Teaching Eliza Orzeszkowa botany

When we discussed Eliza Orzeszkowa’s On the Niemen, Basia mentioned that her great-grandparents were friends of the author. We are grateful to her for sharing the photographs below.

These show Klemens and Kazimiera Kruszewski, her great-grandparents; a photograph sent to them by Orzeszkowa; Jadwiga Ostromęcka, Kazimiera’s sister, with Irena Kruszewska (Basia’s grandmother). Jadwiga’s memoirs contain an account of her relationship with Orzeszkowa and other important people. 

An entry on Klemens Kruszewski from a Polish regional encyclopedia gives some further background.

Kruszewski, Klemens (1858-1945)


Forestry engineer, graduate of the Puławski Institute.


He worked in the Bialowieza Forest at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. He was the deputy governor of the Forest at the time of Aleksander D. Kołokolcew. In 1897 he was given the task of completing the redevelopment of the Forest, led earlier by Edward E. Wallenburger.

Kruszewski lived in Białowieża with his wife, Kazimiera of Ostrołęckich. His wife’s sister, Jadwiga, a teacher, was friends with the writer Eliza Orzeszkowa. The Kruszewskis got to know the writer through Jadwiga and several times, from 1898, invited her to their home in Białowieża. Unfortunately, their home does not exist anymore (it was located in today’s Palace Park).


The Kruszewscy’s friendship was extremely valuable in developing the writer’s botanical knowledge. Klemens Kruszewski introduced the writer to the world of nature of the Białowieża Forest. She herself wrote in a letter dated August 2, 1898: “… I do not remember other such valuable, comparable occasions in my life as the two botanical trips with Mr. Kruszewski. They were long and demonstrative lessons that I could use thanks to my previous botanical amateurism … “.


Klemens Kruszewski also showed other writers around the Forest – Wacław Sieroszewski, who visited Białowieża in July 1898 and Maria Konopnicka in August 1899. He was also involved in preparatory work for the visits of Tsar Nicholas II to Bialowieza in 1897 and 1900.

Kruszewski Klemens (1858-1945)
Inżynier leśnictwa, absolwent Instytutu Puławskiego.
W Puszczy Białowieskiej pracował na przełomie XIX i XX wieku. Pełnił funkcję zastępcy zarządzającego Puszczą Białowieską, którym wówczas był Aleksander D. Kołokolcew. W 1897 roku otrzymał zadanie dokończenia prac urządzeniowych w Puszczy, prowadzonych wcześniej przez Edwarda E. Wallenburgera. Niestety K. W. Kruszewski również nie doprowadził ich do końca, choć był wybitnym fachowcem w sprawach leśnych. Puszcza Białowieska w pierwszych latach XX wieku uważana była formalnie za nie urządzoną.

  K. W. Kruszewski mieszkał w Białowieży wraz z żoną, Kazimierą z Ostrołęckich. Siostra żony, Jadwiga, która była nauczycielką, przyjaźniła się z pisarką Elizą Orzeszkową. Kruszewscy właśnie poprzez Jadwigę poznali pisarkę i kilkakrotnie, poczynając od 1898 roku, zapraszali ją do swojego domu w Białowieży. Dom ich, niestety, już nie istnieje, znajdował się na terenie dzisiejszego Parku Pałacowego.

  Znajomość Orzeszkowej z Kruszewskimi była niezwykle cenna dla rozwoju wiedzy botanicznej pisarki. W świat przyrody Puszczy Białowieskiej pisarkę wprowadzał Klemen Kruszewski. Ona sama pisała w liście z 2 sierpnia 1898 roku: „…Mało pamiętam w życiu chwil tak zajmujących, jak dwie odbyte z p. Kruszewskim wycieczki botaniczne. Były to długie i poglądowe lekcje, z których korzystać mogłam dzięki uprzedniemu amatorstwu botanicznemu…”.  

Klemens Kruszewski oprowadzał po Puszczy także innych pisarzy – Wacława Sieroszewskiego, który odwiedził Białowieżę w lipcu 1898 roku i Marię Konopnicką, goszczącą u nich w sierpniu 1899 roku. Zaangażowany był także w prace przygotowawcze do przyjęcia w Białowieży cara Mikołaja II w 1897 i 1900 roku. (oprac. Piotr Bajko)

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Zbigniew Herbert in Scotland, 1963

Herbert Collected Holy Iona

When last year we read Zbigniew Herbert’s Collected Poems 1956–1998 I came across a single reference to Scotland, in the poem ‘The Prayer of the Traveler Mr. Cogito’ or, to give it its Polish title, ‘Modlitwa Pana Cogito – podróżnika’. Here is the relevant section in the Polish original, followed by Alissa Valles’s translation from Collected Poems.

a także Miss Helen z mglistej wysepki Mull na Hebrydach za to że przyjęła mnie po grecku i prosiła żeby w nocy zostawić w oknie wychodzącym na Holy Iona zapaloną lampę aby światła ziemi pozdrawiały się

and Miss Helen of the foggy island of Mull in the Hebrides for offering Greek hospitality and asking me to leave a lamp lit at night in the window facing Holy Iona so that the lights of earth would greet each other

The poem is taken from Herbert’s 1983 collection Raport z oblężonego Miasta / Report from a Besieged City. I was curious to know more about the time he spent in Scotland, which was in fact twenty years before this collection appeared, in autumn 1963. According to Andrzej Franaszek’s 2018 biography of Herbert, using public transport Herbert travelled north from London, stopping in Leeds, York and Durham before arriving in Scotland, where he visited Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness, Oban, Mull and Glasgow, before returning via Carlisle to London.

Franaszek quotes from a postcard Herbert sent from Edinburgh on 18 October:

Wdrapałem się na górę koło Edynburga i oczywiście spadłem trochę (niegroźnie). Tak trzeba. Ziemio ty moja szkocka ukochana! Jutro jadę, ale dobrze nie wiem dokąd. Dziś w nocy narada sztabu z mapą. Jestem bardzo szczęśliwy, żeście mnie wypchnęli w świat. (…) Przede mną góry i skały, kozice i georginie. Naprzód! Hej!!!

I scrambled my way onto a mountain near Edinburgh and I fell down a little (not dangerously). Maybe a good thing. My beloved Scottish earth! I am leaving tomorrow, even though I’m not sure where I’m going. Tonight there will be a conference of the High Command over the map. I’m very glad that you pushed me out into the world. (…) Ahead of me mountains and cliffs, mountain goats and dahlias. Onwards! Hey!!!

In another postcard, sent from Inverness, he described his mixed feelings about the country: he was ‘exhausted but happy, head over heels in love with Scotland; its beauty exhilarates the tourist. But life without sex… one has to go back.’

He returned via the west coast and, finding himself in Oban, decided to cross to the nearby Isle of Mull and from cross there to Iona or, as he consistently called it, using the English adjective, Holy Iona. ‘Holy Iona, czyli kartka z podróży’ (‘Holy Iona, or a page of travel’) was written in 1966 for the West German radio station WDR, and published posthumously in the collection Mistrz z Delft (2008). Of his perspective of islands, he wrote:

Wyspy nie należą do krajobrazu mego dzieciństwa. Urodziłem się w środkowej Europie, w połowie drogi między Morzem Bałtyckim a Czarnym. Pejzaż mojej młodości to podlwowskie okolice: jary i łagodne pagórki porośnięte sosną, na której najpiękniej kwitnie pierwszy sypki śnieg. Morze było tam czymś niewyobrażalnym, a wyspy miały posmak baśni.

Islands were not part of the landscape of my childhood. I was born in Central Europe, halfway between the Baltic and the Black Sea. The landscape of my youth was the area near Lwów, crevices and gentles hills covered in pine on which the first dry snow bloomed beautifully. The sea was something unimaginable there, and islands had a scent of fairytales.

The crossing to Iona had something otherwordly about it. It was 29 October, his birthday, and the ferry was no longer sailing. The landlady of his B&B at Fionnphort phoned a local fisherman, who agreed to take Herbert on the short crossing. In his radio talk he described their meeting-place:

Zimny, wilgotny, siwy ranek. Stoję w pobliżu jetty, która jest po prostu betonową ścieżką wchodzącą w morze. Ocean jest wzburzony, wysokie fale rozbijają się na skałach urwistego brzegu. Nagle z mgły wyłania się mała łódka rybacka płynąca w moim kierunku. Było to jak podanie ręki marzeniu.

A cold, damp, gray morning. I am standing near a jetty, which is just a concrete path going into the sea… which was stormy, high waves crashing against a rocky coast. A small open boat appeared from out of the mist; it was like extending your hand to a dream.

Once on Iona, Herbert explored the recently rebuilt abbey complex. He was particularly struck by his encounter with a sculpture, Descent of the Spirit’, by the Lithuanian-born Jewish sculptor Jacques (Jacob) Lipschitz (1891–1973), who fled France for the USA in 1940.

williammarnochionaabbey2008
Photo: William Marnoch, Iona Abbey, 2008

Its inscription, in French, reads:

Jacob Lipchitz juif fidéle à la fonde ses ancêtres a fait cette vierge pour la bonne entente des hommes sur la terre afin que l’esprit régne

Jacob Lipschitz a Jew faithful to the heritage of his ancestors made this virgin for the accord of men on earth so the spirit might reign

Herbert, who had witnessed the destruction of Polish Jewry during the Second World War, appreciated the paradox of recovering signs of community in this, to him, remote place. He expressed gratitude to ‘the Jewish artist who had heard so many words of hatred and responded by reaching for the words of reconciliation’.

Herbert returned to Mull, and the Fionnphort B&B, that same day. The evening brought him the image of light which he later incorporated into the ‘Prayer’:

Po kolacji gospodyni prosiła mnie, abym postawił małą lampkę w oknie wychodzącym na Holy Iona. Taki jest zwyczaj. Nocą światła obu wysp rozmawiają ze sobą. (…) Nie wiadomo, co przyniesie przyszłość i jak długo trwać będzie rozdarcie świata. Ale dopóki w jedną bodaj noc roku światła tej ziemi będą się pozdrawiały, niecała chyba nadzieja jest pogrzebana.

After supper the landlady asked me to put a small lamp in the window overlooking Holy Iona. That is the custom. At night the lights of both islands talk to each other. (…) It is not known what the future will bring and how long it might be until the world is torn apart, but as long as one night of the year, the lights of this land will offer greetings, hope is not buried.’

*

My thanks to Robin Connelly, Grażyna Fremi, Michał Kuźmiński, Basia Macmillan and Robert Macmillan for their help in sourcing and translating material on Herbert’s trip. As well as the books mentioned above, online there is, in Polish, a useful article from 2007 by Piotr Toczynski about Herbert and Iona, and a recording of Herberttalking about Scotland (scroll down to the heading ‘Szkocja’).

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Zbigniew Herbert – poetry teaching resource

Celebrating the Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert (1924–1998) is a new poetry resource for secondary school teachers.

Zbigniew Herbert (1924–1998) is one of the best known and most celebrated Polish poets of the 20th century. His life and work shed light on some of the major events of 20th century European history, including World War Two, the Cold War and the end of Communism in eastern Europe. Twenty years after his death, 2018 has been declared the Year of Herbert by the Polish Sejm (Parliament).

To mark the Year of Herbert, Zielony Balonik: the Scottish-Polish Book Group commissioned Ken Cockburn to write this resource for use in secondary schools. It introduces Herbert and his work to teachers and pupils in secondary schools in Scotland (and beyond). As well as a brief biography of the poet, one of his poems is presented in Polish and English translation, with ideas for using it in the classroom. Further ideas are given for working with other Herbert poems, together with a short booklist, and links to websites where his poems are available, along with background material.

A number of related public events and school sessions linked to Herbert’s work have also been arranged with the help of the Scottish Poetry Library, including sessions looking at Herbert’s poems in four Edinburgh secondary schools, which I’ve written about here.

Our thanks to those who have offered financial support for the resource and the events programme:
Polish Ex-Combatants Association in Great Britain Trust Fund;
Scottish Polish Cultural Association; 
Polish Consul General in Scotland.

The resource is designed by Emma Quinn Design.

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A Morning with Żanna Słoniowska

Members of Zielony Balonik were delighted to meet with Żanna Słoniowska, the author of The House with the Stained-Glass Window at the Lighthouse Bookshop in Edinburgh on May 26th at an event hosted by Kasia Kokowska of Word Polishers and supported by the Polish Consul General in Edinburgh. 

From left to right:
Grazyna Fremi, Zanna Sloniowska, Krystyna Szumelukowa, Jenny Robertson

Żanna explained that her first novel was the culmination of a long process of living the first part of her life and thinking of its meanings in the embrace of the character of  her home city, Lviv, as it is now known and located in Western Ukraine. The human characters in her story  explore how four generations of women in the same family, living in one house, reflect the multiple identities, inherited or thrust upon them, as a result of geopolitical upheavals including war itself, imposed by external forces or generated from within through cultural conflict. 

Her book was written in Polish and expertly translated in fastidious detail by Antonia Lloyd-Jones. Żanna’s  multi-language skills (Polish, Ukrainian, Russian and English) demonstrate her own internationalism and her desires for cross cultural links to be expressed in freedom of thought and movement. Żanna’s book adds to the revelation of the role that the city of Lviv has played in the history of the borderlands of eastern Europe, and how for too long it became almost invisible in the aftermath of the Second World War.

 

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A Haircut and a Poem

During my last visit to Warsaw I needed a haircut. My usual hairdresser was on holidays and I started looking at other salons. Walking along Wilcza Street, I noticed a narrow shop with lots of wood and warm lighting, with a small sign – fryzjer, but no hairdressing activity in site. After some hesitation I went in to explore; yes, It was a hairdresser and a nice young lady at an elegant reception desk invited me for a haircut with Luiza at 7:00pm.

I arrived earlier, and the same receptionist took me through a couple of rooms to a comfortable sofa. I observed Luiza zen-like hair cutting: very, very slowly, with great concentration and attention to almost a single hair. She smiled at me from time to time, as she sensed being observed. A large mug of green tea and a couple of articles later, she sat me in front of a full length mirror to discuss my haircut. On a little transparent table by the mirror, I noticed a small laminated pice of paper with a short text, placed next to a vas with pink carnations. To my astonishment it was a poem ‘Na zewnątrz noc’ (Outside its night) by Tadeusz Borowski, one of my recently re-discovered authors. I was astonished to find poetry and especially Borowski’s poem at the hairdresser! I read the poem a couple of time and realised that it was about the War and his love Maria, whom he followed to Auschwitz. Borowski’s selection of short stories has been translated into English and published by Pengwin Classics This Way to the Gas Ladies and Gentlemen. Continue reading “A Haircut and a Poem”

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Celebrating Polish art, design and theatre for children

The creative minds of Edinburgh and Łódź have joined their forces and concocted a brand new festival to be hosted by the Scottish capital. On Thursday 12th October, I had the pleasure to attend the opening event of the Kite and Trumpet Festival celebrating Polish art, design and theatre dedicated to younger viewers.

The festival lasts for 11 days and offers a whole range of events held mostly at the Summerhall, but also the Scottish Storytelling Centre and North Edinburgh Arts. Every day of the festival offers tons of fun in a wide range of creative workshops for children, as well as various theatre productions from two Polish theatres. If that weren’t enough, the Summerhall opens its doors daily offering you “Bawialnia”, or the Playroom, featuring educational games and eco-friendly toys by Polish artists, designers and creative companies.

While your kids are immersed in play, you can enjoy the exhibition of works by illustrators and artists and browse a whole array of beautiful and wise books for children, both in Polish and in English translation, including Clementine Loves Red by Krystyna Boglar, which we have read recently at the Zielony Balonik book club.

I would like to congratulate and thank the organisers for bringing such a fantastic event to Edinburgh and express a hope that it becomes a regular feature in the cultural calendar of our city.

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Where is Wioletta Greg?

For the whole hour of the ‘Outsiders’ session at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Monday 14 August, we wondered if Wioletta Greg would show up or not. Our heads turned automatically each time a shadow passed behind the two glass doors, hoping it might be her. To our great disappointment, however, she did not materialize.

Nick Barley, the Director of EIBF, who was chairing the session, told us that she was in Edinburgh and that he expected her to arrive any minute. Greg’s interpreter was on stage, along with the author Edouard Louis, with whom Greg had been paired for this session. Edouard took full advantage of the additional time available and gave us a fascinating inside into his working class background, family life, his metamorphosis and his view of the world. He spoke especially of the lack of understanding of the working class majority by the middle class minority, and of the fear, aggression and violence which are, according to him, an inherent part of the lives of poor working class people across the world.

Unfortunately there was no comparison made between his novel and Greg’s, very different in their style and the author’s perception of the world. Edouard read, in English, a passage of his book The End of Eddy, while Nick Barley gave a French reading of the same extract. Greg’s interpreter read from Swallowing Mercury in English, but nobody read it in Polish. Personally, I would have preferred to hear Edouard Louis reading his own French text, and the Polish interpreter reading Swallowing Mercury in her native Polish, as Greg wasn’t there to read it herself. It is important to hear the music of a foreign language read by a native speaker, rather than a non native speaker struggling to do so. I would still like to know what the point of the reversal was.

A Dutch lady, sitting next to me, had travelled all the way from near Dunkeld to hear Wioletta Greg. Her daughter-in-law is Polish, and she was hoping to learn about good Polish contemporary literature. There was six of us from Zielony Balonik, the Scottish Polish Book Club. We had all read Swallowing Mercury, some of us in Polish and some in English, and we were truly surprised and disappointed that Greg did not show up and had not communicated with the organisers. The only consolation is that we have discovered a great new French author!

Grażyna Fremi

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EIBF Miedzianka / Kupferberg

On the 13 August Philip Springer – the author, and Sean Gasper Bye – the translator of History of a Disappearance, appeared at EIBF. The translator was in the audience and signed the books, along with the author, after the talk. It was interesting to hear from Springer about his way of working and how he got inspired to write this story. Since it was published in Poland in 2011 he had written 6 other books! Springer is interested in interpretations of events, how myths  and different versions grow around difficult times and happenings. According to Springer, these mysteries and sometimes lays, are more reveling about the social history than facts alone.

Bye’s speciality is translation of non-fiction. In addition to Polish he also translates from Russian and French. He is American of Polish parentage on his mother side, and lives in New York. Bye read this book shortly after it was published and loved it so much that he kept mentioning it to various publishers and eventually, on a publishers trip to Krakow, it was taken up by Restless Books from Brooklin NY, which seeks  ‘extraordinary international literature that feeds our restlessness: our curiosity about the world, passion for other cultures and languages, and eagerness to explore beyond the confines of the familiar.’

The power of literature seem to be putting Miedzianka back on the map. A new brewery has been opened up by a young couple from Wrocław and a cafe / bookshop and art gallery is built by a hipster from Warsaw. So in addition to reading Springer’s book, Miedzianka or Kupferberg is a must destination on our next visit to Silesia!

Grażyna Fremi

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Filip Springer at EIBF

Filip Springer, History of a Diseappearance

This Sunday 13 August 6:30pm Filip Springer is going to talk about his book at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I am going to be there and it is our next reading. I have started reading it Polish and just been to Karpacz on holidays, so it feels very real.

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Browse – Czerniowce

I have just read two lovely short stories in Browse, The World in Bookshops, edited by Henry Hutchings and published this year by the fantastic Pushkin Press. The opening story by Ali Smith, Bookshops Time, is about her two favourite bookshops in Inverness, Melvens and Leakey’s, and the second one by Ukrainian author Andrey Kurkov, Something That Doesn’t Exist, translated from Russian by Amanda Love Darragh. The latter one has several connections with our last reading – City of Lions and East West Street.

It is about Marina Libanova’s little shop, ‘Bukinist’, in Chernivtsi (Czerniowce in Polish), a city in the middle of Bukovina region, in the south-west Ukraine (272 km from Lviv). Europe’s geopolitical changes are reflected on the bookshelves of this small shop and in its fortunes.

Kurkov comes to give a reading and to sign his novel. At the same time he is searching for a book he had lost, The Ballads of Kukutis, by a Lithuanian poet Marcelijus Martinatis, which he bought in Kiev during the Soviet era, in the late 1970s or early 1980s in a bookshop called ‘Poetry’ which sold only poetry. He tells us that ‘Poetry’ closed, after the first couple of years of independence, following the collapse of the USSR. Out of one hundred bookshops in Kiev, just ten remained.

Here are a couple of fragments to encourage you to buy this book and to read this and other stories;

If you have never been to Chernivtsi – and I’m almost 100 per cent certain that you haven’t – all I will say is that a hundred years ago the city’s bookshops used to sell books in German, Romanian and Yiddish. and the majority of the city’s inhabitants spoke German right up to the end of the First World War – it was part of the Austro – Hungarian Empire, after all. When the empire was replaced by the Romanian monarchy, German was superseded by Romanian in terms of both the spoken and the literary language of the city.

Her shop is a veritable cornucopia of rare and interesting books. Books in Romanian and German, published in Chernivtsi, but a hundred years ago, in a different country, when life itself was very different. Books in Belarusian, Ukrainian, Russian and even a few in Yiddish, which was the main language spoken in Chernivtsi for hundreds of years and which, even today, seems perfectly suited to its old alleys and cobbled streets.

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