Photo’ Warsaw Old Town during the 1944 Uprising Museum of Warsaw, public domain–
Leon Zdislaw Stroinski was born in Warsaw on 29th November 1921, his family moved to Zamosc afterwards. Stroinski visited Italy on 1938, and left school in 1939. In 1941 he moved to Warsaw, and joined the Resistance, and in 1942 became a member of literary group that published a monthly magazine called ‘Sztuka i Narod’ ( Art and Nation). In 1942-3, Stroinski began training as a Resistance officer.
On 25th May 1943 Stroinski and two other poets Waclaw Bojarski and Tadeusz Gajcy laid a wreath at the statue of Copernicus in Warsaw. The Germans had removed the Latin and Polish inscriptions and replaced them with a German language one. This caused an altercation with German soldiers, Bojarski was shot and died from his wounds on 5th June 1943, Gajcy escaped, Stroinski was arrested and taken to German police headquarters where he was interrogated and beaten. He was released on 19th July 1943 on condition that he left Warsaw and lived with his parents. Stroinski re-emerged in Warsaw in the Autumn of 1943. A collection of his poetry ‘Okno’ ( Window) were published in a print run of 125.
Stroinski took part in the Warsaw Uprising, killed in action fighting the Germans with a detachment under his command. Gajcy was also killed, fighting with him. A collection of his prose poetry was destroyed during the Uprising.
In 1963 ‘Okno’ was re-published in a print run of 1,000. In 1979, a limited edition English translation of ‘Okno’ by the Polish born poet Adam Czerniawsi was published.
” During the building of the barricades, the Vistula, brimming with reflections of forests, birds and white roads line with poplars, rose at first like a mist, then like a stiff cover of a book.
In its shade at dawn caretakers come out with huge frayed brooms to sweep up the the tears which have collected during the night and lie thickly in the streets.
Already. the market women, extended to the edge of sunlight, recommend potatoes grown on graves.
And on the horizon of the street, across the roar of grenades lying in the curves of cobblestones,the soul of the city has been moving for months.
The reflection of her face, too difficult to comprehend, has left a trace on the twisted faces of ruins as on the handkerchief of St Veronica.
Those who will cone in the far, far future wanting to decipher them, drawing their cold-blue hands across features taut like strings, and who with careless fingers will poke the moan of those dried up in crevices-will burst in prayer or blasphemy.
Here my country has come together from decimated forests and villages turned into a dog’s howl. It persists in the whisper of mechanised armour.
We had to wait through so much blood and pathos in order to build from the silence of ruined monuments such a vault over a city of jazz and death.
Now lemurs from Gothic temples are thick on roofs of trams and terrify insurance officials on their way home.
The dead wander beneath the pavements and pound on bucklers which give a hollow sound, while at evening in double rows of whispers they walk arm in arm with the living, and you can tell them part only by skilfully folded wings, which nevertheless stick out on their backs like humps.
But in daytime huge stone capstans hum, and only around noon, when folk sit down to lunch and it’s a bit quieter, can you hear more distinctly the heavy rhythmical tread of God’s steel-shod boots. ”
Adam Czerniawski, ‘The Burning Forest -Modern Polish Poetry’, 1988 featured the above translation of ‘Warsaw’.
I have not been able to trace the copyright holder of this poem- if anyone owns the right, please get in contact and would be delighted to give them all due credit.
Background information for this page came from ‘Post-War Polish Poetry ‘ edited and translated by Czeslaw Milosz’, Penguin, 1965 and the aforementioned ‘Burning Forest’ anthology .
The original and shorter version of this piece was posted on the World War 2 poetry blog at https://worldwar2poetry.blogspot.com/2019/08/leon-zdzislaw-stroinski-1921-1944-warsaw.html