Wed. 5/16, 7pm
Beth Holmgren discusses her biography Warsaw is My Country: The Story of Krystyna Bierzynska, 1928-1945
This book tells the story of Krystyna Bierzyńska, an acculturated Polish Jew, from her birth in Warsaw in 1928 up to the war’s end in May 1945, when she was reunited with her brother, Dolek, an officer in the Polish II Corps. Bierzyńska not only survived the Holocaust due in large part to the extraordinary efforts of her parents, blood relatives, and surrogate Christian family, but also served as a 16-year-old orderly in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. Hers is a Warsaw story, a biography that demonstrates how, in urban interwar Poland, the lives of liberal educated Catholics and acculturated, unconverted Jews significantly overlapped. Co-creating the culture and developing the economy and industries of independent Poland, acculturated Jews at last dared to believe that they qualified as Polish citizens and patriots. Bierzyńska’s story details her experience of two very different Warsaws: a cosmopolitan oasis of high culture, modern amenities, and tolerance, and an occupied capital intoxicated and united by conspiracy, where the residents joined together to overthrow a common enemy.
Beth Holmgren is Professor of Slavic Studies at Duke University. Her recent books include Starring Madame Modjeska: On Tour in Poland and America (2012) and Transgressive Women in Modern Russian and East European Cultures, co-ed. Yana Hashamova & Mark Lipovetsky (2016). Her current research examines the role of popular entertainment and the experience of its primarily Jewish performers in the Anders Army (1942-1946).