This review originally appeared in Cosmopolitan Review on October 9th, 2011:
From the very beginning Agnieszka Holland’s In Darkness – a powerful and intensely moving film that leaves you wondering about the very essence of human morality – evokes the presence of Marek Edelman. The film is not only dedicated to Edelman – the legendary leader of the 1943 armed Jewish revolt against the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto – but its piercingly human scenes evoke the passages of Edelman’s book: “And there was love, too, in the ghetto…”
When I interviewed Agnieszka Holland for CR, I asked her about the film’s dedication.
“Marek Edelman was important for me, very close,” she said. “We have been friends in spite of the difference of generations. He always very much wanted me and Andrzej Wajda to make a film about love in the ghetto. We promised him to participate in such a movie if it ever became available.”
And this is what she did.
This article originally appeared on The 49th Shelf on August 18, 2011:
I’m Canadian and I’m Polish. I have two internal voices in two languages that have become indelible parts of myself. I’m a North American and a European, for both cultural traditions have shaped me and both demand that I listen to their arguments. To complicate it further, I was born in Eastern or New Europe, as the lands from behind the former Iron Curtain are often called, in what Timothy Snyder, the Princeton historian of 20th century atrocities, calls the bloodlands.
I am also a writer.
Two decades ago I started writing about Polish immigrants to Canada who, like me, arrived here in the aftermath of the Solidarity crisis in search of a home. I wrote in English, not only because I was a graduate student of English at McGill, but also because English allowed me to tell these Polish stories to readers who did not share my ethnic background.
This article was originally published on November 29, 2005:
I was born in Wroclaw, a city in the south west of Poland. But if you were to look at the pre-war map of Poland, you would not find Wrocław on it. In its place you would’ve foundBreslau, part of the German Reich. In 1945, history tells us, Poland lost its Eastern provinces to the Soviet Union, and received the Western lands in their stead.
When I was growing up in Wrocław, the ruins of Breslau were still around me, the silent background to the hushed, bitter stories of the last world war. I have an old photograph of myself from 1957, a tiny figurine with a halo of curly hair. I am holding my mother’s hand and behind me are the ruins I remember so well. Huge piles of rubble spilling into the street, clusters of red bricks still glued together with mortar, a sea of ruins, surrounding small islands of surviving buildings. I ran with other children through these ruins, wielding stick guns, yelling at the top of my voice. How many German words I knew then, already! Raus, Haende hoch (meaning: Get out, hands up) or Polnische Schweine (Polish pigs).