recall a glancing reference from a movie, perhaps The Pianist. Poland, a primary field of battle in World War II, left about a quarter of the nation’s population dead. Americans as a whole lack personal references to such a holocaust – perhaps the Cherokee Trail of Tears, during which a quarter of a nation (4,000 of 16,000) also died, multiplied several hundred times (about six million Poles died) or the accumulated suffering of slaves shipped from Africa for more than two centuries, a quarter of whom also died in the Middle Passage. 

Kaia’s story is full to the brim with the essentials of diaspora – of many peoples’ lives being directed by events larger than oneself from home to temporary home, with prison camps between.  Warsaw was ruined three times during World War II – by the German blitzkrieg moving eastward in 1939, then again as the front moved westward in 1945, and, in between, by the Germans in retribution for the two-month-long Warsaw Rrising of 1944, as the Gestapo also carried out Hitler’s orders to eradicate the carriers of Polish knowledge and culture.  This followed the razing of the Jewish ghetto of Warsaw (once home to half a million people) during May, 1943, following its own uprising on the eve of Passover.

            Secondly, anyone who knows the least about the history of Poland knows that the Poles have been victims of arrogant and militaristic neighbors – most notably the Russians, and, during World War II, the Germans under the Nazis. This, plus the fact that Poland is a nation of poets and musicians (who else has named its largest airport after a composer, Frédéric Chopin?) This may have left an impression that the Poles have been passive through centuries of oppression.  This is not true in the least. The Germans forbade the playing of Chopin, fearing that the music would, as Ziolkowska-Boehm remarks, “stir up the Polish spirit.” The playing of Chopin was punishable by death. The death camps were for Poles (and other non-Germans), as well as Jews. Kaia’s brother Modest died in Auschwitz during 1941. Before that, when one German soldier demanded his documents, Modest had announced: “I am a Hubal partisan, you Kraut!”

Kaia’s story belies the stereotype of Polish passivity. She witnessed the obliteration of Warsaw while maintaining a safe house for insurgents during the war, in memory of  Henryk Dobrzanski (who assumed the nom de guerre Hubal, perhaps the most exemplary of early anti-German Polish insurgent leaders during World War II). While this name requires explanation to an American audience, Poles have named many schools and parks after him. A movie has been made about Hubal and his underground army.  Once inside Kaia’s safe house, insurgents could always find delicious soup to eat and a welcoming mattress.  Between times, Kaia and her cohort sometimes sought solace in the countryside, where “They drank goat’s milk and read Voltaire” – and, no doubt, played recordings of Chopin.

Ziolkowska-Boehm writes that Kaia and her compatriots moving under Warsaw in the sewers, watching and waiting for the Gestapo, listening for boot-clicks above, as Germans dumped hand grenades into manholes.  The author remarks at one point that if the Warsaw Rising had not been organized, the Poles would have exploded in rage: “The atmosphere in the city was pregnant with revolt.”  If the Polish Home Army – the insurgents – killed one German soldier, the Nazis would shoot ten Polish passersby at random.

My first host in Poland, Jakub Piechota, during 2005 greeted my naïve description of Poland’s peaceful transition from Soviet-imposed socialism with a forbearing smile, and then reminded me, with dates, Poles in the thousands who had given their lives during the country’s many journeys to freedom. Each sacrifice spilled someone’s blood --  personal, painful, and searing in memory – as with a friend of Kaia’s, Jurek Pujkiewicz, crushed to death during the last days of World War II in the collapse of the bombed-out Warsaw Stock Exchange, surviving in agony for several days. After a Canadian fighter plane was shot down above Krasinski Square, “The pilot burned along with his machine. [Kaia] helplessly watched it in pain, powerless to do anything.” She watched as another man’s head, severed by a tank’s shell, bounced down a flight of stairs.

            The third aspect of this story that will surprise many Americans is the attachment of the Poles to the Roman Catholic Church, which over centuries became a refuge from oppression and a conduit of culture and language that was being repressed by outsiders whose nations wiped Poland from the map. Once again, Americans have no historical parallel – our founders warned against oppression by churches intertwined with state power. Our diversity demands tolerance for a world of faiths.

Many Americans, even some Catholics, disagree with the policies of a church that prescribes personal behavior vis a vis abortion, birth control, and other matters. Appreciate Poland in Polish terms, however, to understand the role of the Church, and the continuing popularity of John Paul II, the Polish Pope. Understand that, alone among the Soviet bloc, the churches never closed in Poland, even under Stalin. I once asked Jakub why the Soviets never closed the churches. “They would not have dared,” was his reply.  I was teaching as a guest at the Catholic University of Lublin at the time, John Paul’s academic home for a quarter century before he was called to Rome. Alone among universities under Soviet influence, “the KUL” had retained its independence.  Stalin once asked, in an attempt to demonstrate his power, how many troops the Pope commanded. John Paul II answered him.

            Hubal’s Virtuti Militari Cross demonstrates this unique union of church and state in Polish history. Kaia carried the cross throughout her life after it was left with her during May, 1940, after Hubal was killed in combat, and at times shielded it with her life, once in a hollow of her boot heel while marching to a Soviet prison camp after the war, where her weight dropped to 84 pounds. The Poles now were faced with occupation by the Soviets, their new Constitution edited by Stalin himself. Churches often hosted schools that were forbidden under both the Germans and the Soviets. The independent Catholic University of Lublin also was a center of resistance to occupation – and, to this day, part of its budget is allocated from tax money. Most Poles see nothing wrong in such an arrangement, which would be illegal in the United States. Most are, in fact, proud of it.

Reading Kaia’s personal story weaves these historical threads into one cloth, with powerful narrative and imagery. It is at once tender and taut. Poles remember her – and Americans should, as well. Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm will take you there, put you down on the streets of Warsaw, and open your eyes.”

Prof. Bruce E. Johansen, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Author.  Introduction



Ziolkowska-Boehm has provided a fascinating biography of a young woman, beginning with her simple childhood in a small town of Djungaria, near the Russian-Chinese border of the Altai Mountains. People have lived there for centuries, still in yurts, drinking camels’ milk or delicious tea flavored with sheep grease. Kaia spent much of her time roaming in their large estate and extended family.

This childhood was soon destroyed, when Djungaria was overtaken by the Bolsheviks in 1921. Some of the Polish families returned to Poland, others stayed. Kaia and her family began their year-long journey, first to Barnaul, then Moscow and finally Bialystok. The family settled on a vast property on the outskirts of town, with two wooden houses, gardens and vast fields. Many ethnic groups lived side by side, with Polish organizations, such as the Falcons, and colorful festivals held throughout the year. By 1933 Kaia had graduated from school in Vilnius and entered the Architecture Department of the Warsaw Polytechnic School, where her brother was already a student.

During the 1930s Poland was just beginning to develop its Second Republic and identity. Erased from the map for more than 100 years, the task was daunting. By 1939 Kaia had completed her studies and written her thesis, but was unable to progress further, when her academic advisor died as war broke out. Poland was attacked on both sides, and soon the Soviets had prepared a list of compulsory removal of Poles. Kaia and her friend, Dzida, were able to escape to a railroad station and eventually Zamosc. She was told Polish military officers were being arrested by the Germans. Papers needed to be prepared and civilian clothing found. Thus began Kaia’s life of the underworld, preparing ID cards with seals and photographs, switching to sewing pajamas whenever the Germans approached. Shortly after, the girls returned to Warsaw and to the school apartment, now in shambles. She was able to obtain work with a company helping with the reconstruction of destroyed buildings. Underground schools were established when Polish was banned from the German controlled schools. The Polish secret educational network was a unique form of resistance seen nowhere else in Europe. Kaia’s apartment became a meeting place for resistance workers to gather. There was always a pot of warm soup for the exhausted workers.

Kaia was able to visit her parents, Bronislawa and Modest Iljin who were ordered to move to the small village of Ostashki, which was taken over by first the Soviets and Germans, and lastly, the Soviets again. Modest was arrested and sent to Auschwitz, where he died in February, 1941. In 1943 Kaia was assigned to monitor the covert training in sabotage techniques. It included providing explosives, maps and other instructional materials. She was responsible for the safety of the instructors and cadets, and safe escape for the participants.

At the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising Kaia provides a vivid description of the valor, fright and bravery of the workers. For 63 days they fought, avoiding death at all costs. Some were not that successful, with many slaughtered on the streets or tortured in jail. These interviews were provided to the author many years later, but still vivid in Kaia’s mind. She is even able to provide humor in the grotesque conditions.

The People’s Republic of Poland was established in 1945, but a state subordinate to Soviet Russia. Many trials were held, in full mockery of justice, resulting in deaths or life imprisonment.

This book provides a personal view of the struggle of Poland and its people to overcome the horrors of war. Kaia is a symbol of hope for the future of Poland—her undaunted faith in the freedom of man, her bravery in helping others and her love of life. A heartfelt book.

Florence Waszkelewicz Clowes,  A Vivid Description Valor and Bravery, Books in Brief, POLISH AMERICAN JOURNAL, September 2012, pg. 15


“The book opens with Kaia’s childhood in Siberia, and here the reader is in for a surprise. Siberia, it is revealed, is more than a land of prisons and slave camps. It is a vast country of great beauty, rich in natural resources, and many Poles went there when Poland was still partitioned in search of a better life. Better educated than the local population, they established thriving communities, owned successful farms and other enterprises, and many Polish engineers worked on the Trans-Siberian Railway. True, for decades, the Tsarist regime had exiled thousands of Poles to this distant land and the exiles, once freed from confinement and still not permitted to return to Poland, found solace among their fellow countrymen.
The violence and ideology of the Russian revolution put an end to all that and the Poles fled back to their homeland, freed by Piłsudski’s Legions at the end of WWI. The weeks-long train journey home is an adventure in itself, and finally Kaia’s family settles near Wilno (Vilnius). Families are reunited, adults establish new homes, children resume school. Kaia gifted both academically and artistically, chooses architecture for her career. A bright future awaits her and her interesting, animated, highly motivated friends.
In September of 1939 all that came comes to an end. The double invasion by Germans and Russians, the cruelty under occupation, the dangers of underground resistance, and finally the horror and brutality of the 1944 Rising. Finally? Their ordeal was far from over. As the Germans retreated the Soviets entered, bringing their second reign of terror with them. Both occupiers focused on destroying the best and brightest, and so it continued. Kaia, and her surviving friends were once again hounded, arrested and sent to the gulag. And yet, she and her husband, Marek Szymanski, returned to a Warsaw in ruins and set to work to rebuild it. They had time for neither hatred nor self-pity. They worked, they traveled, and they enjoyed life, remembering everything but living very much in the present.
(…) Note also the social history implicit in the narrative. The friendships and the collegiality of the young men and women, the unquestioned equality, their mutual respect and affection; the value attached to education; the high spirits combined with a strong will; the love of freedom and the commitment to their society. It was a very special generation and Kaia is an inspiring example of it.

“Christoph Mick praises a very personal and moving testimony”.

This is a very personal book, first published in Polish in 2006. The author, Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm, tells the story of Cezaria Ilyin Szymańska, a personal friend who participated in the Warsaw Rising of 1944. Kaia is the name under which the heroine is known to her friends. The idea of writing about Kaia’s life can be traced back to conversations and an exchange of letters between the author and her heroine.

The author has combined quotes from letters with passages in which she retells what she heard from Kaia herself. The author uses a collage technique (following the example of Ryszard Kapuścinski) and a ‘mosaic method’ developed by her teacher, the Polish writer Melchior Wańkowicz. Ziolkowska-Boehm also makes use of quotes from other testimonies and from historical literature. The book has 37 chapters, many of them only a few pages long. The chapters consist of thematically arranged stories and reminiscences or summaries of Kaia’s impressions of places she lived at or visited during different periods of her life. A considerable part of the book does not deal with the Warsaw Uprising but with Kaia's life, family and friends before and after the war. These chapters contain numerous comments by the author and sometimes include extensive quotes from books on Polish history.

Kaia’s story – as unusual as it appears to be at first glance – is a typically Polish story. She was born on 2 April 1916 in the small town of Zaysan (today in Kazakhstan) in the western part of Djungaria not far from the Altai Mountains. She and her family were not the only Poles in the region. In the 19th century the Russian government deported many Poles to Siberia or Central Asia as a punishment for socialist or patriotic activities. After the turn of the century a growing number of Poles also had economic motives for emigrating to the north and east of the Russian Empire. One of these economic emigrants was Kaia’s maternal grandfather Bolesław Szemiot, who found employment in Djungaria as an engineer building roads and bridges. Kaia’s father, Modest Iljin, was a student at St. Petersburg University who was sent to Siberia because of his underground activities. Kaia’s parents married in 1908 and Cezaria was born as their second child.

After the October Revolution the family continued to live in Djungaria and lived out the years of the First World War and the Russian civil war there. Ziolkowsa-Boehm recounts a few anecdotes from Kaia’s early childhood during these troublesome times. By 1922 life under Bolshevik rule had become unbearable and the family decided to leave for Poland. This was easier said than done and it proved to be a very long journey. The family travelled by train and it took almost a year before they arrived in Białystok where they settled. The following chapters tell of Kaia’s experiences at school and include reminiscences of Kazakhstan and her youth together with a short chapter on animals and their importance in Kaia’s life and that of her family. How these stories are remembered many decades later gives an interesting insight into the processes of remembering and forgetting. Childhood memories are often very vivid while memories of later events often fade away quickly. This can also be seen here. The reader learns much more about Kaia's early years than about her life as a young adult.

The main part of the book deals with the Second World War and the German occupation of Poland. Ziolkowska-Boehm does not offer any deep analysis of the reasons and consequences of the Warsaw Uprising. The author quotes some of the research literature but there is a greater focus on quotes taken from the testimonies of participants of the Uprising and linking these comments to Kaia’s own recollections. Kaia’s resistance initially consisted of attending courses held by the underground university. Later she participated in the Uprising and worked as a messenger, a very dangerous role as it entailed helping the different groups of insurgents to keep in contact with each other. Always at risk of being shot by German soldiers or caught in crossfire she risked her life more than once, and all the stories show her to be a very brave woman. These chapters do not exclusively focus on Kaia. They also attest to the heroism of her fellow insurgents, also containing a portrait of Kaia's later husband Marek Szymański and descriptions of friends and acquaintances, interspersed with anecdotes demonstrating the commitment of the insurgents. Marek Szymański had been a captain in the unit of Major Henryk Dobrzański (code name: Hubal) who commanded the last regular unit of the Polish Army still fighting Nazi Germany in the autumn of 1939. Hubal also formed the first underground unit which resumed the fight against the occupiers. Ziolkowsa-Boehm praises the heroism of this unit and of its leader Major Hubal who died fighting against the German occupiers on 30 April 1940. Marek Szymański took over the command of the Hubal partisans until the unit was dissolved in June. Szymański was later highly decorated for his role in the Polish Army and in the resistance against Nazi Germany. One leitmotif of the book is the story of the Virtuti Militari order previously awarded to Major Dobrzański. It was Kaia's task to guard the order and she managed to keep it safe during the Uprising and during her time as a Soviet prisoner.

After the defeat of the Uprising Kaia fled Warsaw but she was soon arrested by agents of the Soviet People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (abridged in Russian as NKVD). She was brought to NKVD Camp 41 in Ostashkov where she remained imprisoned until 1946.

The last part of the book covers life in Communist Poland. After she was released Kaia returned to Warsaw where she worked as an architect on the reconstruction of the city. She wanted to lead a normal life, and the book tells about her travels and her work, but also shows how badly former non-Communist resistance fighters were treated. Their resistance against Nazi Germany was marginalised, although it survived in the memory of those who had lived through those difficult times. Kaia’s husband Marek remained loyal to Major Hubal even in Communist Poland. He saw it as his task to preserve Hubal’s memory.

The book includes a number of black-and-white photographs, many of them from Kaia's personal collection. There are two appendices at the end of the book. Appendix one consists of short quotes about Siberia by people who were there but also by Americans who were asked what they knew about Siberia. It is not clear how these quotes or the subsequent quotes about the Warsaw Uprising were collected. The quotes from Americans without Polish roots indicate the lack of historical knowledge about Poland’s fate during the Second World War.

The book tries to preserve as much of Kaia’s life as possible for posterity and is also a celebration of Polish heroism and a testimony to Polish suffering. The decision to start the Uprising is not criticised but is presented as the result of a decision taken by the resistance fighters themselves. Like Kaia, the author does not question whether the Uprising made political or military sense but views the Uprising as a natural event, not unlike a volcanic eruption. She is right to point out that a posteriori criticism often does not take contemporary circumstances and the explosive mood in Warsaw sufficiently into account. There are some good arguments in support of the opinion that the Uprising would have happened anyway, with or without the approval of the local command of the Home Army and without the consent of the government-in-exile. This, however, misses the point. One of the main problems of the Uprising was its timing – it came too early. The German forces were still too strong. Starting the Uprising in August 1944 was also a political decision. The command of the Home Army and the government-in-exile wanted to liberate Warsaw before the arrival of Soviet troops as they hoped to improve the Polish position in the negotiations with Britain, France, the USA and the Soviet Union. However, the aim of the book is not to participate in these historiographical debates. Ziolkowska-Boehm has created a moving testimony to her friend, whose biography is woven into the history of Poland in the 20th century. The Polish original won the literature prize of the Association of Polish Writers Abroad (London) in 2007.

Dr Christoph Mick, REVIEWS IN HISTORY, University of Warwick, University of London, March 21, 2013



Every so often, a true story is better than fiction. This is one of them. Born with an indomitable spirit, courage, determination and will to make the best of circumstances, Kaia was able to go through life accepting all challenges. A challenge did not phase her or deter her…she overcame it. Her strengths carried her through any and all obstacles…the harsh winters of Siberia, achievement of an architectural education, soldiering gallantly against the German occupants of her country, twice wounded heroine of the 1944 Warsaw Rising, rebellious prisoner of the Russian NKVD, and a participant in the rebuilding of Warsaw. After a lifetime of challenge, Kaia lived to see Poland free and independent. Any reader will come away from this book with an admiration for a woman who was a true patriot of Poland ready to sacrifice her life for her country. Kaia’s story could make a great movie!

Robert R.Robinson from Annapolis, MD, June 19, 2012. overstock.com


I read Kaia, Heroine of the 1944 Warsaw Rising to help me in my research with an historical fiction novel I'm writing about the scouts in Warsaw who helped during the RIsing. Kaia helped provide more first-hand information on the Rising. For those interested in this time period, and in reading about people who lived through it, Kaia provides a good resource. I also appreciated the pictures in the book. These were pictures I hadn't seen before online or in other books. I also appreciated the fact that Kaia was written by someone who lived and studied in Poland, and understands events from a Polish point of view, but who has also lived and worked in the United States. Writing about cross-cultural events always rings more true when written by someone who has experienced life in both cultures.

Mesontag, 25 September 2012 Amazon.com


I read KAIA HEROINE OF THE 1944 WARSAW RISING. She would have had a fascinating story even without the war! Imagine the changes in Poland to which she was a witness over her remarkable live span. A remarkable story well told!
Patrick Wahl, Amazon.com


KAIA HEROINE OF THE 1944 WARSAW RISING shows an extraordinary life under extreme and harsh circumstances. I am surprise I have not heard about the Warsaw Rising 1944 - that was so bravely and so costly. All I have heard was about the year earlier Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Thanks to the book, I am aware of this special heroic event in Polish history.
This is real life history that flows like is happening now. The book is costly but worth every dollar of its cost.

John Mensch. Powell's Books, March 6, 2013


The book was purchased by the library I belong to and I just read it. I am Polish origin a few generations back and I find more and more interest in European history. The difference between the author of the book and her heroine is around 35 years, so it is amazing how the young friend described her elderly friend in the book - with kindness and dignity. Also amazing in the end of the book are voices of many about the 1944 Warsaw Uprsing. The majority of people know about the Jewish Ghetto Rising in 1943, not knowing about 1944. In my opinion it is why the title was stressed, to be not confused.

1marco2, Overstock, Miami, Florida, Mar 6, 2013


This is real life history that flows like it is happening now. I started the book and could not stop reading. The book is worth every dollar of its cost.

Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm:

The Polish Experience through World War II A Better Day Has Not Come

Foreword: Neal Pease

Lexington Books, Lanham, MD, 2013

ISBN 978-0-7391-7819-5

“A remarkable and highly personal account of the human suffering the victims of both Hitlerism and Stalinism had to endure … beyond comprehension of most Americans.”

Zbigniew Brzezinski, PhD, Author, National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter, John Hopkins University and Center for Strategic and International Studies

“Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm has written on a wide variety of subjects. But she writes with particular feeling when describing, as she does in this new book, the heroism and suffering of Poles during the Second World War. These are stories that must be told -- and she tells them very well, indeed”.

-Stanley Cloud and Lynne Olson, authors of A Question of Honor: The Kościuszko Squadron -- Forgotten Heroes of World War II.

“In World War II the Poles suffered oppression and murder from both Nazi Germany and the USSR , which attacked their country and divided  it between them in September 1939.  The Wartanowicz and Michalak families were deported from former eastern Poland to Soviet labor camps near Archangel or farms in Kazakhstan. Freed after the German attack on the USSR, they left in 1942 with the Anders Army for Persia (Iran) and then scattered all over the world.  Reserve Captain, Pilot Witold Krasicki was shot by the Soviets in spring 1940, along with thousands of Polish POWs and other prisoners. His family survived the German occupation in Warsaw, including the two-month Polish Home Army uprising against the Germans in 1944. Wanda Ossowska worked for the Polish resistance, survived brutal Nazi torture, three Nazi death camps, and risked her life to save a Jewish girl. In the author's  interviews with the survivors and their relatives, they tell their poignant stories with vivid, personal memories of wartime  life and death, as well as their lives in postwar Communist Poland  or  elsewhere.  We should be grateful to Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm who has saved these memories  for us.”

- Anna M.  Cienciala, University of Kansas

These accounts of Polish family life in Russian and German camps during World War II describe people subsisting on weeds and horse heads, living sometimes in pig sties. Children watch as fathers and mothers wither and die amidst “the calm of terror.” Bodies are thrown out of running trains. Prisoners shiver in the intense cold of long winters, always hungry, amidst bedbugs that somehow survive even the coldest nights. Meet Wanda Ossowska, interrogated 57 times by the Gestapo, tortured “to the limits of her endurance,” refusing to name names. It’s another time, another world, “the true valleys of death,” when even hospitals were “houses for dying”—genocide one by one, or by the thousands (as in the Katyn massacre). These evocative, descriptive accounts become terrifyingly haunting and personally intimate.
— Bruce E. Johansen, University of Nebraska at Omaha

An unforgettable picture of the martyrdom of women and children sent from Poland behind the Urals. A powerful work of art that should be read and re-read.

— Karl Maramorosch, Rutgers University

“Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm tells stories that are the substance of history and of dreams.  She tells the stories of individuals who are both ordinary and heroic…The book is an easy read in spite of its spellbinding intensity.”

-Ewa Thompson, Rice University

“I particularly liked Joanna's story - she is truly a remarkable person to have experienced genuine human evil, and still keep the capacity to appreciate and recognize the goodness in most people!

I agree with Professor Pease in that most readers (especially Americans) will be familiar with the main historical events of the period, but they cannot appreciate what it would be like to have actually experienced this first hand. The stories from the people you have written about can help us do that.

You have written a very important book that will help satisfy a public need here.

Let us all hope that a better day has now dawned for Poland!”

-Robert Ackerman, New Alexandria, PA June 11, 2013


Dear Aleksandra:

A million thanks for sending a copy of your great and so well written book. It is an often painful but always inspiring read. You are fantastic! Your courageous research must have been terribly difficult but so important for the readers to understand the true grit, bravery and ingenuity of the Polish characters you chose to show the touching, enormous and incredible human sacrifices during the tragic events.

My book: CHINA MISSION: A PERSONAL HISTORY FROM IMPERIAL CHINA TO THE PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC (LSU Press) deals with some similar events. It will be out in October and I will send you a copy.

Much love and admiration

Your friend Audrey

-Audrey Topping, NY, June 18, 2013



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, Ziółkowska-Boehm gets it right 

Prof. Charles S. Kraszewski, King’s College, Pennsylvania

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

Melchior Wańkowicz  was a prominent journalist and reporter, but he was more than that. Whether writing about Polish revolutionaries at the end of the nineteenth century, Polonia in America, or armed struggles during the Second World War by partisans at home and Anders army at Monte Casinno, Wańkowicz gave the reader unique insides into Polish recent past. His cicle of books has been compared to a vast panorama.

-Piotr S. Wandycz, Professor of History Yale Univ




Some fragments are almost like a movie with interesting dialog, compelling moments and realistic characters.
The autobiography presents the author’s recollections of her childhood, school and university years, travels abroad, and contacts and meetings with recognized people of achievement in the fields of writing, art, theater and politics.

The book clearly demonstrates the author’s ability to write openly about personal matters, family and socializing among the intelligentsia.

Polish life, immigrant stories and impressions and experiences of life in Canada and the United States are supplemented by keen observations of European, Canadian and American cultures. The many family, friends and acquaintances of the author become personal to the reader. But most intriguing of them is the famed Polish writer Melchior Wankowicz whose influence and mentoring are acknowledged, deeply appreciated, praised and never forgotten by the author.

John Knowles, amazon.com March 3, 2018



“Ingrid will be 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. Ziolkowska 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


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


Sembra impossibile poter pubblicare qualcosa di nuovo su un'attrice famosa e celebrata come Ingrid Bergman, eppure questo piccolo libro c'e' riuscito: il suo maggior pregio e' la riproduzione di diverse lettere e fotografie inedite di Ingrid Bergman. Un ritratto affettuoso e rispettoso di una grande attrice e di una donna gentile e coraggiosa. Una veste editoriale più preziosa avrebbe forse giovato.

Rosario Tronnolone, March 23, 2014, Amazon.com


It seems impossible to be able to publish something new about a famous and celebrated actress like Ingrid Bergman, yet this little book has succeeded: its greatest value is the reproduction of several unpublished letters and photographs by Ingrid Bergman. An affectionate and respectful portrait of a great actress and a kind and courageous woman.

Rosario Tronnolone, March 23, 2014, Amazon.com

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

(Lanham, Md. : Hamilton Books, 2018)

„The stories of Polish Christian survivors of World War II and the Holocaust remain little known outside of Poland and some limited circles in the West. Their victimization at the hands of Nazi Germany has been seen by most western scholars as unimportant or potentially distracting from the central narrative of the essentially Jewish tragedy of the Holocaust. Polish victimization by the Soviets falls completely outside the standard paradigms of Western scholarship. Attempts by Poles or Polish Americans to include Polish survivors in narratives of the war or the Holocaust are often viewed as special pleading or at worst a form of ant-Semitism or Polish nationalism (two things now treated as synonymous). This has retarded both understanding of the Polish experience during the war and efforts to document the experience of survivors.

Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm’s work has helped the remedy of the deficits in published Polish memoir literature in the West. A prolific author, she has written on numerous subjects but with a special focus on Polish survivors of the war. The two works here under review are an account of the life of Roman Rodziewicz, a Polish soldier and later prisoner if the Nazis and a collection of shorter memoir chapters.

Rodziewicz’s story is an especially compelling one. Raised in the Polish settlement in Manchuria, he served in the Polish Army during the September Campaign. Resisting the imposition of Nazi and Soviet rule, he joined the command of the legendary “Major Hubal (Major Henryk Dobrzanski) who continued to battle occupying forces in the months that followed Poland’s defeat. After Dobrzanski’s death at the hands of the Germans, Rodziewicz joined the Polish underground but was caught by the Gestapo in 1942 and sent to Auschwitz and later Buchenwald. He survived both camps, settled in England, and in the postwar years was one of the few surviving veterans of Major Hubal’s partisans in the West.

The collection “Untold Stories of Polish Heroes from World War II” covers the lives of several Poles with diverse experiences during the war, including the late Zbigniew Brzezinski and his father (who were featured in her earlier book “The Roots are Polish”). The sheer diversity of backgrounds of the subjects covered is interesting, though all experienced similar horrors during the war.
These two books are valuable sources for Polish history but also for the history of post-war Polish émigrés.(...)”.
John Radzilowski, University of Alaska
 “The Polish Review”, New York, vol. 65, No.1, 2020, pg. 116-117


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