Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski was born in 1921 in Warsaw. He belonged to so called ‘Generation of Columbuses’ whose adolescence fell on the period of Nazi occupation of Poland. As his family belonged to Polish intelligentsia (his father fought in Polish Legions during WW I and his mother was a writer and teacher of Polish) he was brought up as a patriot. Although his mother, a catholic, came from assimilated Jewish family, he was never before made to think about his Jewish roots. But the war was to change everything. His adulthood was a painful lesson that not only changed his life but also his poetry.
As a child Krzysztof suffered from asthma, had weak heart and had tendency to tuberculosis. He graduated from high school in May 1939. He attended the same school as later members of shock troops. Baczynski was himself a member of scouting movement. He did not like to go to school therefore his notes were poor. But at the same time Baczynski was very much interested in French literature and even wrote some poems in French.
Despite his writing talent, Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski planned to study at Academy of Arts as he dreamt of career of graphic artist or illustrator. His plans were spoilt by the WW II. Although his mother had Jewish roots, she and her son never moved to Jewish ghetto remaining on Aryan side – risking to be shot at once if the truth was discovered. During 1942 and 1943 he studied Polish philology at secret Warsaw University, he also worked physically doing some small jobs. He left the studies to sacrifice himself to fight and poetry. He planned to undertake studies again after the war. However, his life changed tremendously in 1941 when he met his future wife – Barbara Drapczynska. They got married in 1942 and moved to the small rented flat where they would organize secret meetings during which Polish poetry would be read.
When the Warsaw Uprising broke out he was in the area of Theatrical Square – where he was sent to collect shoes for the troops. As he was unable to make it through to his original division, he joined the branch consisting of volunteers. Krzysztof was shot on 4th August 1944. His wife – Barbara – died on 1st September 1944, hit by fraction of glass. She was at that time pregnant.
Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski is thought to be one of the greatest Polish poets of occupation times. He died at the age of 24 but managed to leave masterpieces of poetry that gained recognition and esteem among critics. It is believed that Baczynski reached his ‘poetic adolescence’ in Autumn 1942. His poetry shows the characteristics for ‘Generation of Columbuses’. He never wrote directly about the times he lived in but used apocalyptic convention. He touched timeless topics like shaping human soul and mind. Baczynski used very often plural in his poems, what stressed that he speaks out on behalf of his generation. Apart from poems that described destroying power of war he wrote poems full of hope and joy. He dedicated his wife beautiful erotics. He left over 500 poems. When Stanislaw Pigon, historian of Polish literature, was informed that Baczynski joined stay behind forces he said: ‘We belong to a nation, whose fate is to shoot at the enemy with diamonds’.