Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
To tell the truth I am not sure why the name of this generation is anyhow associated with Christopher Columbus. His name brings to my mind a feeling of excitement, adventure and getting to know the unknown world. For sure the young people, who belonged to this generation, had in common one thing – they had to discover the new world that was unknown to generations preceding them. But that was no adventure one would dream of.
In Poland the name ‘Generation of Columbuses’ is used to describe young people, born around 1920 (that is soon after Poland regained their independence in 1918), whose adolescence fell on the moment when their country was under Nazi occupation. They were brought up with joy – passed by their parents – of having independent homeland and yet had to learn how to fight to defend it anew.
The name is especially used to describe poets and writers ( and generally members of Polish intelligentsia) whose creation was influenced by hard times of war and occupation. Although one might think that men of letters are physically weak and too gentle to fight, those young people proved that assumption to be wrong. As the war reality did not allow them to enjoy love and youth. Therefore instead of passive acceptance of their times they decided to actively fight their perpetrators. They got education through secret universities, secretly fought (in underground forces) and took part in Warsaw Uprising. Their works are designated by feeling of catastrophe. Although their fight was unbalanced - and they were doomed to lose that battle – their mind did not let them to accept the world they lived in. Roman Bratny, who described them for the first time as Columbuses – explained that they discovered Poland. Having in mind that Poland was formed thousands years before, and generations before them fought for its independence, I would hate to quarrel with that sentence. For sure they discovered that human sacrifice to idea that they believe, is indefinite. Our body gives no boundaries for physical fight. A writer is not doomed to fight with word only.
Among the ‘Generation of Columbuses’ one should mention especially Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski whose beautiful poems show the influence of the fact that his adulthood began during WW II. Other commonly known Columbuses were: Miron Bialoszewski, Roman Bratny (author of the book ‘Columbuses. The year 1920.’), Zbigniew Herbert, Tadeusz Rozewicz, Teresa Boguslawska and many, many others. It is impossible to mention all those who grew up at the same time and died in the fight but whose name were not kept by new generations.