The PAJF is a non-profit 501c3 organization established to promote Polish and Polish American culture and traditions.

Reviewed by Mary Lanham
© 2018 Polish American Journal


Frantic 7:  The American Effort to Aid the Warsaw Uprising and the Origins of the Cold War, 1944 by John Radzilowski and Jerzy Szczesniak

The Polish Architect by Ron Molenda

Buffalo and the Presidents: An Account of the Presidents’ Connections to the Queen City, Including Their Visits to the Area by Martin S. Nowak
The Christmas Miracle in Kolendy by Helen Gwozdz Miller

Polish Media Art in an Expanded Field by Aleksandra Kaminska
Estelle and Ziggy by Adam DeRose

Henry: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America by Katrina Shawver

A Minor Apocalypse: Warsaw during the First World War by Robert Blobaum

Busia: Seasons on the Farm with my Polish Grandmother by Leonard Kniffel

JULY 2017
My Sister’s Mother: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Stalin’s Siberia by Donna Solecka Urbikas

JUNE 2017
We Are One Family / Jestesmy Jedna Rodzina: Polish Immigration to Sheridan County, Wyoming 1890-1920 by Karen Ballek and Leon Washut

MAY 2017
The Denver Artists Guild: Its Founding Members; An Illustrated History by Stan Cuba

APRIL 2017
Journey into Poland: My Roots in Grandfather’s Village by Janet Hudon Hartman

MARCH 2017
Krysia: A Polish Girl’s Stolen Childhood by Krystyna Mihulka with Krystyna Poray Goddu
Wearing the Letter P: Polish Women as Forced Laborers in Nazi Germany, 1939-1945 by Sophie Hodorowicz Knab

Senator Stanley Haidasz: A Statesman for all Canadians by
Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm

A Homeland Denied: In the Footsteps of a Polish POW
by Irena Kossakowski

The Nobility of Poland: Landowners of Poland a Personal View
by Xavier Jon Puslowski
Sons of the White Eagle in the American Civil War: Divided Poles in a Divided Nation by Mark F. Bielski

The Boy Who Wanted Wings
by James Conroyd Martin

Tasa’s Song: A Nove
l by Linda Kass

Training for Armageddon: Niagara Camp in the Great War, 1914-1919
by Richard D. Merritt

From Paderewski to Penderecki: The Polish Musician in Philadelphia
by Paul Krzywicki

JULY 2016
Meathooked: The History and Science of Our 2.5-Million-Year Obsession with Meat
by Marta Zaraska
The Seagoing Cowboy by Peggy Reiff Miller

JUNE 2016
Grace Revealed: A Memoi
r by Greg Archer

MAY 2016
My Boyhood War: Warsaw 1944
by Bohdan Hryniewicz

APRIL 2016
Echoes of Tattered Tongue
s by John Guzlowski

MARCH 2016
Salt to the Sea
by Ruta Sepetys
Kaleidoscope of Poland: A Cultural Encyclopedia by Oscar E. Swan

Polish Armor of the Blitzkrieg
by Jamie Prenatt
Love for Family, Friends, and Books by Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm

Polish Spitfire Aces
by Wojtek Matusiak
Poor Your Soul by Mira Ptacin

Celebrate Christmas Polish Style by Lawrence G. Kozlowski
Transnational Punk Communities in Poland
by Marta Marciniak

A Testament to Faith: The First Polish Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Christ the Lord
by Thomas L. Hollowak

A Chance Kill
by Paul Letters

Rising Hope: Book I: Warsaw Rising Trilogy
by Marie Sontag

In the Footsteps of a Saint: John Paul II’s Visit to Wisconsin
by Philip Kosloski
Aryan Papers by George Dynin



Frantic 7:  The American Effort to Aid the Warsaw Uprising and the Origins of the Cold War, 1944
by John Radzilowski and Jerzy Szczesniak
Casemate Publishers
2017, 208 pgs.

In 1944, Operation Frantic was carried out. It was mainly a series of bombing missions meant to attack certain areas controlled by Germany. The seventh mission sought to help the Warsaw Uprising. Frantic 7 is one of the first books of its kind to closely analyze this mission.

Drawing on mission reports, witness testimonies and diaries, correspondence, military records, newspapers, books, and articles, the authors paint a vivid picture of the failed mission of Frantic 7. American B-17s dropped much needed supplies such as ammunition and food over the city of Warsaw. Unfortunately for the Home Army, only a small percentage of supplies actually reached their target. Over 1,220 airmen were involved in this mission to aid the uprising, with several losing their lives.

One plane in particular that is focused on in the book is “I’ll Be Seeing You.” It was shot down and many of crewmen died in the process. The excerpt below explains the hazard faced by the crew.

“When ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’ was hit, the crew attempted to bail out, but due to the damage suffered by the aircraft and fatal wounds suffered by some of the crew, not all made it out of the burning plane. But crew members who made it out were not out danger. Parachutes could be damaged even before being deployed or malfunction on their own. As eyewitness reports on the ground show, German forces in the area were firing into the air with every weapon available.”

Within the book are photos of the fighter crew, illustrations of the planes used, and a diagram of the formation of B-17s on the approach to Warsaw. There is also an extensive bibliography and orders of battle of Operation Frantic 7.

Frantic 7 The American Effort to Aid the Warsaw Uprising and the Origins of the Cold War, 1944 by John Radzilowski and Jerzy Szczesniak is a valued addition to the catalog of books and articles about the Second World War.

Jerzy Szczesniak’s previous book “Frantic 7”: Amerykanska Pomoc Dla Powstania Warszawskiego was one of the first books to reveal the American mission to Polish readers. He currently lives in Warsaw.

John Radzilowski, Ph.D. has written several books and articles on U.S. and Polish history. He is associate professor of history at the University of Alaska. He previously taught history courses at Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Minnesota and the University of St. Thomas. He is a fellow at the Piast Institute and past president of the Polish American Cultural Institute of Minnesota. In 2006 the Polish American Historical Association awarded him the Oskar Halecki Prize for his book Poles in Minnesota.


The Polish Architect
by Ron Molenda
AuthorHouse 2017, 193 pgs.

When Irene and her children fled Poland before the beginning of the Second World War, she had no idea that it would be years before she would see her husband and son again. In Ron Molenda’s book, The Polish Architect, a family torn apart by war never gives up hope that they would be reunited.

Before the war, Irene and her husband Andrew are living a quiet life on a farm raising their children. One son, Victor, finds that working on a farm does not suit him and asks his family’s permission to attend university to become an architect. They gladly acquiesce to his proposal.

With the murmurings of World War II becoming louder, Andrew decides it would be safer for the rest of the family to leave the country. He and his son stay behind so that Victor can finish up the semester. They have no idea that the invasion of Poland will happen only a few months later.

After acquiring false papers, Irene with her young adult children in tow, make it to a port and then to the United States. From there it is recommended that they move to Chicago, a city with a large Polish population and an industry that her sons could excel in.

Years later after the war, Anna, Irene and Andrew’s daughter, with her best friend Lisa travel to Poland to find her long-lost father and brother. With the Red Cross’s help Anna is finally able to reunite with her family. When they were apart her family had grown. During the war, Victor met and married a woman in the Zakopane region. They had a child, but sadly his wife died of pneumonia.

Andrew, Victor, and Victor’s son Andy soon move to America to rejoin Irene and the rest of Victor’s brothers. As the years progress, the family experiences its fair share of ups and downs but find strength together.

The Polish Architect by Ron Molenda is available on

Ron Molenda, a first-generation American on his father’s side, was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana. His father, originally from Poland, came to live in the United States as a child. Molenda’s maternal grandfather also emigrated from Poland. Molenda still keeps the Polish traditions alive by eating Polish food and practicing many of the country’s customs.


Buffalo and the Presidents An Account of the Presidents’ Connections
to the Queen City,  Including Their Visits to the Area
by Martin S. Nowak
American History Press 2017, 346 pgs.

In his book, Buffalo and the Presidents, Martin Nowak examines the history of Buffalo and the U.S. presidents that affected the Queen City and, in turn, how it and its citizens impacted the lives of the presidents.

Arranged chronologically, the author explores not only the lives of Grover Cleveland and Millard Fillmore and what happened at the Pan-American Exposition, but also Theodore Roosevelt’s several trips to the Western New York city. The excerpt below about Teddy Roosevelt’s visit before he was president, exemplifies Nowak’s vivid descriptions of past events.

“Now popularly referred to as Colonel Roosevelt, he arrived at the Exchange Street Station at 4:30 on the afternoon of October 25. Long before his train rolled in thousands of people occupied places around the depot. Dressed in gray overcoat and suit and Rough Rider hat, Roosevelt was escorted out a side entrance as mighty cheers arose from the people, who not only surrounded the station, but shouted from a departing train, the tops of box cars, rooftops, windows, and a nearby bridge.”

Buffalo and the Presidents is not rooted in the distant past however; the author also touches upon former President Gerald Ford’s talk at the University at Buffalo in 1988 and President Obama chowing down at Duff’s Famous Chicken Wings in Cheektowaga in 2010. Through meticulous research from resources such as newspaper articles, personal diaries, correspondence, books, and websites, Nowak skillfully pieced together this unique take on Buffalo’s history. Buffalo and the Presidents would be perfect for anyone looking to round out their presidential history and/or Buffalo history collection.

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., Martin S. Nowak attended Alfred State University and served in the U.S. Army. He has written the 2010 book, The White House in Mourning, which covers the deaths and funerals of the eight presidents who died in office. Nowak is also the author of numerous articles and is a member of the Association for a Buffalo Presidential Center and the American Historical Association.

The Christmas Miracle in Kolendy
by Helen Gwozdz Miller
WestBow Press 2017, 80 pgs.

Just in time for holidays is The Christmas Miracle in Kolendy by Helen Gwozdz Miller. Miller’s book is a nativity play written and produced in 1989. It contains music score, lyrics, actions, as well as readings from the New Jerusalem Bible. Most of the songs can be sung in both Polish and English and a few are only in Polish. Miller explains that the play can be performed by English speakers and also Polish-speakers who are learning English.

She also provides some helpful direction in performing the play such as the number of people needed, props to use, and suggestions for costumes.

If you receive this book too late to put on a play this holiday season you can also use The Christmas Miracle in Kolendy as a guide for Christmas caroling in your neighborhood.

Helen Gwozdz Miller graduated from St. Joseph’s High School in Massachusetts and earned her BA in Mathematics from Elms College in Chicopee. She is now retired from the field of IT and currently lives with her husband in Clinton Township, N.J.


Polish Media Art in an Expanded Field
by Aleksandra Kaminska
University of Chicago Press 2016, 220 pgs.

Several months ago, I reviewed The Denver Artists Guild: Its Founding Members; An Illustrated History by Stan Cuba, in which traditional art such as paintings and sculptures were featured. In Aleksandra Kaminska’s book, Polish Media Art in an Expanded Field, she examines art that is created using new technologies like television, computers, and sound projection systems.

Polish Media Art in an Expanded Field began as dissertation and was written over many years in response to a lack of coverage on the subject of Polish media artists. Media art as a whole is analyzed by academics, but not with any focus on art in Poland. Kaminska has remedied this issue by studying not only recent media art but avant-garde art in the 1920s and ’30s and film experimentation in the 1970s. She looks at the way these artists use new technologies to reflect on the past, make political commentaries, and speak out about society’s ills. The artists seek to push what was private into the public and create more of awareness on particular subjects.

Krzysztof Wodiczko’s exhibit Warsaw Projection (2005) sought to make public what was private with its examination of domestic violence against women in Poland. Huge images of Polish women were projected on to an art museum. Kaminski describes the piece of art.

“They were heard recounting their stories of personal trauma and violence, their subsequent guilt, silence, and secrecy … The spectacle of the projections amplifies the message and is opposed to the way the stories of these women (and many like them) are habitually silenced or unspoken, hidden or denied.”

Kaminska’s examination of Polish media art is a hugely needed in the art field. It may help to have some background in art history, as this book leans heavily academic.

Kaminska is an assistant professor in Media Studies and Research Creation at the Université de Montréal. She earned her Ph.D. from York University and Ryerson University, her M.A. and B.Sc. from New York University. She has written books, articles, and essays. Her projects include Media Histories of Authentication and Nano-Optical Image-Making.

Estelle and Ziggy
by Adam DeRose
Create Space 2017, 81 pgs.

Growing up, Adam DeRose heard countless stories from his grandfather, Ziggy, about his life. Ziggy, originally from Poland, told his grandson about the Nazi invasion, his unwanted involvement in World War II and his life in the United States where he met his wife, Estelle. Adam, intrigued by his grandfather’s life, asked him repeatedly to write down all of his adventures. When Ziggy demurred again and again, Adam decided that he would do what his grandfather would not — or could not — do, and write his memoirs.

This slim volume reads as if you are sitting by Ziggy, listening to his stories. Much of it is transcribed from recorded interviews, emails, and letters. The excerpt below, about guarding the River Seine during World War II, illustrates Ziggy’s voice:

“I remember I was outside fishing one time … you know those young pilots, doesn’t matter who they are, they are something else, you know. I was fishing on that river they call the Seine, it was on a Sunday morning around 10 o’clock and there was an old barn … Here comes a single plane, with two tails. It was a British plane, and they dropped a couple bombs right on top of the barn ... If I was by it, I’d probably get killed.”

In his book, DeRose shares also his own experiences with his grandparents. He also includes several family photographs to give us a more fully fleshed-out picture of his family.

DeRose earned a B.S. in art from Daemon College and went on to earn an associate’s degree in Automotive Technology from Monroe Community College. Originally from Grand Island, N.Y., he now lives in Rochester, N.Y. with his family.


Henry: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America
by Katrina Shawver
Koehlerbooks 2017, 308 pgs.

Drawing on numerous interviews, primary documents, and photographs, Katrina Shawver presents the harrowing experience of Henry Zguda, a seemingly ordinary man with an extraordinary past. Shawver first met Henry when he was eighty-five, first interviewing him in the hopes of writing an article for a newspaper. She saw that his story was far deeper than one article could ever encompass. What resulted was the book, Henry: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America, a true story about a survivor of the most notorious Nazi concentration camps, Auschwitz and Buchenwald.

Henry grew up in Krakow and as a young man joined the YMCA. Zguda was first drawn to basketball, but when he learned that members of the swim team had their fees waived he switched sports. In doing so he immersed himself into the world of competitive swimming and water polo. To earn a living, Henry took a job working for a seed company, doing everything from hauling seeds to supervising a team of women. This simple blissful of life came to an end September 1, 1939, with the Nazi invasion of Poland. Despite the oppressive regime Zguda was able to continue working to support his mother. For three years Henry lived like this until 1942 when he was arrested on suspicion of being part of the Polish Underground. After being interrogated and not producing any useful information, Zguda was sent to Auschwitz. Through smarts and luck, Henry managed to survive in the death camp, rising from a potato peeler to one of the camp’s cooks.

Interspersed with Henry’s stories are Shawver’s descriptions of her research and her own discovery of Polish history. On her own, she visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum to go through archival records and tour the former concentration camp. She also delved into the National Archives in College Park, Maryland searching the original photographs from Dauchau and Buchenwald to further Henry’s story.

Wisely, Shawver chose to not guide Henry in the interviews. This leads to interesting side stories, at times jumping through the years and touching on various topics from the boxing matches that the Germans organized in the camps and a secret murder plot.

He also described being able to send letters from Auschwitz.

“Once a month, or every six weeks, you could write a letter. These were official letters on camp paper. They gather us all in one room and give us like ten pencils for three hundred guys. You cannot write whatever you wanted to. Every letter had to begin with: I feel good. I am very glad I am here … I have to figure out what to say. How are you? How is the uncle? I had many uncles, but ‘the uncle’ was the phrase I used to refer to the underground.”

After liberation, Henry would move to the United States where he met and married his wife in New York. In 1963 he became a citizen.

Through all his hardships Henry Zguda never lost hope or his sense of humor which is present throughout the book. This is a much-needed addition to your library.

Katrina Shawver has a B.A. in English/Political Science from the University of Arizona. She has written hundreds of newspaper columns for The Arizona Republic as well as various other occupations. She lives in Phoenix with her husband.


A Minor Apocalypse: Warsaw during the First World War
by Robert Blobaum
Cornell University Press, 2017, 320 pgs.

During World War II, Warsaw was decimated by the Germans and the Soviets. Around 84% of the city was destroyed. It is estimated that between 150,000 and 250,000 were killed in the Warsaw Uprising. Before that, however, Warsaw also experienced another tragedy. During the First World War, it suffered hardships that caused mass starvation and outbreaks of diseases that devastated the city. Robert Blobaum calls what Warsaw went through, “a minor apocalypse.”

After the outbreak of what was then known as the Great War, Warsaw was put under extreme military restriction. Warsaw was not yet part of a free and independent Poland; before the war it was known as the third city of the Russian Empire. At the beginning of the war, Warsaw’s supplies were often requisitioned by the Russian military. Its population was also under stress. It ebbed and flowed due to deportations, evacuations, men leaving the city for work, arrival of refugees and injured soldiers. In 1915 the population began to stabilize somewhat. The Russian authorities were forced out of the city and the citizens of Warsaw were put under a new regime: the German military. However, the fleeing Russians continued to take supplies from the city. The Germans instituted rationing of food and other supplies such as coal and soap. The city’s population was able to acquire some food despite inflation caused by the war. However, the Germans started banning certain kinds of food that could be sold on the free market which restricted the food supply even more and the threat of starvation loomed again.

“In February 1916, sales of meat and meat by-products, poultry, and fish were specifically prohibited in eleven Warsaw bazaars ‘in the interest of public health,’” he writes. “A week later the transport of livestock and meat from Warsaw County, even to the city of Warsaw, was prohibited.”

All of this restriction caused very long lines stores, growing poverty, and ever-increasing inflation. Some of Warsaw’s citizens grew so desperate that they started begging. There were even begging rings established who put young children in all of the busiest streets of Warsaw to beg for the group.

Blobaum analyzes the economic and cultural impact the Great War had upon Warsaw in great detail. He explains the extent of the devastation that it saw, as well as how it used such a tragedy to innovate — the expansion of the urban welfare system by the Warsaw Citizens Committee, is a good example of this. He used numerous sources for his in-depth analyses including primary sources, newspapers and other periodicals, and books which he lists in the bibliography. The book also contains a comprehensive index.

Robert Blobaum is Eberly Family distinguished professor of History at West Virginia Univerisity. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska and has authored two other books: Rewolucja: Russian Poland, 1904-1907, Antisemitism and Its Opponents in Modern Poland, and many articles.

This review is based on an advanced reader copy.

Busia: Seasons on the Farm with my Polish Grandmother
by Leonard Kniffel
PolishSon, 2017, 59 pgs.

In the early 1950s, a six-year-old boy lived on a farm in rural Michigan with his Polish immigrant grandmother. There was no telephone or television to occupy them. Instead they passed the time gardening, cooking, and keeping the house running. Leonard Kniffel paints a compelling picture of this simpler time in his life with his short memoir, Busia: Seasons on the Farm with my Polish Grandmother.

Sent to live with his grandmother while his mother worked in Hamtramck, Kniffel narrates what life was like in the year before modern conveniences came to the farm. Leonard played outside, around the barn, in the attic, and assisted with the labors necessary to run a household. Kniffel describes the ritual of doing the laundry as such.

“On wash day, Busia rolled the electric washing machine to the center of the kitchen. It stood like big white kettle on four legs. She filled it with water she heated on the stove. Connected to the top of the machine were the wringers. Next to the machine on a bench was a wash tub, the same tub I took my baths in. It was filled with ice cold water and a few drops of bluing so that it looked like a clean, fresh little lake.”

While getting ready for the Christmas season Kniffel’s grandmother tells him about growing up in Poland and the difficult journey she made on the boat from the old country to the United States. After settling down in Michigan, his “Busia” learned English but did not assimilate into American life completely, preferring to make Polish food such as pierogi from scratch and listening to Polish-language radio.

Kniffel’s style in Busia is perfect for younger and older readers alike and is available for purchase from the Polish Art Center in Hamtramck, Michigan and the gift shop of the Polish Museum of America.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR. Leonard Kniffel, a librarian, has also written A Polish Son in the Motherland: An American’s Journey as well as Musicals on the Silver Screen: A Guide to the Must-See Movie Musicals, and Reading with the Stars: A Celebration of Books and Libraries. In addition to being a writer, Kniffel was the editor and publisher of the magazine of the American Library Association, American Libraries. He is also the president of the Polish American Librarians Association and a member of the board of directors of the Polish Museum of America in Chicago.


JULY 2017
My Sister’s Mother: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Stalin’s Siberia
By Donna Solecka Urbikas
The University of Wisconsin Press, 2016, 302 pps.

It was the middle of the night when Janina Slarzynska, was startled out of her sleep by shouts and loud bangs on her door. It was 1940 in eastern Poland and the cause of the disturbance was the Soviet secret police. With her young daughter, Mira by her side, the NKVD declared that she was under arrested for crimes against the state. Her punishment was hard labor. Janina protested profusely but in vain. She and her daughter were packed on a train destined for Siberia far away from her small farm, from her home. Janina and Mira were hardly the only ones; hundreds of thousands of Poles were forcibly removed from the only lives they ever knew to a life of starvation, disease, mental anguish, and commonly death. Donna Solecka Urbikas examines her family’s past, focusing on Janina, her mother, and the horrendous effect of war in her poignant and empowering memoir.

 Urbikas skillfully intertwines her own life story growing up in America in the 1950s and her experiences as a mother with her own mother’s story. She analyzes the complicated relationship that she had with her mother and her sister as a result of their experiences in the labor camps. In the excerpt below she describes how her traumatic past influenced the way she interacted with the world.

“My mother’s lifelong preoccupation with obtaining the basic necessities in life led her to focus on that rather than on relationships, or so it seemed to me as I was growing up…She did not know how to accept a present or how to give one. ‘No one ever gave me presents,’ she said of her childhood. ‘I could never give Mira anything,’ she would lament.”

In 1943 with the help of a Polish Army officer, whom Janina later marries, she and Mira managed to escape the camps eventually making their way to the United States by way of India and England where Donna was born before settling in the Midwest. In America they were able to achieve their dream of owning and running their own farm.  

In the past year, My Sister’s Mother: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Stalin’s Siberia by Donna Solecka Urbikas has been recognized as a Foreword Indies Finalist and a Midwest Book Award Finalist. After reading My Sister’s Mother, it is obvious why it has garnered such attention. Urbikas is crafted a refreshingly honest text about the effects that war has on its survivors, and inevitably their children. Her writing and the tale she relays is compelling and will impart itself on your psyche.

About the author. Donna Solecka Urbikas was born in England and raised in the Midwest. She has an MS in environmental engineering and has been a high school science teacher and an environmental engineer and is now a realtor and writer. She and her husband reside in Chicago.


JUNE 2017
We Are One Family / Jestesmy Jedna Rodzina:
Polish Immigration to Sheridan County, Wyoming 1890-1920
by Karen Ballek and Leon Washut
Ochodzita Printing LLC, 2015, 220 pps.

When one thinks of Polonia, metropolises like Chicago, Detroit, New York, and Buffalo come to mind. While these have been important Polish enclaves in the United States, even small regions like Sheridan County, Wyoming have produced pockets of Polonia. 

Authors Karen Ballek and Leon Washut examine not only the lives of the Polish immigrant families that settled in central Wyoming from 1890 to 1920, but the areas in the U.S. they first colonized and the regions in and around Poland from which they came.

Many of these new Americans came from regions like Podhale, Rzeszow, and Silesia and the authors describe each of these places in detail, noting what the traditional clothing looked like, its architectural styles, as well as a short history of the areas.

While they left Poland and some of their families behind to work in the mines of Sheridan County, the recent immigrants did not leave their culture. Passing their traditions down to the next generations was very important to these families. Offering good, hearty meals to guests is the foundation of Polish customs and culture. This tradition was carried on even in modest surroundings.

“Guests are not served one or two main dishes or side dishes. Rather, the table is covered with a wide variety of food and drink. In small mining camp homes, guests often crowded around the table, and special meals were often two-phase events. If there was no room for a separate kids’ table, the children were fed first and then the adults ate.”

The excerpt below describes the types of food that was provided:

    “Potatoes, cabbage, and sausage were staples in the Polish diet, and many dishes featured potatoes and sauerkraut … Breads and pastries were baked at home, and yeast dough pastries (kolache) were a traditional treat.”

Augmenting the meticulously researched text, the book contains numerous photos of the original families — the brave and hard-working individuals who chose to settle out west a hundred years ago. The socioeconomic issues that spurred this mass migration to seek a new life in America is thoroughly explained and punctuated with maps that illustrate historic borders and regions.

It took eight years of research to create We Are One Family. Ballek and Washut drew on oral histories, memoirs, census records, ship manifests, church records, and other government documents to create this essential history of the Poles in Sheridan County, Wyoming. The book contains a helpful guide to Polish villages and cities, footnotes with references, and an index. An abbreviated history of Poland is included which makes this book accessible to Poles and non-Poles alike

We Are One Family: Jestesmy Jedna Rodzina: Polish Immigration to Sheridan County, Wyoming 1890-1920 by Karen Ballek and Leon Washut is available for purchase online at

About the authors. The descendents of Polish immigrants, Dr. Karen Ballek and Leon Washut are cousins who sought to document their family’s history but their research grew into an eight-year, in-depth study of the ethnic Poles who settled in Sheridan County, Wyoming.

May 2017
The Denver Artists Guild: Its Founding Members; An Illustrated History
by Stan Cuba
Colorado Historical Society, 2015, 260 pps.

Stan Cuba, well-known Polish American historian, whose previously published books include works on Zdislaw Czermanski, Stefan Mrozewski, and Jozef Bakos, brings us a history of the Denver Artists Guild and its founding members.

The Denver Artists Guild’s founding members were drawn together out of the shared desire to foster fellowship among artists as well as further them in their craft. To accomplish this, the guild held regular meetings in which members discussed their sketching and painting trips, lectured on a particular artist, or shared their own collection of historic works of art. In an effort to support the artists, the guild put on regular exhibitions and held art auctions.

Following the Second World War there was a movement in the art world towards modernism. However, the majority of the guild resisted the movement, instead advocating for more realistic pieces. In 1948, this disagreement came to a head when those that were for the new movement, split from the more traditionalist members. These modernists formed the Fifteen Colorado Artists. They were fed up with the dominant conservatism of the guild as well as “some members’ disdain for modern art.” The two groups had a dual exhibition in adjoining galleries that winter. The Fifteen Colorado Artists ultimately dissolved in 1970 but the break had a positive influence on the guild. In the 1950s it saw the rising popularity of modern art added an award category for abstract pieces at their annual exhibition.

The book features a great number of full-color reproductions of paintings and other works of art by the founding members. The variety of art created by the guild’s founders runs the gamut from surrealist paintings to ceramic pieces to bronze sculpture to murals and more. The guild’s fifty-two original members have a variety of backgrounds as well. Only sixteen were from Colorado, six were immigrants, and the rest had migrated to the area from all over the country. Some studied art abroad and some got degrees from U.S. universities. Most could not make a living selling their art, so they had to support themselves as art teachers, museum staffers, and commercial artists.

The Denver Artists Guild is still going strong today, known by its more inclusive name, the Colorado Artists Guild, and holds exhibitions, lectures, and workshops to support its members. Cuba aptly pieces together the history of the guild as well as the varied biographies of the founders. The Denver Artists Guild: Its Founding Members; An Illustrated History by Stan Cuba is available to purchase from and Barnes & Noble.

About the author. Stan Cuba has written a number of articles for the Polish American Studies, Western Art Digest, and American Art Review, coauthored Sandzen in Colorado, curated and written the catalogs for Jozef Bakos: An Early Modernist and Olive Rush: A Hoosier Artist in New Mexico. Cuba holds a master’s degree in History from Columbia University in New York and is associate curator of the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art in Denver.


APRIL 2017
Journey into Poland: My Roots in Grandfather’s Village
by Janet Hudon Hartman
CreateSpace, 2015, 267 pps.

In Journey into Poland: My Roots in Grandfather’s Village, Janet Hudon Hartman describes the processes involved in researching her family history and the barriers she encountered. The road to finding her roots was hindered by family secrets and uncooperative relatives. Hudon Hartman was able to overcome this with perseverance, Internet sleuthing, and repeated trips to Poland.

Hudon Hartman’s desire to explore her family’s past was spurred after her first visit to Poland in the 1970s. The resemblance of the people she saw in the streets of Warsaw to her relatives awakened the need uncover her family’s history. She interviewed family members, searched databases, networked online, scoured census records, and consumed books, all looking for the connection to her past.

When Hudon Hartman tried to get access to her mother’s parents’ house and family papers after they died, she was blocked by her uncle. Peter had become the de facto head of the house, despite the fact the house was left to all five of her great-grandparents’ children.

“If there were valuable possessions, keepsakes or important documents, it would be Peter who would stand guard at the door and no one had the stomach to challenge his offensive manner to intrude their parents’ domain.”

Despite this, Hudon Hartman crisscrossed America in her search. She spent time in the genealogy room at the Polish Museum of America in Chicago, toured Ellis Island and took advantage of all it offered and overtook the National Archives in Woburn in her mission. With this new knowledge she was ready for another expedition abroad.

While on her second trip to Poland in 2001, the World Trade Center was leveled. Earlier she had visited a museum in the Old Town and viewed footage of the destruction that Warsaw had suffered in World War II. Sixty years later, the same destruction was thrust upon her own country, in a city only three hours away from where she lived. Afterwards in Krakow, she visited the American Consulate in attempt to get more information and experienced firsthand the love and support Poland extended after the attack.

“The American Consulate in Krakow was closed. Many notes were left by the Poles at the door; hundreds of candles and flowers filled the sidewalk in the next few days. People came and had their moment of silence. A young couple brought their child to place a rose among the rest of this outpouring of love and support in reaction to the 9/11 tragedy.”

Hudon Hardman visited Poland several more times trying to find documentation of her grandparents and their children that were born there. Finally, after years of searching, she made her way to a rural church that she was told may hold the records. The parish priest was able to locate birth records and marriage announcements. At last, she had found her grandfather’s village.

Journey into Poland: My Roots in Grandfather’s Village by Janet Hudon Hartman is available on

About the author. Janet Hudon Hartman currently lives in Pawtuxet Village in Warwick, Rhode Island. She has written two books about Pawtuxet titled, Second Nature: Blooming in Pawtuxet Village and The Cranston Side: Pawtuxet Village National Historic District.


MARCH 2017
A Polish Girl’s Stolen Childhood During World War II, A Memoir
by Krystyna Mihulka with Krystyna Poray Goddu
Chicago Review Press, 2017, 171 pps.
814 North Franklin St.
Chicago, IL 60610

 In 1939, young Krysia’s life was forever altered with the outbreak of the Second World War. What followed was a traumatizing experience of starvation, illness, and displacement. Her father had to go into hiding and soon she and her family were forced out of their home in Lwow, Poland and became political prisoners in Kazakhstan.

When Krysia was nine years old, German troops invaded Poland, but through a treaty between Stalin and Hitler, Poland was divided between the Russia and Germany. Lwow, in eastern Poland, was soon overtaken by the Russians. One night, NKVD soldiers demanded use of Krysia’s home for officers and their families. It was not long until she, her mother, and brother were forced out of their home and thereafter made to travel to Kazakhstan in cattle cars. They spent the next two years there as prisoners on a Soviet farm enduring starvation, interrogation, and threats of separation and death.

In 1941, they managed to escape Kazakhstan by acquiring identification papers. Krysia, her mother, and brother traveled through Turkmenistan, Persia, and to Northern Rhodesia (modern day Zambia).

Krysia: A Polish Girl’s Stolen Childhood During World War II, A Memoir by Krystyna Mihulka with Krystyna Poray Goddu contains family photos and a Polish language pronunciation guide and is ideal for children ages 10 and up.

About the authors. Krystyna Mihulka was born in Poland but deported to Kazakhstan. Displaced by war, she lived in Iran and Africa, moving to South Africa with her husband. In 1969, she, her husband, and their three children moved to the United States finally settling in California.

Krystyna Poray Goddu’s work has been published in the New York Times Book Review and Publisher’s Weekly among others. She is also the author of A Girl Called Vincent and Dollmakers and Their Stories.

Wearing the Letter P
Polish Women as Forced Laborers in Nazi Germany, 1939-1945
by Sophie Hodorowicz Knab
Hippocrene Books, 2016, 304 pps.
171 Madison Avenue, Suite 1605
New York, NY 10016

Kidnapping, enslavement, starvation, exploitation, sexual assault, and finally liberation are the key themes in Sophie Hodorowicz Knab’s new book Wearing the Letter P: Polish Women as Forced Laborers in Nazi Germany, 1939-1945. A 14-year passion project whose seeds can be found in Knab’s own family history, Wearing the Letter P explores the female experience of Poles in the Nazi forced labor camps.

Starting with the invasion of Poland, Knab slowly builds up the atmosphere of occupation by methodically laying out the groundwork the Nazis will use to rule and exploit Poland. From the origins as migrant farm workers in pre-war Germany, to volunteers and finally forced laborers, the reader is eased into the structure of atrocities the Third Reich constructed. Knab also introduces us early on the voices of the women whose story she’s telling with extensive quotes and excerpts.

The reader is then thrown into the Transit Camps where Poles were collected, examined, warehoused, and delegated to the various destinations in Germany. Knab details the humiliating and degrading way the women were processed by the Nazis, stripped of both clothes and dignity. From there we experience the harrowing trip via cattle car from the camps to dispersal stations where workers were sold and finally sent to the farms and factories supporting the war machine.

Further chapters delve into the living conditions, health, and maternal struggles these women went through before concluding with the joy and fear of the end of the war, repatriation, and the cold shoulder the refugees received by Polish America. At times, these pages can be grueling and heart wrenching reads, not because they are emotionally charged or dosed with rhetoric, but presented in a straightforward and historically accurate manner.

Knab’s writing style makes for a book that is easily readable, and her experience as an educator shines through. The text is broken up with some stunning era photos, English translation of Nazi propaganda and leaflets, background texts, and an occasional breaking of the fourth wall where Sophie connects her family’s ties to the history in a brief first person narrative. Knab’s approachable style truly imparts the reader with the depth of her research and history she wants to convey. Besides the endnotes and bibliography of this well-researched text, it is thoroughly indexed with a separate section for Polish forced laborers quoted in the book. The separate index allows the reader to go back and read each laborer’s story wholly and alone, a wonderful feature that flushes out each voice.

With Wearing the Letter P Knab has broken new ground for the English language reader in the retelling the experiences of Polish women in Nazi forced labor. As more information and records from this era are brought to light, and study of the field is expanded, Wearing the Letter P will be viewed as a watershed book like Different Voices: Women and the Holocaust and Exile and Identity: Polish Women in the Soviet Union During World War II. Knab’s addition to the field is not only an essential book that belongs in every public and university library, but your personal library as well.

About the author. Sophie Hodorowicz Knab is a bestselling author of several Polish interest books, including Polish Customs, Traditions and Folklore and The Polish Country Kitchen Cookbook, both published by Hippocrene Books. She contributes regularly to the Am-Pol Eagle Newspaper and the Polish American Journal. Her books, including Wearing the Letter P: Polish Women as Forced Laborers in Nazi Germany, 1939-1945, can be purchased in the PAJ Bookstore.


Senator Stanley Haidasz: A Statesman for all Canadians
by Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm
Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in Canada, 2014, 214 pps.
3479 Rue Peel
Montréal, QC H3A 1W7

On Thursday, August 12, 2009, Stanley Haidasz passed away. For over forty years he was a Liberal member of Canada’s Parliament, senator, and cabinet minister. In this biography Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm, examines the life of the first Canadian with Polish heritage to serve in Canada’s Parliament.

Spurred to search for a better life in Canada, Stanley’s parents emigrated from Stanislawów, Poland in 1910. They settled in the Queen Bathurst area of Toronto, which was an area to which Ukranians, Slovaks, and other Polish people had moved. Thirteen years after the Haidaszs arrived in Canada, Stanley was born.

In his neighborhood and within his family everyone spoke Polish; Stanley did not learn to speak English until he started first grade. Once he learned English, he excelled in school. He also learned he had a gift for public speaking and even competed in public speaking competitions. In high school he had his first taste of politics when he worked for the campaign of Arthur Roebuck, a liberal member of the House of Commons. Roebuck won the election.

Though Roebuck’s campaign was successful, Stanley decided to pursue a different path; it would take many years for Haidasz to return to politics. He briefly attended seminary but then transferred to the University of Ottawa where he earned his bachelor of philosophy degree. Medical school came next followed by a career as a physician. During this time he met and married Natalia Gugala with whom he later had four children.

In 1957 everything changed when Haidasz was convinced by prominent members of his community to run for election for the House of Commons, representing an area of Toronto that was heavily populated by immigrants. Despite strong conservative leanings in the rest of the city, he won the election. During his time in Parliament, he staunchly advocated for immigrants, helped to pass Medicare, as well as the Clean Air Act. Stanley eventually retired from politics in 1998. His worsening health convinced him to move to a retirement home in 2005. When he died four years later, he was lauded for his tireless efforts to improve the lives of those striving to be and those who already were Canadian citizens.

About the author. Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm was born in Łódź, Poland and earned her master’s degree in Literature from the University of Łódź and a Ph.D. in Humanities from the University of Warsaw. She has lived all over the globe including England and Toronto, Ontario before finally settling in Wilmington, Del., where she lives with her husband, Norman Boehm and son, Thomas.



Denied: In the Footsteps of a Polish POW
by Irena Kossakowski
Whittles Publishing, 2016, 118 pps.
Dunbeath Mill, Dunbeath
Caithness, KW6 6EG
Scotland, UK

In 1939, Waclaw Kossakowski was a promising young student at Warsaw University when his world turned upside down. For many years his story remained untold until his daughter, Irena Kossakowski, felt compelled to bring his experiences to light in her book, A Homeland Denied: In the Footsteps of a Polish POW.

A Homeland Denied gives another perspective on the hardships that Poles faced during and after World War II. Revealing her father’s account nonlinearly using vivid descriptions, Kossakowski also interweaves the actions of world leaders and the events that caused the suffering and deaths of millions of people and her family’s suffering and losses specifically.

The excerpt below, describing Waclaw’s memories of traveling to Midnight Mass on a sleigh before he was taken prisoner, typifies Kossakowski’s writing style.

“Vadek and Andrzei, wrapped up warmly, chatted non-stop, their breath hanging in the frosty air; their route was lined by fir trees standing majestically, like tall sentinels, beneath the splendor of their winter dress. It was a beautiful night. The stars were as jewels against the velvet sky, and the full moon hung like a huge opalescent globe, bathing everything in its silver-white glow, and illuminating the little church in its snowy mantle.”

Waclaw was taken and imprisoned and starved along with other prisoners. He was later sent to a labor camp in the freezing weather of the Kola Peninsula where he witnessed his friend being murdered by a Russian soldier. That murder haunted him for the rest of his life. But it was not the only trauma that he endured. He and fellow prisoners were sent on a harrowing journey, which many did not survive, to the warmer Asian Soviet Republics.

In a twist of fate, after a negotiation between Churchill and the Soviet leader, the survivors were sent to Iran and later to Iraq to bolster British troops in the Middle East. There he was given food, clothing, medical care, and the chance to fight for Poland’s freedom.

Color and black and white family photographs, letters, maps, and other ephemera punctuate the Kossakowskis’ story. Throughout the book there are images of poppies, bright red poppies and drawings of poppies, in remembrance of military personnel who perished in war.

A Homeland Denied: In the Footsteps of a Polish POW by Irena Kossakowski is available to preorder on and and will be released this April.


Sons of the White Eagle in the American Civil War:
Divided Poles in a Divided Nation
by Mark F. Bielski
Casemate Publishers, 2016, 312 pps.
1950 Lawrence Road
Havertown PA 19083
(610) 853-9131

Walk around the American Civil War section of your library and one could think that every aspect of the war has been covered. You will find specialized books on South Carolina Women in the Confederacy, Civil War Veterans of the Tonawandas, N.Y. and Biographical Sketches of Confederate Participants in the Battle of Picacho Pass, April 15, 1862. So it is only fitting that Mark Bielski has added to the field a Polish perspective of the War Between the States with his Sons of the White Eagle in the American Civil War.

This thoroughly researched text with photos, maps, historical documents, an impressive bibliography and index, offers nine personal portraits of Poles who fought for the North, the South, and in one case both. Ranging from Union General Wladimir Krzyzanowski, to Confederate Colonel Valery Sulakowski, and rebel turned Federal Sergeant Peter Kiołbassa, Bielski dissects the Poles historical view of freedom, how others view them, and they viewed themselves, through the lens of the Polish heroes of the American Revolution, and how the actions in Europe affected their motivations.

A prime example of this is Ludwik Zychlinski. A career military man with fighting experience in Europe, he hoped serving the Union would teach him tactics he could take back to use as a Polish freedom fighter. To explain the rationale of how Poles could fight in the defense of slavery, Bielski dissects the life of Gaspar Tochman, the organizer of the famous Confederate Polish Brigade. Tochman, a Virginia lawyer, found justification for succession in the U.S. Constitution and saw parallels between the actions of the U.S. Federal Government and Russian Empire’s partition of Poland.

Although Bielski is an academic, Sons of the White Eagle in the American Civil War is not a difficult read. Basic knowledge of Polish and U.S. history is all that is needed for this informative and enjoyable book. It is the perfect accompaniment to James Pula’s The History of a German-Polish Civil War Brigade and biography of General Wladimir Krzyźanowski. It fits perfectly into a Polish American library or a general Civil War collection.

Sons of the White Eagle in the American Civil War: Divided Poles in a Divided Nation is available through Casemate Publishers, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Personalized and signed copies can be purchased through the author’s website,

About the author: Mark Bielski is a director at Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours and the Ambrose Institute in New Orleans. He has a Ph.D. in History from the University of Birmingham (England), with a Masters in English from Georgetown and Bachelors from Tulane University. His career has involved academics, history, and journalism and is a member of both the American Historical Association and the Society for Military History.

The Nobility of Poland:
Landowners of Poland a Personal View
by Xavier Jon Puslowski
Createspace, 2011, 597 pps.

When he was growing up, Xavier Puslowski was surrounded by stories, those in films and in books. But the stories that fascinated him the most were the ones that were told by family friends and relatives. These stories about the past sparked his love of history. In The Nobility of Poland, Puslowski narrates his ancestral stories and uses them as a starting point to examine the lives of the upper classes and landowners in Poland before World War II.

The Nobility of Poland begins with the mysterious murder of a Polish noble, Prince Ladislas Drucki-Lubecki in 1914. The remainder of the book is divided up into roughly two sections. The earlier chapters give us the history of Poland up until the late nineteenth century. The last chapter of this hefty tome focuses on the twentieth century culminating with the outbreak of the Second World War. The middle section focuses on the way of life for Polish aristocrats such as titles, etiquette, protocol, and code of honor. Many rules of etiquette for courtiers continued until the early twentieth century Puslowski describes what fate could befall an Eastern European noble for refusing to duel.

“In 1902, a caller arrived at the home of American writer Mark Twain bearing a letter of introduction from Elizabeth, Queen of Rumania … one of the few royals with literary credentials. As was explained in the letter … the caller was a Madame Hartwig, an American singer who had married a highly placed Rumanian. Madam Hartwig’s husband had refused on principle to take part in ‘an affair of honor.’ Consequently, his friends and business acquaintances had shunned him. He was now an exile and financially ruined. The Queen asked Twain if he could find a suitable position for the couple.”

In this extremely well-researched volume of Poland’s history Puslowski succeeds in his goal in portraying the Polish aristocracy, the szlachta, as well-rounded and fleshed out historical figures. The Nobility of Poland: Landowners of Poland a Personal View by Xavier Jon Puslowski is available at

About the author: Born in Warsaw, Poland, Xavier Jon Puslowski has been a construction worker, a chef’s assistant, and a postman. After serving in the Army he taught at Howard University. Puslowski was also an economic analyst with the U.S. Department of Energy for several years.


The Boy Who Wanted Wings
by James Conroyd Martin
Hussar Quill Press, 2016, 358 pps.

Just in time for Christmas, James Conroyd Martin, has delivered for us his newest book, The Boy Who Wanted Wings. With this text, Martin, most famous for the Poland Trilogy, returns to his strong suit in this perfectly executed piece of historical fiction. Delving into an important era of Polish history, Martin’s words humanize and personalize the 1683 Battle of Vienna.

Aleksy, a young Tatar who was adopted by peasants, longs to be hussar and fight for Poland. By chance, he glimpses a member of the szlachta, Countess Krystyna, and he is taken by her beauty and falls in love. Krystyna soon returns his love, but an arranged marriage, class difference, and war stand in their way.

A skilled archer, Aleksy soon finds himself on the front lines fighting in the Battle of Vienna for Poland against the Ottoman Empire. Krystyna back home must fight her own battle with her family’s expectations for following the tradition of arranged marriage.

Martin’s methodical historical research shines forth in his vivid descriptions as shown in the excerpt below in his portrayal of the Ottoman soldiers.

“They were also armed with sabre and shield and a good many carried a bow case and the Mongolian recurve bow. Head gear was a mix of caps and turbans. Long coats or vests were worn over loosely draped pants which fit into boots or soft leather shoes with upturned toes. These were uniforms they wore … but colors depended upon battalion and rank so that the field was a stationary rainbow, baited and waiting to go into a dancing prism of motion.”

This tale of forlorn love and forced marriage, with characters that include a fortune teller and false priest, truly is a breath of fresh air in the genre of Polish historical fiction. Martin reminds us that there are intriguing stories to be told in the 1,050 years of Polish history outside of the Second World War. As he has proven before with the Poland Trilogy, The Boy Who Wanted Wings shows he is a true master of his craft. This book is deserving of one of the rarest commodities: space on your bookshelf. It can be purchased from the Polish American Journal Bookstore.

About the author. James Conroyd Martin is best known as an award-winning author of the Poland Trilogy comprised of Push Not the River, Against a Crimson Sky, and The Warsaw Conspiracy, which take place in the late 18th and early 19th century. He received a gold medal from American Institute of Polish Culture in 2007. He has earned degrees from Saint Ambrose University and DePaul University and chaired the English Department at Marian Catholic High School in his native Chicago, Illinois. Upon his retirement he moved to Portland, Oregon where he writes.


Tasa’s Song: A Novel
by Linda Kass
She Writes Press, 2016, 256 pps.
1563 Solano Ave. #546
Berkeley, CA 94707

Inspired by her Jewish mother’s experiences before, during, and after World War II, Linda Kass, a journalist by trade, pens Tasa’s Song. The novel, a coming-of-age tale, follows Tasa Rosinski and her family, during the 1930s and ‘40s.

From a young age, Tasa loved playing the violin, practicing whenever she could. Music itself is a constant in her life and classical music provides the soundtrack to this tale, emphasizing Tasa’s ups and downs during this turbulent time. After she learns her mother was taken by the Soviets to a labor camp, Tasa is grief stricken and hopeless. She knows she cannot let herself be overtaken by sorrow and she uses music to overcome this emotion.

“Like a gift, the opening harps in Smetana’s first symphonic poem, Vysehrad, began playing in her head, soothing her. As a layered melody of horns and strings replaced the gentle world the harps created, a picture of rolling pastureland and a castle on a hill over the Vlatava River, the seat of the earliest Czech kings, built in her mind. The music’s lyrical depiction of the Czech composer’s native countryside and history resonated with her own yearning. The descending passage evoked the collapse of the castle, and she relived her own breakdown as the music fell silent. The returning harps reminded her of the castle’s beauty; the ending notes painted for her the image of flowing water, the river surviving castle’s ruin.”

In 1943, Tasa and her family who lived in eastern Poland were forced to flee their home and hide in a bunker underneath a barn for a year; their village, like the rest of eastern Poland was taken over by the Soviets. The family occupies their time by playing games and reading books but they know that it might be only a matter of time before they are discovered by the invading forces. They keep apprised of the progression of the war by listening to the radio and learn that the massacre in the Katyn Forest was confirmed to be the work of the Soviet secret police.

Kass uses more than just music to heighten the emotion in the story; she also punctuates the narrative with letters that Tasa and her family members write, giving the reader more of an insight into the characters’ thoughts and feelings. Tasa receives news of her mother directly from her letters she manages to send. In her letters, her mother remains hopeful that the family will reunite despite the war.

Tasa’s Song: A Novel by Linda Kass is a story of love, loss, music, and family and is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and

About the author: Linda Kass holds a master’s degree in journalism from Ohio State University and has been a correspondent and reporter for publications such as TIME and the Detroit Free Press. She also taught at Wayne State University and worked in New York City for broadcasting and cable news industries as a corporate communications and public affairs executive. Kass, a staunch supporter of education and the arts, is currently serving on the Ohio State University board of trustees as vice chair of the board. Tasa’s Song is her debut novel.

Training for Armageddon: Niagara Camp in the Great War, 1914-1919
by Richard D. Merritt
FriesenPress, 2015, 307 pps.
Suite 300 – 990 Fort St.
Victoria, BC, Canada, V8V 3K2

Covering the camp in its entirety from the eve of and during the First World War, Richard D. Merritt has published Training for Armageddon: Niagara Camp in the Great War, 1914-1919. Merritt describes the everyday lives of the soldiers, rigorous training performed by the Canadians and covers the forgotten Siberian Campaign. Also within this well-researched text is a chapter that is completely devoted to Camp Kosciuszko and the Polish volunteers during the Great War.

When the Great War began in Europe in 1914, the United States was slow to involve itself. Its leaders preferred instead, to try to broker a peace between the countries. Poles who had immigrated to the States and Americans of Polish descent saw the conflict as an opportunity to free their homeland. Spurred by this strong desire, a deal was struck so Polish Americans could train in Canada and fight for France. The training facility selected for this operation was Niagara Camp in born out of this was Camp Kosciuszko. Not only American Poles trained here, there were Canadian Poles as well. In all, 22,000 Polish Canadians and Polish Americans were trained at Niagara Camp.

Camp Kosciuszko became well-known throughout the greater Polish world and was visited by such personages as Jan Ignacy Paderewski and his wife, and Prince Stanislaus Poniatowski the grand-nephew of the last king of Poland and a lieutenant in the French Army.

Between 1917 and 1919 a tragedy visited the camp in the form of the Spanish Flu pandemic. Many trainees, nurses, and support staff fell ill. Twenty-five soldiers died from the pandemic and are buried in a cemetery plot in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. Every year since that tragedy, the Polish community has traveled to the site to pay their respects for those who succumbed to the illness while training to fight for the freedom of Poland.

Training for Armageddon: Niagara Camp in the Great War, 1914-1919 by Richard D. Merritt contains photographs, a chronology of events, bibliography and index. This historical text is well worth making space on your bookshelf for and is available from

About the author. Richard D. Merritt was born in Toronto and educated in London, Ontario. He earned his medical degree from the University of Western Ontario, School of Medicine. He practiced ophthalmology in Niagara Falls, Ontario for forty years. In 2010, Dr. Merritt received an Ontario Heritage Trust Award and in 2012 he was named Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Citizen of the Year. He is enjoying his retirement with his wife, Dr. Nancy Smith, their two daughters, and three grandchildren.


From Paderewski to Penderecki: The Polish Musician in Philadelphia
by Paul Krzywicki
Lulu Publishing Services, 2016, 379 pps.
3101 Hillsborough St., Raleigh, NC 27607
(919) 459-5858

During the latter half of the nineteenth century, Polish musicians were immigrating in droves to the United States. Some ended up in Philadelphia, forever altering the culture within. These musicians who influenced the Pennsylvanian city as well as two of Philadelphia’s musical institutions are profiled in From Paderewski to Penderecki: The Polish Musician in Philadelphia.

The history of the Curtis Institute of Music and the Philadelphia Orchestra are presented, as are the biographies of those involved. One such person was Jozef Hoffmann. Hoffman was born near Krakow in 1877 and was taught by his musically-accomplished father. A prodigy in music, he was also mechanically inclined. As a child he toured Europe playing the piano with philharmonic orchestras. He was hired by the Curtis Institute to be head of the piano department. Later he became the director of the institute.

Another notable personage was Marcella Sembrich who rose from poverty in Galicia and learned to play the piano and violin as a child. She took voice lessons and at the young age of nineteen began performing in operas. In the States, Sembrich sang 55 performances in just one opera season. She later became head of the opera departments at the New York’s Institute of Musical Art and the Curtis Institute.

Approximately 200 Polish musicians have entries in this book, ranging from the nineteenth century to the present. Susan Narucki, a soprano and Leila Josefowicz, a violinist are a couple of the many contemporary musicians profiled.

This well-researched tome contains photographs, bibliography, index, and pronunciation guide. It is an essential edition for your Polish and Polish American reference collection. From Paderewski to Penderecki: The Polish Musician in Philadelphia by Paul Krzywicki is available from the Polish American Journal Bookstore and

About the author. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Paul Krzywicki earned both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Indiana University. He played the tuba in the Cambridge Brass Quintet of Boston, the Portland Symphony, and the Boston Ballet. He also held a position with the Buffalo Philharmonic and was an assistant professor at Youngstown State University. He spent 33 years as a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra. In 1972, the same year Kryzywicki joined the Philadelphia Orchestra he became a teacher at the Curtis Institute. His wife Joan Grahek Krzywicki is also an accomplished musician, lecturer, and teacher.

JULY 2016

Meathooked: The History and Science of Our 2.5-Million-Year Obsession with Meat
by Marta Zaraska
Basic Books, 2016, 272 pps.
250 W. 57th St. , Suite 1500
New York, NY 10107

​​In Meathooked, science journalist Marta Zaraska explores our obsession with meat. Despite the health warnings of cancer and diabetes and the extensive greenhouse gases that are produced raising animals to be slaughtered, humans seem to be addicted. What drives this addiction is what Zaraska means to find out.

The book begins with a look at the earliest carnivores: bacteria-like organisms that consumed other microscopic creatures about 1.5 billion years ago. These small carnivores evolved into larger predators. Then primates happened upon the evolutionary scene. Our ape-like ancestors were mostly vegetarian, but, at some point, early humans made the leap to consuming meat, perhaps scavenging first and then later hunting with hands and tools. Many scientists theorize this jump to animal protein enabled the growth of a much larger brain that is present in modern humans.

Zaraska goes on to investigate the many other aspects of meat, from the meat industrial complex to the ethics and environmental cost of raising animals for slaughter to the cultural traditions surrounding meat as well as the myth that eating meat is necessary for survival. She even discusses the language we use to discuss meat. Her investigation leads her all over the globe, to a steakhouse in India, a meat growing laboratory in the Netherlands, and a vegetarian restaurant in Singapore.

According to Zaraska’s research, the future of meat production is unsustainable if the trend towards greater demand due to population growth continues. However, there are solutions such as greatly reducing meat intake by eating pulses (beans, lentils, peas, etc.), cereals, and meat substitutes or perhaps lab-grown meat.

Meathooked: The History and Science of Our 2.5-Million-Year Obsession with Meat by Marta Zaraska examines the past, present, and future of meat, and should be read by vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike. It is available from and Barnes & Noble.

About the author. Marta Zaraska, a travel and science journalist was born and educated in Poland and has been published in The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, Boston Globe, and Elle. She has also written two novels and lived in six countries and traveled to 80 of them. She now lives in France with her family and two dogs.

The Seagoing Cowboy
by Peggy Reiff Miller
Illustrated by Claire Ewart
Brethren Press, 2016, 40 pps.
1451 Dundee Ave
Elgin, IL 60120
1 (800) 441-3712

Shortly after the end of the Second World War, Poland had lost so much. One-fifth of its citizens perished and many cities were greatly damaged. In addition to all that hardship, the country had also suffered a major loss of livestock. In the United States, the churches of the Brethren, the Society of Friends, and Mennonites saw a way to help: by sending cattle and horses overseas to Poland and other war-ravaged European countries to replenish these losses. Those that tended to the farm animals on the ships became known as seagoing cowboys.

In the beautifully illustrated children’s book, The Seagoing Cowboy, a fictional account of one of these cowboys’ experiences is relayed. His story, from the train ride to the ship to the tending of the horses and cows aboard ship and finally the joyous delivery of the extremely-needed resources in Poland is simply-told and punctuated with wonderful watercolor images.

The Seagoing Cowboy written by Peggy Reiff Miller and illustrated by Claire Ewart is suitable for those aged four to eight and is available from Brethren Press.

About the author. Peggy Reiff Miller was inspired to write about the seagoing cowboys since 2002 when she learned her own grandfather made such a voyage himself in 1946. She has written about the Heifer Project, now Heifer International, in several magazine articles, a blog, as well as creating the documentary, A Tribute to the Seagoing Cowboys. She holds degrees from Manchester University in Indiana, Western Michigan University, and the Institute of Children’s Literature. She lives with her husband in Goshen, Indiana.

About the illustrator. Claire Ewart holds a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, and has been an author and illustrator for 27 years. Her books have been selected for state book awards and reading lists and her work has been featured on Reading Rainbow as well as museums and galleries. She currently works in both Fort Wayne, Indiana and Saugatuck, Michigan.

JUNE 2016

Grace Revealed: A Memoir
By Greg Archer
NorLights Press, 2015, 257 pps.
762 State Road 458
Bedford, IN 47421
(812) 988-4662

During the 1940s, Joseph Stalin deported 1.2 million Poles from their homes in Eastern Poland. Some were sent to slave labor camps or exile settlements and others were executed. Greg Archer the author of Grace Revealed: a memoir, explores his family’s history through first-hand accounts of the suffering that resulted from these deportations. Archer, a Hollywood reporter is used to interviewing celebrities about their latest movies, but he felt an overwhelming need to shed light on his family’s past. Using his skills as an interviewer, their experiences are vividly illustrated in his memoir.

His grandmother, grandfather and their children, spent 18 months in a slave labor camp. When they were released in 1941 along with hundreds of thousands of prisoners, they traveled through Russia and halfway across the world, suffering starvation, extreme illness, and death. His grandfather and one of his mother’s sisters were cruelly separated from the family, sent to a hospital after becoming deathly ill. The story of the Miguts, Archer’s family, is a story that needs to be told. It encapsulates the extreme hardship that millions of displaced people endured.

The excerpt below is an example of what happened to the Miguts and fellow prisoners in a slave labor camp. Men, women, and teenagers were forced to cut down trees in the forest for measly pieces of bread and watered down porridge.

“Few workers dared to step out of place or utter a word of defiance lest they be kicked or beaten. Or worse, locked up for days and left to starve, only to be tossed right back into the assembly line of the working dead.”

Archer balances the darkness of the past with lightness of the present, often poking fun at himself. On his travels to Poland to visit his family’s old home, his poor command of the Polish language makes for humorous misunderstandings.

Grace Revealed: A memoir by Greg Archer is available from

About the author: Greg Archer has written for The Huffington Post, Oprah Magazine, VIA Magazine, The Advocate, The San Francisco Examiner, and other publications covering topics including, entertainment, history, travel, as well as under-reported issues in society. He also produces television shows as well as video segments on agents of change, arts, and culture. Archer holds a B.A. in Journalism from Arizona State University. He has won the Best Writer Award four times in a San Francisco Bay Area Readers’ Poll, two feature writing awards from the California Newspaper Publishers Association, among others. He currently lives in both Palm Springs and Chicago.

MAY 2016

My Boyhood War:Warsaw 1944
by Bohdan Hryniewicz
Spellmount, 2015, 256 pps.
The History Press
The Mill, Brimscombe Port
Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5 2QG

The Warsaw Uprising began on August 1, 1944 and ended 63 days later on October 2. The Uprising known as Operation Storm was fought by the Polish Home Army within the city to overthrow the Nazi occupiers and to prevent the advancing Soviet forces from taking control of the city. These 40,000 citizens fought against the occupation by attacking German military installations as well as other strategic points. The resistance members, consisting of men, women, and teenagers, were poorly armed but strongly supported by most of the city. In response, the German military conducted mass executions killing an estimated 200,000 civilians as well as thousands of resistance members. At the end of the Uprising, around 15,200 resistance members were killed or missing, 5,000 were wounded, and 15,000 were sent to POW camps. The rest of the civilians were sent to concentration camps or sent out to the country. One quarter of Warsaw’s buildings and infrastructure were destroyed during the operation and most of the city was destroyed by the end of World War II. In My Boyhood War: Warsaw 1944, Bohdan Hryniewicz gives his perspective as one of the teenage resistance members who fought against the German occupation.

At only thirteen years old, Bohdan and his older brother, Andrzej, joined the resistance. They were made into runners, tasked with giving and receiving messages between units. One time, he was sent back to his home unit carrying ammunition with another runner.

“We decided to crawl through the square. It was awkward and difficult for me because of the weight of the backpack and the PIAT container in my hand. Halfway there, I indicated to Mocny that I wanted to sprint the rest of the way. He agreed and on his signal we both got up and ran. As a flare went up and illuminated the square, the machine guns from the ghetto opened up, blindly spraying the square.”

For this and other brave actions, in September of 1944, Bohdan was promoted from private to corporal by the captain of his battalion.

Composed of seven parts, Hryniewicz meticulously details the Uprising and his own contribution to the resistance and the sacrifices he made. He lost his home and several friends and family members including his own brother. Somehow, he and his mother managed to survive and escape not only attacks from the German forces including frequent Stuka bombings, but being shipped off to a concentration camp. After the war, he and his mother escaped Poland and eventually immigrated to the United States.

My Boyhood War: Warsaw 1944 by Bohdan Hryniewicz is available on

About the author: Bohdan Hryniewicz was educated in Poland, England, and the United States. In 1955, he earned his graduate degree in civil engineering from MIT. Shortly after, he became partner with a few other classmates in the firm: Symmes, Maini, Hryniewicz & McKee Architects and Engineers. He has lived in several places including Boston, Stockholm, and Puerto Rico, often traveling back to Poland. In 1994, Bohdan was appointed Honorary Consul of Poland in Puerto Rico. Later, the President of Poland awarded him the Commander Cross, with Star, of the Order of Merit. He now lives in Florida with his wife.

APRIL 2016

Echoes of Tattered Tongues
by John Guzlowski
Aquila Polonica, 2016, 200 pps.
10850 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 300
Los Angeles, CA 90024
(310) 470-0770

With an unapologetic rawness, John Guzlowski gives us his family’s memoirs in a mix of poetry and prose in Echoes of Tattered Tongues. In Echoes we are shown the stark experiences of his family in three different time periods: his parents’ retirement, after the war, and during World War II.

In Book I: Half a Century Later, Guzlowski opens with a short story about a wooden steamer trunk that his family carried with them from the refugee camp to the United States. For decades, that trunk traveled with the family until finally after his mother’s death, John decided to let the trunk go, the trunk that his father made with his two hands. In his words, he “wanted that trunk to slip away into memory the way my mother slipped away, become a part of my past, always there but not there.” This sets the tone for the rest of the section which is focused on his parents’ retirement in Arizona and their deaths.

In Book II, Guzlowski examines his and his family members’ lives as refugees in America. The following excerpt from the poem, “Lessons” is about their arrival in Ellis Island and typifies his style. “[T]he docked ship / rusting rising / falling as we wait / for my father / lost somewhere / in the crowd of DPs / in cast-off babushkas / black-market khaki / the gray wool / that froze / before Moscow / and cracked / he left to buy / sausage and bread.”

The third section of Echoes, Guzlowski unflinchingly examines his parents’ survival against the odds during the Nazi regime. His mother, Tekla, underwent unspeakable loss when she came home to find her mother, sister, and her sister’s baby, brutally murdered by German soldiers. Tekla and Jan, Guzlowski’s father, both endured the horrors of concentration camps in Germany, slave labor, starvation, and other abuses at the hands of Nazis. The poem, “The Germans Who Owned Them” speaks of the dehumanization of those imprisoned by the Nazis. “[A]nd the Germans stood watching / their hunger and then their deaths, / watched them as if they were dead trees / in the wind, and waited for them to fall.”

Written over the course of thirty years, Guzlowski’s collection of around one hundred poems and works of prose is a testament to his dedication to tell his family’s story. Echoes of Tattered Tongues is now available on and from Barnes and Noble at

About the author: John Guzlowski was born in a refugee camp after the end of the Second World War. After moving to the United States, the family settled in Chicago. He has been writing for over forty years and has had his work published in national journals such as Rattle, Chattahoochee Review, and Marge. Guzlowski has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and won the Illinois Arts Council’s Award for Poetry. John earned his B.A. in English literature from the University of Illinois, Chicago and also holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in English from Purdue University. The professor emeritus of English literature at Eastern Illinois University now lives in Lynchburg, Virginia.

MARCH 2016

Salt to the Sea
by Ruta Sepetys
Philomel Books, 2016, 391 pps.
375 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014

On January 30, 1945, a German military transport ship, the Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk by a Soviet submarine. Of the 10,582 on board, approximately 9,400 perished, most of these were civilians and the majority of them were children. Inspired by this mostly unknown tragedy, Ruta Sepetys pens a tale about four teenagers whose fates are tied to this maritime disaster.

Sepetys reveals the stories of Emilia, a Polish fifteen year-old; Joana, a repatriated Lithuanian; Florian, a secretive Prussian; and Alfred, a Nazi sailor through rotating chapter snippets that focus on one character at a time. These snippets sometimes a couple of pages, sometimes only one line, slowly bring to each character’s secrets to the surface as they journey toward the inevitable. With each turn of the page, the suspense builds, keeping the reader guessing as to their pasts and their futures.

The author paints realistic, three-dimensional individuals with fluid prose. Emilia’s cautious hope for the future and struggle to remain brave is plainly expressed as is Alfred’s delusion of importance. The excerpt below of one of Emilia’s chapters typifies the Sepetys’s writing style.

“‘Per aspera ad astra, Papa,’ I whispered. Through hardship to the stars. It was a Latin phrase he used whenever I complained that something was difficult. Where was my father now? Could he ever have imagined things would be this difficult? I looked up at the sky, wondering if the stars would be pretty here.”

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys is one book that can’t be missed and is available at Barnes & Noble and

Note: This review is based on the advance uncorrected galley.

About the author. Ruta Sepetys is the author of the New York Times Bestseller, Between Shades of Gray as well as Out of the Easy. Originally from Detroit, Sepetys is the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee. She earned her B.S. in international finance from Hillsdale College. In 1994, she started an entertainment managing firm in Los Angeles. Sepetys is the director of the nonprofit group that focuses on fundraising for music education. In 2013, she was awarded Lithuania’s Cross of the Knight of the Order by the president of Lithuania for her cultural contributions to bring to attention to the history of totalitarianism in the Baltics. Her novels have won awards and nominations and have been the top of dozens of best book lists, both nationally and internationally. Sepetys currently lives in Nashville, Tenn.

Kaleidoscope of Poland: A Cultural Encyclopedia
by Oscar E. Swan
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015, 366 pps.
7500 Thomas Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260

In this introduction to all things Polish, everything about Poland’s culture both historical and modern from Armia Krajowa, the Polish underground military during World War II to pierogi (no explanation needed) to Zakopane, a town located in the Tatra Mountains, has an entry. Many entries are punctuated by images of a particular region, food, or person. It also contains a timeline of Polish historical months, Polish literary figures, and Polish rulers; major national and regional Polish uprisings; and indexes both English and Polish.

This reference book on Poland is definitely one you need to keep on hand. Kaleidoscope of Poland: A Cultural Encyclopedia by Oscar E. Swan is available from the University of Pittsburgh Press and

About the author. With over fifteen books and numerous journal articles, Swan is a professor of Slavic languages and literatures at the University of Pittsburgh. He has earned an A.B. from Princeton and both an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University at California, Berkeley. His many awards include the Polonian of the Year Award from the Pittsburgh Polish Cultural Council and the Polonicum Award from the University of Warsaw.


Polish Armor of the Blitzkrieg
by Jamie Prenatt
Illustrated by Henry Morshead
Osprey Publishing, 2015, 48 pps.
P.O. Box 3985
New York, NY 10185-3985

In 1939, Poland’s Army used armored units, including tanks, tankettes (light tanks), and armored cars to fight against the invading forces of the Soviets and the Germans. The odds were against Poland who had only 750 armored vehicles to oppose over 6,000 enemy units on multiple fronts. Polish Armor of the Blitzkrieg describes the history of Poland’s armored forces beginning in 1919 and the evolution of the various tanks and other armored vehicles through the ‘20s and ‘30s during Poland’s rearmament program.

Like all Osprey publications, Polish Armor of the Blitzkrieg contains not only easy to understand text, but also dozens of archival photographs and color illustrations. Among the various historical photographs is an image of a row of Polish FT-17s along with their drivers. Another interesting photo in the book is of a crew working on the tracks of an armored car. In addition to dozens of archival photographs, many full-color illustrations of various models of tanks, tankettes, and armored cars are included.

This slim volume also contains a bibliography, index, tables, and seven appendices which include information about battalions and tank companies.

Polish Armor of the Blitzkrieg is a great addition to any World War II library and is available on and

About the author: Jamie Prenatt earned his Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Towson University and a Master’s degree in government/national security policy from Georgetown University. He has over 30 years of civilian and military intelligence experience and is currently a senior analyst in the Department of Defense. He taught military history and wargaming at the Smithsonian Institution as well as intelligence studies at the university level. Prenatt is also the author of another Osprey publication, Axis Midget Submarines: 1939-45.

About the illustrator: Henry Morshead is a design consultant in the European aerospace and automotive sectors. He has illustrated for a number of other Osprey publications including, US Army and Marine Corps MRAPs, British Light Tanks 1927-45, and Humber Light Reconnaissance Car 1941-45.

Love for Family, Friends, and Books
by Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm
Hamilton Books, 2015, 353 pps.
4051 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200
Lanham, Maryland 20706

In her autobiography, Love for Family, Friends, and Books, Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm recounts the major events in her life starting in Poland and winding through England, Canada, and finally the United States. Using the unique literary device of forgoing the narrative structure, Ziolkowska-Boehm instead relates memories by drifting from topic to topic highlighting the important experiences of her life.

Born in Łódź, to a family that emphasized reading and education, Aleksandra seemed destined to be an academic and writer. Indeed, even after giving birth to her son in 1969 she still continued on with her studies at the University of Łódź to earn her Master’s degree. For her Master’s thesis she chose Melchior Wańkowicz as her topic as her father had a substantial collection of his books. After his interview, Wańkowicz asked to see Aleksandra’s thesis so far. He was so impressed by her analysis of his works that he hired her as his research assistant. Under his tutelage, Ziolkowska-Boehm launched her writing career.

Her academic and writing career has led her on path across the globe. At one point she lived in Toronto, Canada, having accepted three writing scholarships before finally settling in the United States where she lives now.

Love for Family, Friends, and Books by Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm is available from and at

About the author: Aleksandra Ziolkowska-Boehm holds a Master’s Degree in literature from the University of Łódź and a PhD in Humanities from the University of Warsaw. She has a son named Thomas and currently lives with her husband, Norman Boehm in Wilmington, Delaware.


Polish Spitfire Aces
by Wojtek Matusiak
Illustrated by Robert Grudzień
Osprey Publishing, 2015, 96 pps.
PO Box 3985
New York, NY 10185-3985

In response to the invasion and occupation of Poland in September of 1939 by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the Polish government-in-exile was created. First based in France, the government-in-exile soon moved to London. As a result of Great Britain’s need for friendly troops, the Polish Armed Forces were allowed to be based on British soil with the Polish Air Force fighting alongside the Royal Air Force. The Polish Air Force formed over a dozen fighter squadrons most notably using the British made Spitfire aircraft. Polish Spitfire Aces relays the histories and first-hand accounts of the accomplished Polish pilots that flew the Spitfires, detailed information about the various types of Spitfires themselves, and the operations in which the PAF squadrons fought.

In the tradition of all Osprey publications, Polish Spitfire Aces in the “Aircraft of the Aces” series not only presents its text in a clear and concise manner it also contains many historical photographs and intricate color illustrations. Among the various photographs of Spitfires and their pilots is a 1941 image of Henryk Szczęsny, the first Polish Spitfire Ace. Other interesting photographs include the front view of Pilot Officer Michał Cwynar as he looks through the reflector gunsight of a Spitfire as well as one that depicts Captain Francis Gabreski hugging a plane’s propeller. In addition to dozens of archival photographs, 36 individual Spitfires are painstakingly recreated in extraordinary detail by Robert Grudzień.

This book also contains an index, bibliography, color plate details, and six appendices which include lists of official victories by individual Polish Aces and non-Polish Aces who flew Spitfires with Polish units.

Polish Spitfire Aces is an essential addition to any World War II library and is now available on and

About the author. Wojtek Matusiak is an accomplished researcher and writer on the Polish Air Force during World War II and Spitfires. He has previously written a volume for Osprey’s Aircraft of the Aces series. Matusiak is co-editor of Poland’s monthly aviation journal, Skrzydlata Polska.

About the illustrator. Robert Grudzień has illustrated almost all of Wojtek Matusiak’s publications about World War II aviation. Grudzień is an expert on Polish military aviation and did most of the research relating to the artwork in this Osprey volume.

Poor Your Soul
by Mira Ptacin
Soho Press Inc, 2016, 309 pps.
853 Broadway
New York, NY 10003
(212) 260-1900

When Mira Ptacin unexpectedly becomes pregnant, she is afraid, but hopeful for the future. She quickly becomes engaged and starts planning for her baby’s arrival. Five months into the pregnancy, Mira’s world turns upside down when her baby is diagnosed with multiple birth defects and she faces an agonizing decision. In her memoir, Poor Your Soul, Ptacin leads us on a journey that is painful, heartfelt, humorous at times, and very real.

Smoothly transitioning from the present to her childhood in Battle Creek, Michigan, Ptacin relates to us not only her own personal story but that of her mother, a Polish immigrant. Growing up in Poland, Mira’s mother, Maria, had a difficult life, at times going without food. After suffering the loss of someone very close to her, Maria emigrated to the U.S., where she met and married Mira’s father. Many years later, Maria suffered another tragic loss, the death of her teenage son, Julian. Ptacin skillfully interweaves these two stories about mother and daughter, giving us an honest view of tragedy and the strength born from grief.

Poor Your Soul by Mira Ptacin is out this month and is available on,, and

About the author. Born and raised in Battle Creek, Michigan Mira Ptacin later moved to New York to attend Sarah Lawrence College where she earned her MFA in Nonfiction Writing. Previously a writing instructor of a writing program in Portland, Maine, Mira now teaches memoir writing to women at the Maine Correctional Facility. Ptacin has written for Guernica, Slice Literary Magazine, and Poets & Writers Magazine among many others. She currently lives in Peaks Island, Maine with her husband, children, and two dogs.


Celebrate Christmas Polish Style
by Lawrence G. Kozlowski
Self published, 2013, 30 pps.
525 Beatty Road, Monroeville, PA 15146

Just in time for Christmas, Polish artist, folklorist, and author, Lawrence G. Kozlowski has reissued his book Celebrate Christmas Polish Style. As he has with his other books, Kozlowski packs a lot of fun information into this small tome.

The book opens with the Advent season, before highlighting a number of feast day celebrations. Each saint highlighted includes a depiction of them, their story, the role the feast plays in Polish culture, and a recipe. This all builds up to a section on Wigilia that takes up almost half the book.

These 13 pages cover the history of the Wigilia, menus for seven- to twelve-course versions of the dinner, and over 40 recipes. The recipes are easy to understand and include caraway soup, poached fish Polish style, poppy seed roll, a number of pierogi and peppered vodka. The great thing about the book is that it’s spiral bound so it lays flat on the counter and has a plastic cover so it stays clean. After the Wigilia and Christmas section, Kozlowski covers the feasts up to Three Kings, following the earlier format.

The last section of the book is a true gem. Knowing that Christmas is the one time of the year when the whole family is likely to be around, Kozlowski has included a few genealogical pages that can be filled out. Besides the standard family tree, one page is devoted to special family traditions, while two more are set up to record family recipes. These are wonderful templates that can be easily photocopied and added to the book each year. Much to his credit, Lawrence devotes the last page to a bibliography and thank-yous.

With Celebrate Christmas Polish Style, Kozlowski has simmered down the Polish traditions to a pure concentrate. It hits on all the highlights, religion, food, and family. This thin book is perfect both for the beginner who is interested in learning about their Polish traditions and the seasoned expert who needs a quick reference guide. It’s perfect for any library.

Celebrate Christmas Polish Style by Lawrence Kozlowski is available from

About the author: Lawrence G. Kozlowski, the onetime director of the Alliance College’s Kujawiaki, is now best known for as a folk arts demonstrator and as cultural commissioner for the Polish Falcons of America. With art degrees from the Polish Ministry of Culture in Lublin, Kielce, Krakow, and Rzeszow, he has received the honor of being recognized as a master folk craftsman in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Kozlowski’s previous publications include: Celebrate Easter Polish Style, Easter Eggs Polish Style, Paper Cuttings Polish Style, Polish Ornaments Polish Style, Celebrate Christmas Slovak Style, Celebrate Easter Slovak Style, and Pin-Tip Eggs Slavic Style. He currently writes the culture section in Sokol Polski.

Transnational Punk Communities in Poland:
From Nihilism to Nothing Outside Punk
by Marta Marciniak
Lexington Books, 2015, 217 pps.
4501 Forbes Blvd., Suite 200
Lanham, MD 20706
(301) 459-3366

Transnational Punk Communities in Poland is a study about the punk subculture and how it developed. Marciniak primarily draws on interviews that she conducted in communities like northeast Ohio and Upper Silesia, Poland. It delves into the philosophy, music, and politics of punk culture as well as how the different generations relate to each other. But the greater focus is on how the subculture developed locally and internationally.

One interesting topic that the author examines is that of the economy of the subculture. Much of it is a DIY economy such as small independent record labels and DIY punk music festivals. One of these festivals is Punk Island. Punk Island is “organized annually in New York City in June by ‘collective of DIY punks from NYC,’ working with the support of a non-profit called Make Music New York…”

What makes this work different from other ethnographies about the punk subculture is that the author has credibility within this group. Marciniak identifies as a punk, herself, so those who she interviews are more apt to open up to her rather than an outsider. Transnational Punk Communities in Poland is an extremely detailed and thoroughly researched academic work complete with a bibliography, endnotes, and index.

Transnational Punk Communities in Poland: From Nihilism to Nothing Outside Punk by Marta Marciniak is available from and Barnes and Noble.

About the author.. Marta Marciniak, originally from Warsaw, has earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Warsaw and holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University at Buffalo. She currently lives in the United States with her husband and son.


A Testament to Faith: The First Polish Evangelical
Lutheran Congregation of Christ the Lord
by Thomas L. Hollowak
Historyk Press, 2015, 277 pps.
7 Dendron Court
Baltimore, MD 21234

Although most Poles identify as Catholic, some Polish people and those of Polish descent identify as members of other religious groups such as the Polish National Catholics, Baptists, and Evangelical Lutherans. A Testament to Faith is about one such group of Polish Lutherans who left Poland and settled in the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland and their legacy, the First Polish Evangelical Congregation of Christ.

The First Polish Evangelical Congregation of Christ the Lord was founded in 1904 by a group of Polish immigrants who came from the Łomża and Suwałki territories of Poland. They were compelled to leave for economic reasons, namely a severe lack of land available to farm. Once these individuals arrived in the United States they settled in Colgate, Maryland where, according to census records, many found employment as farm laborers. However, they found that they were a religious minority in America just as they were in Poland. As the majority of Lutherans in the United States were German, the new immigrants decided to found a Polish Lutheran Church that would give services in the Polish language. The church continued to hold Polish language services until 1988.

This important text discusses not only the history of the church building itself, but through correspondence, newspaper articles, and family oral histories gives us a peek inside the interesting lives of the founding congregants, their descendants, as well as the lives and families of the several pastors who answered the call to minister to the congregation.

Hollowak complements his extremely well-researched history tome with dozens of black and white and color photographs of parish members, of stained glass windows, and the church itself. He has also provided images of research documents such as hand-written letters, programs, and meeting minutes. One set of interesting images contains various sketches and blueprints of the proposed enlargements and extensions of the church in the 1950s and 1960s. In addition, genealogies of the founding members, endnotes, bibliography and an index are included.

Hollowak’s text is incredibly detailed and one that others writing church histories should seek to emulate. A Testament to Faith: The First Polish Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Christ the Lord is available from Historyk Press at

About the author. Thomas L. Hollowak has recently retired from the University at Baltimore as the associate director for special collections, where he worked for over twenty years. He has researched and written about the Polish community of Maryland for over thirty years. Hollowak’s articles have been published in Polish American Studies, Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly, and Maryland Historical Press among others.


A Chance Kill
by Paul Letters
SilverWood Books, 2015, 297 pps.
30 Queen Charlotte Street
Bristol, Avon BS1 4HJ
United Kingdom

Brought together and then thrown apart by war, Dyta Zajaç and Tom Hubbard must fight against the forces that separate them. Dyta, only seventeen years old, must leave her family behind in Warsaw because of her family’s connection to the Polish resistance movement. Tom, a young pilot in the Royal Air Force, is a reluctant fighter bound by loyalty.

In 1939, Dyta is sent away from Warsaw to live in Paris where she finds part-time work keeping house for a portrait painter. Soon after, she learns the horrible fate of her father at the hands of an SS officer’s brutal interrogation. Spurred on by the city’s apparent surrender in 1940, Dyta travels through France and boards a boat to Britain where she meets Tom, a British pilot. Despite the language barriers they become very close and Tom arranges for Dyta to stay with one of his friends.

While in England, Dyta begins working for the Polish government-in-exile, at first translating German newspaper reports then private communications to and from the Czechoslovakian government-in-exile. Eager to avenge her father’s death, she participates in secret training to become a spy, learning how to use firearms, how to blend in a crowd, and how to kill someone if necessary. Tom, in contrast, is haunted by the crash he survived after being shot down during an early British offensive. He is an unenthusiastic participant in the war, driven by the need to do his part for his family and country.

A Chance Kill is filled with expertly composed fast-paced, action-packed scenes, but Letters is also skilled in writing descriptive passages. The excerpt below concerning Dyta’s experience in Paris is typical of his writing style.

“She busied herself in the city’s heart and forged characterful but uncertain routes for her errands, reassured by the steadfast beacon of La Tour Eiffel. After the warm colors retreated, Paris moved through sepia shades and then bitter white. Winter had extended into April and flower buds still resisted bloom.”

A Chance Kill by Paul Letters is available on

About the author. Originally from England, Paul Letters now lives and works in Hong Kong as a freelance journalist. He regularly writes for the South China Morning Post and Radio Television Hong Kong. Paul has attended the University of Wales, Oxford University, and Hong Kong University where he studied History, Education, and Literary Journalism. A Chance Kill is his debut novel and Letters is currently working on a story about the mass escape from Hong Kong during World War II.


Rising Hope: Book I: Warsaw Rising Trilogy
by Marie Sontag
Sunbury Press, 2015, 219 pps.
P.O. BOX 548
Boiling Springs, PA 17007
(855) 338-8359

In the tumultuous time of September 1939 Poland, young Tadzio Dabrowski along with several of his fellow Boy Scouts were called upon to devote their lives to helping Poland win its freedom back. At only thirteen years old, Tadzio, a devoted son and brother, who loves history and music, is reluctant to join the underground resistance at first. When his mother is taken and imprisoned by Nazi soldiers, he is driven to action. Forced to grow up well before his time, Tadzio is set on a harrowing journey, fighting for his life, his family, and his country.

Dabrowski, his older sister, and younger brother moved with his fellow Scouts to Warsaw, where from 1939 to 1945, Tadzio and his friends served in the Gray Ranks. Teenagers, just like him, they lived under the constant fear of being killed by German soldiers or sent off to concentration camps. The younger Scouts carried out various missions of sabotage against the Nazis any way they could. They obfuscated road signs, delivered underground newspapers, and spray painted buildings with the Kotwica symbol to show the underground movement’s undying resistance to the occupying forces. Older Scouts were tasked with armed resistance and assassinations.

Carrying out sabotage and resistance missions weren’t the only dangerous activities Tadzio and his fellow Scouts were participated in; continuing their education was also extremely hazardous. He and other students met secretly at the homes of teachers to learn about Polish history and culture, a subject that was banned by the Nazi Regime.

Sontag successfully balances action-packed sequences with quiet and thoughtful moments. The excerpt below is one example of Sontag’s fast-paced scenes.

“A minute later, Tadzio saw them. Andrzej and Magdalena stood pressed up against a wall, hands raised in the air. A German soldier stood at their backs, pointing a semi-automatic pistol at them. Without thinking, Tadzio ran up behind the German and slammed the paint can into the back of his head. The SS man’s knees buckled. He dropped his weapon in the snow and collapsed on the ground.”

 A former teacher, Sontag’s education background is apparent in that she adds definitions and pronunciation guides for Polish names and words at the end of most chapters. A bibliography and character guide are also included.

Rising Hope: Book I: Warsaw Rising Trilogy by Marie Sontag is available on and the Sunbury Press Store at

About the author. Dr. Marie Sontag has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Science, a Master’s degree in Instructional Technology, and a PhD in Education. She has taught for over fifteen years as a social studies middle school teacher. In addition to Rising Hope, she has also written The Bronze Dagger, a historical fiction novel for young readers.


In the Footsteps of a Saint: John Paul II’s Visit to Wisconsin
by Philip Kosloski
Westbow Press, 2015, 94 pps.
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
(866) 928-1240

In August of 1976, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla visited the United States to give a homily at the International Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia. Not one to pass up an opportunity, Wojtyla decided to visit a few Polish communities as he did in his previous visit to the States. One such community was Stevens Point, Wisconsin. In the Footsteps of a Saint recounts the future Pope John Paul II’s visit to the rural community in central Wisconsin. Written in two parts, this slim volume by Philip Kosloski, takes a look at the life of a young Karol Wojtyla, a brief history of the city of Stevens Point, as well as Wojtyla’s stay in the area.

After his tour of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Baltimore, Cardinal Wojtyla a nature lover, craved green space. When Dr. Waclav Soroka invited him to speak at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Wojtyla jumped at the chance to visit the small rural city. Those short two days the future pope spent in central Wisconsin are skillfully narrated by Kosloski, who thoroughly researched the pontiff’s life and the history of Stevens Point. The thin text is impressive in that it is dedicated to a single event in the heartland of America that would appear as a mere footnote or not at all in a more voluminous biography. A wonderful collection of photos helps cover not only Wojtyla’s brief visit, but his life as a whole.

In the Footsteps of a Saint: John Paul II’s Visit to Wisconsin by Philip Kosloski is available on and

About the author. Philip Kosloski earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy and Catholic studies from the University of Saint Thomas in Minnesota and a master’s degree in theology from the Augustine Institute. He has written for National Catholic Register, Catholic Exchange, Crisis Magazine, and Aleteia.

Aryan Papers
by George Dynin
Archway Publishlng, 2014
224 pps.
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
(888) 242-5904

Jerzy Dynin had a childhood free of worry, surrounded by a loving family and caring friends. All that changed with the Nazi invasion and the outbreak of World War II. Summer vacations, visits to his beloved grandparents, and harmless pranks were replaced with air raids, extreme hunger, and the constant fear of betrayal. Aryan Papers is the true story of how a family managed to survive under the radar by changing their identities to that of Polish aristocrats.

As a young teenager, Jerzy and his family left Lodz, Poland to escape the continuous bombings from the Nazis. When Jerzy’s father is taken by the Soviets, he, along with his mother and younger sister fled from town to town, city to city, and across Eastern Europe, always fearing the discovery of their Jewish heritage. Along their journey they were aided by good friends, false documents and selling the jewelry they had taken with them from Lodz. By changing their last name from Dynin to Dunin, they changed their destiny to that of aristocrats, and avoided the fate of the ghetto. Along the way, Jerzy and his mother joined the Polish Underground. With the bare minimum of training, they were able to spy on a Nazi collaborator and eventually save the lives of dozens.

Dynin’s memoir, written shortly after the end of World War II is vivid and sincere. As with all survivors’ memoirs it adds a little more depth and another individual story, for not just researchers, but for readers. Aryan Papers gives a unique perspective that should not be missed.

Aryan Papers by George Dynin is available on and

About the author. George Dynin was born and raised in Lodz, Poland. A Holocaust survivor, he moved to Tel Aviv where he served in the Israeli Army during the War of Independence and studied economics at Tel Aviv University. In 1958, he moved to the United States where he established his own import and export company. He now lives in Georgia with his wife and cats.

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