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Today is the 50th anniversary of the death of my grandmother Kazimiera Żuławska. Below is a translation by Lauren Dubowski of the essay Kazimiera wrote for the remarkable “Ten jest z ojczyzny mojej” [“This One’s from my Fatherland”, info in Polish about it here], a compendium of first-hand recollections by ethnic Poles who helped save Polish Jews during the Nazi German occupation in World War II. My grandmother was a remarkable woman, and I’m very grateful to Lauren for bringing her words to English readers.
p.s. Eagle-eyed readers will note this is the first TM post in 6 years!
Marek Zulawski would have been 107 today. Here’s what he was doing exactly 34 years ago…
The day of my 73rd birthday: 13 April 1981.
At precisely 6am, in the small attic room of the Hotel Touring in Chamonix, while you, Maria, were still sleeping, I furtively, like a villain, slipped out of bed and quietly, silently, drew back the curtains. As the window was exposed, I suddenly saw pristine whiteness.
Mount Blanc rose up straight ahead of me, above the highest roofs of the surrounding homes, like an incomprehensible giant, too tall for anyone to even believe it existed.… Keep reading
Today marks the 30th anniversary of Marek Zulawski’s death, an appropriate day to share this passage he wrote about a friend’s funeral. Marek was a man who kept himself in prime health until his unexpected parting in 1985 – it seems his heart couldn’t keep up with the rest of him. The translated excerpt below is at once a meditation on age, death, virility and, of course, Marek’s own vanity.
Brompton Cemetery. Stefan Osiecki’s funeral.
From a distance, I could already see a group of people eagerly surrounding a fresh hole, on the bottom of which rests a coffin.… Keep reading
Kazimiera Zulawska, Marek’s mother, was born on this day, 22 February, in 1883. In this excerpt from Study for a Self-Portrait, we get a glimpse of her stalwart attitude when she and Wawrzyniec (her youngest son) were hiding Jews during the Nazi occupation of Poland.
The German bombers have flown away, the sirens have gone quiet – a strange silence has fallen. For the moment, London has put its head back on the pillow. Only the fire engines continue putting out flaming houses, while rescue teams search for anybody alive under the rubble. Otherwise, most of the city’s inhabitants sleep.… Keep reading
… Keep reading
Today, Valentine’s Day 2015, marks what would have been the 99th birthday of Wawrzyniec Zulawski (pronounced “Vav-zhin-yetz”, or simply translated as Laurence), affectionately known as Wawa by all those who knew him (the much easier “Va-va”). I thought it would be a good opportunity to post up this section of Marek’s memoirs in which he talks about his brother’s passion for mountaineering, an activity that consumed his life in more ways than one.
When not climbing, Wawrzyniec was a composer and author, inspired by the peaks he scaled, as well as the director of ZAIKS, Poland’s copyright overseers. During the Nazi occupation, Wawrzyniec and his mother Kazimiera sheltered hundreds of Jews, and together they were awarded the title of Righteous Among The Nations.
Today’s excerpt follows on from last week’s in which Marek nearly died on the Baltic Sea. Recalling that episode leads him to mull over just how much life he really does have left after all these years.
The second volume of Study for a Self-Portrait is dedicated to my mother, but it’s only in the more intimate sections where he addresses her as directly as this. They had gotten married earlier that year and were together until death did them part in 1985.
Back then, I was how old?
In other words, half a century ago. More even.
Today, fear has come back to me again and I don’t know how to deal with it.… Keep reading