Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Polish Review seeks Editor-in-Chief

I received the following notice: 

The Polish Review: The Polish Review is a peer-reviewed, international, English language, interdisciplinary academic journal published by the Polish Institute of Arts & Sciences in America with the mission of disseminating scholarly materials in the various fields of Polish studies broadly defined to include Poland and the Polish diaspora. To accomplish its mission, The Polish Review publishes original research, review articles, book reviews, translations from significant Polish-language literature and other scholarly materials.

Responsibilities: The Editor is responsible for the content and quality of each issue of The Polish Review and makes the final decisions relating to the production of each issue. The Editor appoints (with the approval of the PIASA Board of Directors) the Editorial Board, Book Review Editor and other staff, and manages the work of the Editorial Board and Book Review Editor. The Editor actively solicits scholarly contributions to the Review; ensures the integrity of the peer review process and editorial standards for English usage, formatting, scholarly citation and civility; serves as liaison with the production staff and printer; and manages the production schedule for each issue of the Review. The Editor collaborates with and directs numerous assistant editors, guest editors, peer reviewers, and authors.

Qualifications: Required: earned doctorate in the humanities or social sciences; demonstrated teaching and research excellence in a field of Polish studies; excellent communication, organizational, and management skills; ability to work well with a variety of people from various disciplines; familiarity with the requisite computer skills to conduct the normal business of the editorial office through e-mail and other electronic media as needed. Preferred: bi-lingual skills in English and Polish; prior editorial experience.

Terms of Appointment: Initial Appointment is for three years with the possibility of renewals.

Application Process: Applications and nominations—as well as any questions about the position—should be directed by e-mail to the committee chair, Dr. James S. Pula, at: Applications will be accepted until the position is filled.

Show Up, Look Good: A New Novel by Mark Wisniewski

Mark Wisniewski, author of Confessionsof a Polish Used Car Salesmen, has recently published his second novel, Show Up, Look Good.  The novel relates the adventures of a young Midwestern woman who hopes to get over a failed relationship by moving to Manhattan. 

Here’s what Kelly Cherry, the Poet Laureate of Virginia, says about it:

“This novel about a thirty-something woman who travels from Kankakee, Illinois, to New York to ‘make it’ deepens in unexpected and moving ways. Wisniewski ventriloquizes with perfect pitch his female narrator, who has a real talent for getting into trouble.  Show Up, Look Good  is funny, dark, poignant, and unsettling.”

Here's an excerpt from the novel:

The ground floor window under my room exploded, glass raining onto the sidewalk. Smoke twisted out and rose.
“Joyce better leave,” I said.
Ernest wrote:


“Good,” I said, and he nodded, and I did, too, and I was glad Tino was in Etta’s section of the building’s back yard: with the firemen now inside, I trusted he’d be safe there. Then I wasn’t so sure. To distract myself from worry, I asked Ernest, “What was in your duffel bag?”



Another window exploded, and then they were exploding from left to right, ax-heads popping through them like iron tongues. This is serious, I almost said, but the escaping smoke tapered off. Then axes shattered two second-floor windows. I glanced at Ernest, whose eyes were fixed on the window to my room, and his expression assured me that he, unlike Joyce, knew that heat and smoke ascended, and that he was picturing Joyce dashing through Etta’s dark hallway while his duffel bag remained beside a bra on my floor.
“Excuse me,” I told him.
I crossed the street, accelerated toward the building, and a fireman yelled, “Ma’am. Where you going?”
“I’ve got to get something,” I said. “Just a duffel bag. Before it burns.”
“It’s burning.”
“What if it’s still there?”
“It’s burning. You might as well phone your insurance.”
“I can’t run up and check?”
“We just got everyone out of there. You run up and I lose my job.” He clutched an industrial-size crowbar. “So you’re not running up.”
I nodded and walked back to Ernest. We stood beside each other, neither speaking nor writing, just watching more onslaughts of smoke. Then a hand squeezed my shoulder hard enough to portend rudeness. Joyce? I thought, and I turned and saw Etta pulled up as close to my left as Ernest was to my right.
“Etta,” I said, “can you believe this?”
“Unfortunately,” she said.
“At least we’re out here,” I said, but my insides churned—because if the third floor caught fire, our living arrangement might end. “Tino’s out back,” I said. “In the yard.”
Ernest thickened a period and handed his notepad to me, and Etta read it as I did:


“So do I,” I said.
“What was in his duffel bag?” Etta asked me, and before I could answer, another fire truck rounded the corner. Ernest and I exchanged glances. He shrugged. Then the second-floor window beneath mine exploded without the help of an ax. Inside that room, the tips of flames stretched into view. Ernest’s breathing grew vexed, then worse. He had only so much memorabilia, I was sure, and he was probably picturing his last aged and genuine baseball singe, and his autograph on that baseball could have made someone happy—and helped Ernest afford more of the city. I felt sorry for the person the memorabilia might have made happy, and for Ernest himself. I felt ashamed that I’d fantasized about Letterman while Ernest’s future had burned.
“If the whole building goes,” I said to myself out loud, and then I babbled about how I’d just begun to get my life together, about how Manhattan was the only place open enough to let me be who I really was, and about who knows what else. As I said these things, I used phrases made common on talk shows and felt destined to make an awful impression on Ernest, but I babbled on anyway, and then I tried to explain to Ernest that, for most of my life (which, granted, I added, had been less than half of his), all of my trying and talking and lovemaking and understanding had done nothing but separate me from everyone else. Then I noticed that his breathing had gone silent, and I turned to see his pencil finish a message:


“Do you really?”
He nodded, sat on the curb, and watched the flames rise. Then he lay back so that his legs were splayed on the street, his spine flat against a sidewalk dotted by black, discarded gum. He shut his eyes and placed his palms down, one on top of the other, on his chest.
“Will you watch it?” I yelled at a woman who nearly stepped on his head, but she kept on walking, so I hoped for a response from Ernest.
His eyes stayed shut. He can’t, I thought, handle the city right now.
“Ernest?” I tried.
Someone tapped my shoulder: Joyce, hugging Tino, then handing him to Etta. “Ernest is napping,” she said. “He does this wherever he feels.”
Etta glanced over. “Is he okay?” she asked me.
“I’d say he’s felt better,” I said.
“I took CPR at the gym,” a guy on the sidewalk behind us said. “If anyone here can help, it’s me.” This guy was huge, maybe three hundred pounds, and he planted his feet on either side of Ernest’s chest, then crouched so his ass touched Ernest’s abdomen, then rested on it.
“And I’m engaged to this man,” Joyce said. “Do you see what I have to put up with?”
“You’re smothering him,” I told the fat guy.
“I’m helping him,” he said.
“I don’t think so,” I said. “He doesn’t need CPR. It’s a breathing thing.”
He placed a palm on Ernest’s chest and pressed. “It’s his heart,” he said, and I grabbed his gargantuan arm and tried to shove him off of Ernest, but he didn’t budge. I pushed again, using strength I hadn’t expected, and he let go of Ernest’s dwindled shoulders and rolled onto the sidewalk. He was lying beside Ernest, straining to sit up, but I didn’t see him rise: I was hovering over Ernest, pinching his nose and grabbing the skin where his jaw was supposed to be, and lowering the flabby remains of his chin. Then I was descending, hoping Ernest’s eyes would open before our lips touched. Then we were sharing his silence. His mouth was warm, and I exhaled into it, and my palm, on his chest, rose slightly. I won’t have to do this more than twice, I thought, and I inhaled, tasting garlic, halitosis, and cinnamon. I heard glass pelt the sidewalk across the street. I tried not to hear the fat guy, who was shouting at me with instructions. One more time, I told myself, and I’ll hear that troubled breathing. Everything will be exactly the way it was.


Mark Wisniewski is the author of the novel Confessions of a Polish Used Car Salesman, the collection of short stories All Weekend with the Lights On, and the book of narrative poems One of Us One Night. His fiction has appeared in magazines such as The Southern Review, Antioch Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, TriQuarterly, New England Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Yale Review, The Sun, andThe Georgia Review, and has been anthologized in Pushcart Prize and Best American Short Stories. His narrative poems have appeared in such venues as Poetry International, New York Quarterly, and Poetry. He’s been awarded two Regents’ Fellowships in Fiction, an Isherwood Fellowship in Fiction, and first place in competitions for the Kay Cattarulla Award for Best Short Story, the Gival Press Short Story Award, and the Tobias Wolff Award.

Show Up, Look Good is available from Amazon and Gival Press, the publisher.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Two Review Poetry Contest Deadline Extended

I just got this information from Jeremy Edward Shiok that Two Review has extended its deadline for its poetry contest, a contest that I am judging. Here's all the info:

Two Review

A Journal of International Poetry & Creative Nonfiction

2011 Poetry Contest

Judge: John Guzlowski

1st Prize: $100 2nd Prize: $50 3rd Prize: $25

Prizes include publication in the 2012 issue of Two Review. All submissions considered for publication.


Submit up to five (5) unpublished poems, brief bio, and $10.00 contest fee at


December 30th, 2011


Two Review is an annual independent journal of international poetry and creative nonfiction committed to publishing the best original work available. Two Review seeks writing about the modern world, its inhabitants, and the events that shape them. The editors believe art is not a foreigner on the geopolitical landscape, and for this reason they promote work by poets, writers, and artists who are aware of more than themselves and show us the world as it celebrates and as it struggles. All topics that illuminate the human experience are welcome as long as the writing is grammatically strong and syntactically unique.

Two Review is featured at select independent booksellers across the U.S. Copies are also submitted to non-lending libraries at national poetry centers including The University of Arizona Poetry Center, Richard Hugo House in Seattle, The Poetry Center of Chicago, The Stadler Center for Poetry in Pennsylvania, and Poets House in New York City.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Polish American in the Mohawk Valley

I received this note from Daniel Weaver of the journal Upstream:

I have founded a cultural and counter-cultural review here in the Mohawk Valley. Our second issue is going to focus on Polish-Americans in the Mohawk Valley. I have already received a great essay on Joseph Vogel and a current Polish-American memoirist is interviewing former Lt. Governor Marianne Krupsak for the second issue.

I would love to receive some more essays and articles about Joseph Vogel plus almost anything relating to Polish-Americans in this part of New York State.

I only can pay $25-$50 per article. For more information about the journal check out To read more about what I am looking for in the second issue, check out this post

I do publish a certain amount of material not related to the Mohawk Valley and/or by non-residents of the Mohawk Valley.

The deadline is December 15, 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Artists and Writers: Updates November 2011

"The Best Five Places for Kissing in Warsaw," Karen Kovacik's poem, appears in the latest issue of The Cosmopolitan Review. The issue also contains Ewa Chrusciel's review of Karen's book Metropolis Burning.

I interviewed poet Anne Colwell at the r.kv.r.y. blog, and then she interviewed me. We had fun talking about academic vs creative writing, strong women, and eternal optimism. Check it out by clicking here!

John Minczeski and I are still accepting submissions for our anthology of Polish American Writing. To find out more about the anthology, click here.

Journalist Bozena Zaremba recently interviewed Rita Cosby, TV reporter and author of the memoir about her Polish father who fought in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, Quiet Hero: Secrets from My Father’s Past. Here's the link to her interview.

The deadline for the Two Review poetry contest is November 30, 2011. Complete guidelines are available by clicking here. Two Review is co-edited by Polish American poet Jeremy Shiok.

Leonard Kniffel interviewed Philip Levine for American Libraries Magazine. You can read it by clicking here.

Photographer Bogdan Frymorgen continues to share his gift with the world. Here's one of his photos:

Oriana Ivy blogged recently about love and the poetry of comfort at her Oriana Poetry blog. If you haven't read one of her blog posts, you're in for a treat. Her poem "Mrs. Noah" recently appeared in the Cosmopolitan Review.

Poet Linda Nemec Foster is working on a collaborative project with Hungarian musician, Laszlo Slomovits. A few months ago, Slomovits contacted Foster after reading her chapbook,
Ten Songs from Bulgaria (Cervena Barva Press, 2008). He was so moved by the poems that they inspired him to compose music using the poems as lyrics for the songs. Foster has heard five of the pieces and is impressed with Slomovits' talent as a musician; he fully realizes and engages the spirit and tone of the poems. He plans to complete the compositions for the entire chapbook (plus possibly other songs based on Foster's other poems) this winter and record the CD in March. An article about Ten Songs from Bugaria appeared earlier in Writing the Polish Diaspora.

Lisa Siedlarz's What we Sign Up For, a book of poems about those who go to war and those who are left behind, has just been published by Pecan Grove Press. That link will take you to one of the fine poems from the book, "Tea with Elders." The book is also available from Amazon.

A reading by Poet Mark Pawlak is now available on youtube. Click here.

Artist/Poet Grzegorz Wroblewski has two new images works online in the current Otoliths. His painting "I Will Survive" is featured here.

Polish film maker Michael Adamski has recently posted his film Granica Niagara/The Niagara Frontier on youtube.

Christina Pacosz's poem "Blood Moon Kansas City" appears on New Verse News today. And writer/scholar Danusha Goska has written a piece at "Bieganski the Blog" about Ms. Pacosz and my upcoming chapbook "How to Measure the Darkness." The blog includes a youtube of Ms. Pacosz reading her poems.

Andrena Zawinski has placed two poems in the online anthology, AMERICAN SOCIETY - WHAT POETS SEE produced by Future Cycle. The poems are available online and are forthcoming in a print edition of thirty poets. To read her two poems ("Bittersweets for Camellia" and "The Pickers"), follow this link and then click on her name.

Frank Zajaczkowski posted a poem "I Held Perfection" at his blog My So-Called Paradise.

Here's another of Bogdan Frymorgen's photos. To see more of his work, click here.

Poet Sharon Mesmer has moved recently and started a new blog called Dubious Labia where she writes bout her move and her writing and her friend. I especially recommend her blog about her friendship with Allen Ginsberg.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tourist Season at Auschwitz by Mark Lewandowski

Polish-American novelist Leslie Pietrzyk has recently started a website called Redux to showcase classic pieces of creative writing that have so far not been published online.

The fifth installment features Mark Lewandowski's essay "Tourist Season at Auschwitz," originally published in The Gettysburg Review (1999).

I first read this essay about 3 years ago, and I thought then that I had never read anything better about what it feels like to visit Auschwitz. I had visited there in 1990 and written about the visit a number of times, about what it was like being a tourist there, but nothing I've written and nothing I've read by other writers compares to what Mark Lewandowski offers in this superb essay.

Here is an excerpt. The entire essay along with a brief piece by Mark about how he came to write the essay is available at the website.

"Tourist Season at Auschwitz"

On the morning of the October day that England qualified for Italia ’90 (the World Cup soccer tournament), a small group of Englishmen were seen by some of the sports press at Auschwitz, laughing and posing as they took pictures of each other—doing the Nazi salute. Pete Davies, “All Played Out”

At Birkenau stands a mound unlike those dotting the countryside that Poles have built in remembrance of past generals and statesmen. You will not see picknickers lay out blankets on it or watch their children roll down the slopes. The Birkenau mound is a mass grave for Soviet soldiers killed by the Nazis. The bodies were packed so tightly together that they are still decomposing, and when it rains now, almost fifty years later, human grease rises to the surface and fans out through the grass in a brilliant rainbow of color.

Not far from the mound lies what looks like an ordinary pond.
Bend over and peer into its depths and you might be surprised not to see a minnow or two, at least, in the water. Take a stick. Dip it into the water and movie it in circles. Soon, a whirlpool of gray ash will funnel to the surface. This pond is only one repository for the remains of the Jews.

A Polish actor told me that these were just a couple of the sights in the Auschwitz complex most tourists miss. I was with two American women I had met in a youth hostel in Kraków. This was the summer of 1990. The Berlin Wall had been down for only seven months. American tourists were still a novelty to most Poles. The actor, who spoke English fluently, spied us three on the rickety commuter train from Kraców to Oświęcim, site of Auschwitz and Birkenau. He was going to visit his mother, who was a librarian at the Auschwitz museum.

“By all means,” the actor said, “do not spend the entire afternoon in Auschwitz. After you have watched the movie and seen the major displays, go to Birkenau. The barracks still stand unmolested by museum directors. Wander the buildings and you will read messages written in coal by the inmates. You will find fragments of clothing, steel cans, rotted straw, heating stoves. Leave the barracks and follow the tracks to the gas chambers. They have not been reconstructed. They have been left the way they were found, a much more profound statement to the horrors of the Holocaust than the glitz you will find in Auschwitz. Why would the retreating soldiers bother to destroy the evidence if they were not aware of the incredible crimes they had committed against humanity? Do not believe that they felt justified or that Hitler brainwashed them. They knew their sin. You will not experience their guilt among the glassed-in cases of human hair and suitcases at Auschwitz. Only in Birkenau, the much larger of the camps, will you find what you are seeking.”

And what were we seeking? What do the hundreds of thousands who visit concentration camps every year hope to find amongst the barbed wire, the staggering statistics pasted to barracks walls, the bricks riddled with bullet holes and once saturated with blood? What world are we looking for when we pass under the gateway that tells us, Arbeit Macht Frei, Work Brings Freedom? Do we find the same closeness to history, a sense of our own place in it, that we find wandering the back alleys of Venice, touring the White House, crawling through the ruins of ancient Egypt, or gazing at the art amassed in the Vatican Museums?

To read the entire essay, click here: Redux.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Milosz and the Future: A Centenary Festival

Claremont McKenna College is celebrating the centenary of Milosz on Oct. 19-21, and it will feature a number of prominent writers including former US poet Laureate W. S. Merwin, Robert Pinsky, and Polish-American writers Lillian Vallee and Piotr Florczyk.

If I were living anywhere near Claremont McKenna, I know I would be there for this one of a kind celebration. Absolutely.

To find out more about registering for the conference, please click here.

To see a schedule of readings, click here.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Two Review: Contest

I'm going to be judging a poetry contest for Two Review A Journal of International Poetry & Creative Nonfiction.

1st Prize: $100 2nd Prize: $50 3rd Prize: $25

Prizes include publication in the 2012 issue of Two Review. All submissions considered for publication.

Here are the submission specifics:


Submit up to five (5) unpublished poems, brief bio, and $10.00 contest fee at Two Review's website. Click here.


November 30th, 2011


Two Review is an annual independent journal of international poetry and creative nonfiction committed to publishing the best original work available. Two Review seeks writing about the modern world, its inhabitants, and the events that shape them. The editors believe art is not
a foreigner on the geopolitical landscape, and for this reason they promote work by poets, writers, and artists who are aware of more than themselves and show us the world as it celebrates and as it struggles. All topics that illuminate the human experience are welcome as long as the writing is grammatically strong and syntactically unique.

Two Review is featured at select independent booksellers across the U.S. Copies are also submitted to non-lending libraries at national poetry centers including The University of Arizona Poetry Center, Richard Hugo House in Seattle, The Poetry Center of Chicago, The Stadler Center for Poetry in Pennsylvania, and Poets House in New York City.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Krysia Jopek Speaks about Her Novel Maps and Shadows

Polish-American novelist Krysia Jopek will talk about her novel Maps and Shadows at the Windsor Public Library on Oct. 20, 2011. The novel tells the story of one Polish family's struggle in Siberia during the Second World War. The program runs from 7 pm - 8:30 pm, and will be held at the Windsor Public Library, 323 Broad Street, Windsor, CT 06095, tel: 860-285-1918, The event is free and open to the public.

I posted a blog about this powerful novel earlier this year, and you can read that review by clicking here.

Here's an excerpt from Maps and Shadows:

Chapter I

Our Orchards (Henryk)

Eastern Poland, 1930-1940

Some dates change the world irrevocably. What is done cannot be undone. No matter how well- or ill-conceived. One plane or two or ten piercing invisible lines, seeking enemy flesh.

A page of history that can never be torn out permanently. Things tend to catch up. Even when they are buried or ripped out. And it’s impossible for people to go on the same, though many pretend while sweeping the ashes under the expensive silk carpet. It depends where the lines are drawn. Maps and agreements that may or may not be honored, upheld. Memory, selective. Paper and flesh can be burned.

The history books my sister, Helcia, loved—would become unreal, unwritten. The Helcia that was light, flipped her honey hair and skipped with her books about lost cities, golden ash. Before the stone pages made her heavy. The then-unwritten pages that would unfold us. One group of people fighting another; the variables, teams and players switching, faking the others out.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Update: Polish Diaspora Writing

The Poetry Foundation published a 9/11 poem by Polish Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska about a photograph people falling from the World Trade Center. The poem is called "Photograph from Sept. 11," and the text and an audio version of the poem are available from the Foundation site.


On Oct. 11, 2011, between 4 pm and 6 pm, John Guzlowski will be giving a reading at the Founders Hall Theater/Callahan Center, St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY. The reading is called Lightning and Ashes: Two Lives Shaped by World War II and will focus on his parents and their experiences in the concentration and slave labor camps in Nazi Germany. The reading is free and open to the public.

Here's a youtube of one of the poems:


Oriana Ivy's new chapbook April Snow won the $1000 Finishing Line Press New Women's Voices Competition. The book will be published this coming April. You can read some of her excellent poems at her blog.


Stateside, Jehanne Dubrow's new book of poems about her military husband's deployment, was recently featured on the NPR program Fresh Air.


Polish-American journalist Bozena U. Zaremba continues her extraordinary interviews with classical pianists. Here is her recent interview with Jon Nakamatsu, 1997 Gold Medalist at the 10th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Click here.


John Minczeski and I are editing a new edition of the classic anthology of Polish American writing, Concert at Chopin's House. The deadline for submissions is Jan. 31, 2012. Click here to read about submission guidelines.


Suzanne Strempek Shea, the author of the Hoopi Shoopi Donna and Selling the Lite of Heaven, will be speaking at a symposium "In Praise of the Essay," at Fordham University's Lincoln Center on October 15. Complete information is available at the university's website.


A photograph by the photographer Bogdan Frymorgen:


Anna Marie Mickiewicz's poetry was recently read by Ott-Siim Toomet at the Art Centre in Vaniistu, Estonia. Ott read the poems in Polish. He is the son of the well-known Estonian writer of Polish origin, Jaan Kaplinski.


Grzegorz Wroblewski's one-act play "Turning Point" is now available online. Five of his poems, translated from Polish by Agnieszka Pokojska, appear in the new issue of 3:AM Magazine.


Off_Press is devoted to publishing contemporary Polish poetry in English translation. It features the work of such writers as Wioletta Grzegorzewska, Jacek Maczek and Marta Gorska. Here's the link.


Jen Michelski has just announced the last issue of her online literary journal, JMWW. This issue focues on non-fiction with pieces by Ron Capps, Curtis Smith, Jane Satterfiled, and others. You can check it all out by clicking here.


Anglo-Polish poet Sarah Luczaj's book Urgent Request has been translated into Polish. The Polish title is Pilna Prosba. The English version is currently available at Amazon. Here's one of the poems from the book, first in Polish and then in English:


Nikt, kogo kocham

nie umarł na razie dziś

każda wojna na tym świecie bez wyjątku

mnie omijała

nie głoduję i nie trafiłam

na mapę żadnego terrorysty

ani na niczyją oś zła

nikt mnie dzisiaj nie torturował

żaden policjant nie zastrzelił mnie przypadkiem ani celowo

żadna fala tsunami nie zmyła mojego domu

nie zostałam skazana na karę śmierci za zdradę,

bluźnierstwo, morderstwo

ani za to, że zupa była za słona


No one I love

has died so far today

every single war in this world

has passed me by

I am not starving and I haven’t stumbled

onto any terrorist’s map

or into anyone’s axis of evil

nobody tortured me today

no policeman shot me by accident or on purpose

no tidal wave swept my house away

I was not sentenced to death for infidelity

blasphemy, murder

or not having put enough salt in the soup

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hollywood's War with Poland: 1939-1945

The following essay was written for Writing the Polish Diaspora by Dr. Danusha Goska, author of the award-winning Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.

MBB Biskupski's Hollywood's War with Poland: 1939-1945 is a must-buy, must-read and must-keep book for several audiences. Twenty-first century American citizens seeking insight into ethnic jockeying for power will want to read this book. Conspiracy theorists fascinated by the ability of popular culture to twist human minds will find support for their most Orwellian nightmares. Polish Americans who care about the abysmal position of Polonia in the arts, politics, journalism and academia will buy, read, and reread it. Biskupski's style is straightforward, without academic or aesthetic flourishes. The average reader will have no problem.

HWWP is an essential resource that proves, beyond any question, that powerful people, prompted by geopolitical competition and deep hostility worked hard to sully the image of Poles, Polish-Americans, and Poland. They did this during World War II, when Poland was playing a key historical role. World War II began when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Nazis located notorious death camps like Auschwitz in Poland; Poland is an essential site of the Holocaust. As part of its treaty with Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union invaded as well, and Poland would be central to the Cold War. In short, when Poland was being crucified by two of the most murderous regimes in world history, Hollywood, with US government supervision and approval, did everything it could to convince its audiences that Poles were unworthy of support or even concern – in fact, Hollywood told its audiences that the Poles were deeply flawed people who probably deserved everything they got. This is the Big Lie writ with lightning – not by Goebbels, but by Washington and Hollywood.

HWWP provides another important service for anyone who studies ethnicity in America. Powerful forces in academia, politics, journalism and popular culture have insisted that the American ethnic landscape is literally black-and-white: poor and oppressed blacks struggle against privileged and powerful whites for their piece of the American pie. Perhaps the most notorious and resented example of this worldview are those check-off boxes that ask scholarship applicants and academic job candidates to identify as several different varieties of "persons of color" while offering only one choice for "white" people. In fact the black-white myth has never reflected reality, and American whites have come in varieties of rich and poor, powerful and disempowered. HWWP depicts Polish-Americans as the utterly disempowered, fecklessly looking on while their ancestral homeland was ruined and their ethnicity was degraded.

Film fans may scoff at the very title of Hollywood's War with Poland: 1939-1945. Hollywood simply did not make many memorable films that feature Polish or Polish-American characters in leading roles. 1939 is known as Hollywood's annus mirabilis. "Gone with the Wind," "Wizard of Oz," "Stagecoach," "Ninotchka," and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" were all in theaters that year, and a Pole is only mentioned in passing in one of these films: as screen goddess' Greta Garbo's lover in "Ninotchka." Perhaps the most famous Hollywood production that was made, and takes place, during World War II is "Casablanca," and there are no Poles in that. The most celebrated film about post-war America is 1946's "The Best Years of Our Lives." In that film, Fred Derry (Dana Andrews) a veteran suffering from PTSD, has a nightmarish flashback of combat. In a panic, he speaks of trying to save Gadorsky, a fellow soldier. In another scene, a poor and uneducated, but stalwart and worthy, war veteran and Slavic American, Novak, applies for, and receives, a bank loan to make a new start for himself. The film teaches audiences to like inarticulate working men like Novak.

HWWP acknowledges that Hollywood made few memorable films with identifiable Polish characters. The book focuses instead on movies little seen or discussed today. Biskupski argues that moviegoers of sixty years ago attended many films, not just major productions, but B movies, serials, and government propaganda films as well. These include two forgotten romance films: 1935's "The Wedding Night," and 1944's "In Our Time," and two more overtly propagandistic films: 1943's "Mission to Moscow" and "The Nazis Strike." As Biskupski shows, in these films and many others, negative Polish characters abound. These characters are not negative in a random way; rather, their distastefulness fits a pattern, one Biskupski outlines again and again and again. Through reference to changing versions of pre-production scripts and inter-office memos, often between representatives of Washington and Hollywood, Biskupski demonstrates that distasteful Poles are the products of careful planning. Polish aristocrats are ineffectual, selfish, fascists. Polish peasants and working people are thuggish, sexually coarse, stupid. In short, this is the Bieganski stereotype.

This negative stereotype, Biskupski argues, didn't come about purely by chance. Two factors developed and honed it. The United States was at war with Nazi Germany and wanted the Soviets to keep fighting on the Eastern Front lest a separate peace would allow Nazis to devote all their power to fighting Americans on an eventual Western Front. Of all nations, Poland presented the politician, the historian, the filmmaker and the ethicist with a quandary. Poland was invaded by both Nazi Germany and Communist Russia in September 1939. To this day, the debate continues: who was worse, Hitler or Stalin? No one has the definitive answer. To Roosevelt, though, the answer was clear; America needed to ally with Stalin. Problem: Communist Russia was held in low regard by Americans. The Red Scare of 1919-1920, when America expressed hate and fear of communists and communism, had not occurred all that long before 1939, when World War II began. Americans, who had learned to hate and fear Russians and communism during the Red Scare, needed to be manipulated into embracing their new Soviet ally. Washington directed Hollywood to bring about this dramatic transformation of American hearts and minds. Washington demanded, and got, films celebrating the Soviet Union.

Hollywood enthusiastically embraced Washington's commission. A good percentage of Hollywood's screenwriters, actors, and other movers and shakers were leftists, if not card-carrying members of the Communist Party. To convince Americans that defeating Hitler was worth American blood and treasure, and that the Soviets were a worthy ally, Americans needed to be educated about Hitler's evil, and the Soviets' benignity. This narrative would be a tough sell: the Soviets had been the Nazis' ally just a few short years before the US entered the war, and had signed the August, 1939 Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. The Nazis invaded Poland, a bad thing, but the Soviets had invaded as well, and they also had invaded Finland. Nazis mass-murdered and exiled Poles; Soviets mass-murdered and exiled Poles. Nazis demanded other countries' territory; Soviets demanded Polish and Finnish territory. With alacrity, and with adherence to the concept that truth is of value only in so far as it advances the revolution, Hollywood screenwriters did the work of Soviet propagandists. There was no depth to which they would not sink in their insistence on exculpating Mother Russia. Hollywood devised films that depicted the tragic victims of Stalin's purges and show trials as guilty and worthy of the death penalty. Hollywood worked to justify the Hitler-Stalin pact. Hollywood assured its audiences that the Soviet invasion of Poland was a good thing. Are you reaching for your Orwell yet? And your Dramamine?

In the past, Germany, Poland, and the Soviet Union fought over territory. Today ethnic groups fight over another commodity: the right to speak of one's own victimization, both in terms of actual body counts and in terms of the cultural victimization that results from negative stereotyping. Poles and Polish Americans are mocked and trivialized when they attempt to speak of their victimization. This happens in staff meetings on university campuses, in the press, and in seminal books. Just one example: James Carroll's very important 2001 book "Constantine's Sword," about Catholic anti-Semitism, describes Poles as being "particularly inclined to define" themselves as victims, in contrast to Jews, who actually do suffer. Art Speigelman justified depicting Poles as pigs in his Pulitzer-Prize-winning comic book "Maus," by saying that "the afflicted" – those who have suffered – understand his work. Poles have not suffered, in this view, and so their opinions don't count. In 2003, Bozenna Urbanowicz Gilbride, who had been in two Nazi camps, and whose mother had also been in two Nazi camps, was told she could no longer refer to herself as a Holocaust survivor because she is not Jewish. These and other dismissals of Polish suffering are strategic. At a meeting at Indiana University, an African American university official told me that he works against public acknowledgement of women's and homosexual's status as victimized groups. Why, I asked, stunned. Because if we acknowledge women and homosexuals as victims, he said, money will flow from programs for African Americans toward programs for women and homosexuals. Status as victim equals justified recipient of commodities, from cash to respect to scholarly attention and placement in curricula. Thus, it is important to belittle any discussion of Poles as victims of stereotyping. Acknowledgement of Polish suffering would require rearrangements of thought patterns, of attention, and of resources. Thus the importance of Biskupski's book.

HWWP is not perfect. Again and again, Biskupski insists that America just did not care about Poland or Poles. As "Bieganski" shows, America was obsessed with Poles and Poland, and America violated its own best traditions in passing the Quota Acts while citing the danger of immigration of people like the Poles. Congressional testimony, articles in the popular press, including the Saturday Evening Post, the New York Times and Atlantic Monthly, and foundational anthropological publications cite the Poles as the very reason America needed to shut its borders. The SAT test, a rite-of-passage for American youth, was first promoted as a test that proved the intellectual inferiority of Poles. This obsession with Poles gave rise to that American cultural icon, the Polak joke. Biskupski never situates his discussion of the brute Polak in American films in relation to America's primary ethnic conflict, that between blacks and whites. Doing so would have offered insight. Poles are the prototypical poor white ethnic. They are the wretched of the earth it is okay for elites to hate, even while embracing African Americans, and using that embrace as a badge of liberalism.

Biskupski insists on the distinction between, for example, a Polish American and a Slovak American in an American movie. Biskupski bristles at the word "Bohunk," suggesting that it arises only from American ignorance about and hostility to Eastern Europeans. In fact, the word "Bohunk," and the concept it describes, makes perfect sense in the American context. Poles, Slovaks, Lithuanians, Hungarians, and Yugoslavs shared similar cultural traits in the old country, and occupied similar socioeconomic niches in this country. Two immigration classics: "The Jungle," about a Lithuanian meat packer in Chicago, and "Out of this Furnace," about a Slovak steel worker near Pittsburgh, could just as easily have been written about Poles. Biskupski argues that Victor Laszlo in "Casablanca" had to have been Czech because Czechoslovakia had no territorial grievances with the Soviet Union, while Poland did. Question: Did American audiences make this distinction? Did they care? As Christopher in the television series "The Sopranos" put it, "Czechoslovakian? That's a type of Polak, right?" Scholar Michael Novak, a Slovak American, complains that people tell him Polak jokes; they see those jokes as being about him. This blurring of boundaries does not occur strictly on this side of the Atlantic; poet Adam Mickiewicz began "Pan Tadeusz," Poland's national epic, with lines praising Lithuania, and the Polish folk hero, Janosik, was actually Slovak; Queen Jadwiga grew up in Hungary. Just so, in American films, characters slide between Polish, Slovak, Hungarian, and other Bohunk identities. This book would be of interest to scholars of a variety of Bohunk ethnicities, not just Poles.

The American concept of the Bohunk is significant to American stereotypes of Poles and other Eastern Europeans and the use of films to disseminate and reinforce these stereotypes. In fact an iconic Hollywood production did introduce American audiences to indelible images of Eastern Europe, and that film, more influential than perhaps any Biskupski discusses save "Casablanca," is the 1931 Bela Lugosi film "Dracula." This film opens to Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" and peasants repeatedly blessing themselves and invoking the Virgin; there is a roadside cross; a peasant woman gives a British man a crucifix as protection. A British tourist comments that the setting is a relic of "a bygone age." Peasants in authentic costumes, including embroidery, vests, shawls, caps and headscarves are shown in a typical, Eastern European cottage, complete with straw roof. You may as well be in a Skansen. "Dracula," and Maria Ouspenskaya's heavily accented presence in subsequent Wolfman films, communicate loud and clear to American audiences: if you're looking for the scary dark side, the vaguely demonic, the dangerous, the primitive, the irrational, the creepily religious, the superstitious, the sexually perverse, the grotesque, the medieval, Eastern Europe is your go-to location. To this day, every Halloween, Americans wishing to communicate these qualities imitate a vaguely Eastern European accent.

Biskupski devotes no time to an ethnography of audience reception – how did pro-Soviet, anti-Polish films go down with American audiences? With brief references to opinion polls, Biskupski says that these films went down exactly as the filmmakers intended. Todd Bennet, in his article, "Culture, Power, and Mission to Moscow: Film and Soviet American Relations During World War II" argues otherwise. Bennet reports that Americans were often unconvinced, if not outright offended, by pro-Soviet material in American films. There was even a backlash. Significantly, one letter-writer to Warner Brothers studios insulted Harry Warner for being foreign born, and, thus, in league with the Russians. Warner was born in Poland. The American letter-writer apparently could not distinguish between Poles and Russians.

Biskupski's narrow focus on the influence of Hollywood's pro-Soviet Communist Party does not allow for a discussion as to why the Brute Polak image was popular before World War II, after World War II, in print, for example in Nelson Algren's books, or in European films. Andrzej Wajda's "Promised Land" features a Polish aristocrat worse than any to appear in a Hollywood film, and coarse peasants as well. The 1999 Polish film, "With Fire and Sword," features peasants who are drunken, violent torturers and thieves. There are hopelessly stupid and crude peasants in the Czech films "Zelary" and "The Cow," a lengthy scene of cat torture in the critically acclaimed 1994 film "Satantango" set in a Hungarian village, and comically stupid, sexually debased, criminal, violent, and lusty Yugoslav immigrants in the 1981 Swedish film, "Montenegro." In short, Biskupski is correct, and he proves himself correct; communism did inspire Hollywood screenwriters to craft negative Polish characters in World War II era films. But there's more to it than that, and that's why I hope readers will read HWWP and "Bieganski" together. "Bieganski" talks in greater detail about the narratological reasons why storytellers, both on the page and on the screen, often choose to depict Bohunks as brutes.

HWWP's cut-and-dried approach allows little attention to the magic or artistry of film. Biskupski identifies Hedy Lamarr, not Greta Garbo, as the eponymous star of "Ninotchka" (244). No classic film fan would ever make this gaffe; it's like confusing Joe DiMaggio with Vince Lombardi. This is more than a surface complaint. Biskupski rightly argues against a Czech being the leader of the resistance in "Casablanca." At the same time, "Casablanca" is such an overt Hollywood confection that one wonders if anyone has ever viewed it and come away with a sense that the Poles were not doing their part to fight the Nazis, while the Czechs were. Aesthetics affects reception. I've watched "Casablanca" numerous times. I am as much of a nationalist Polish viewer as that film has never had. Yet I've never watched "Casablanca" and had a problem with Laszlo being Czech and not Polish. My attention is focused on the lighting on Ingrid Bergman's lovely face, whether Captain Renault (Claude Rains) is a good guy or a bad guy – or gay or straight – and the film's witty repartee. Biskupski makes clear that filmmakers intended to create ugly Polish characters. Whether or not filmmakers are always successful in their goals is a very different question. Bennett argues that "Mission to Moscow," intended to boost the Soviet Union in the eyes of Americans, actually boosted the US in the eyes of Soviet citizens. When the film was shown there, Russians were given a taste of what life is like in America, and they realized that capitalism was much better than their communist homeland. In any case, as a Polish historian, Biskupski makes up for his lack of film-fan sensitivity with the meticulous attention he pays to pertinent historical facts, attention that probably no film scholar would ever devote to this topic. For example, Biskupski points out the disconnect between the depiction of Polish airmen in American films and the performance of real Polish airmen in the actual Battle of Britain (280).

There is an unavoidable, controversial aspect to HWWP. Jews were overwhelmingly represented among those slandering Poles, Polish Americans, and Poland during Poland's darkest hour. Just one example: Anatole Litvak participated in creating "Why We Fight," which Biskupski excoriates as anti-Polish. Later, Litvak would make "Decision Before Dawn," a film that helped America re-embrace Germany. It's painful to contemplate a Ukrainian-born Jewish American filmmaker who helped America to see Poland in a negative light, but then helped America to exculpate Germany.

World War II was not the first time American Jews contributed to a negative American assessment of Poland. Andrzej Kapiszewski's "Conflicts Across the Atlantic: Essays on Polish-Jewish Relations in the United States During World War I and in the Interwar Years" reports that American Jews often undermined Polish efforts for its own rebirth in 1918 after over one hundred years of colonial status under Prussia, Russia, and Austria. In a typical incident, in 1914, American Jewish newspapers published an open letter alleging that "barbaric" Poland did not deserve independence. To mention this reality risks opprobrium, and, indeed, stating this risks appearing to offer support for the very sorts of hate-mongers who created World War II. When, in 1989, Cardinal Glemp mentioned that Jews had sullied Poland's reputation in the press, he was sued by Alan Dershowitz and widely denounced as a wild-eyed anti-Semite.

Silence does us no good either, though. Nature abhors a vacuum, and in any silence around Polish-Jewish relations, those with the worst intentions become the most loud. So let us state this plainly: American Jews played a significant role in contributing to highly negative images of Poland at two of Poland's most vulnerable historical moments. Now that we've said that openly, we can say the next necessary thing: it was not an essential Jewish identity that brought this about. Not all those insulting Poland were Jewish. Frank Capra, maker of "Why We Fight," was Sicilian-born and Catholic. Roosevelt was no Jew. Not all Jews were anti-Polish. In 1937, MGM, under Louis B. Mayer, released "Conquest," a film that romanticizes Poland and depicts bestial Russians hoards ravaging an elegant Polish estate; heroic Poles respond in a civilized and courageous manner. Too, Jews played a significant role in creating a positive image of Poland during the face-off between Solidarity and communism. The New York Times, under significantly Jewish leadership, published Pulitzer-prize winning, highly sympathetic coverage by journalist John Darnton. Biskupski emphasizes that filmmakers were influenced by communism, not their Jewish identity.

If Polish chauvinists are gratified by anything I've written above, I hope that this paragraph causes them to wipe the smug look off their faces. Biskupski's conclusion contains two sentences that should give every Polish American pause: By 1939, "the Poles in America had conspicuously abandoned the loyalty to the Polish cause that had distinguished their parents' generation…American Poles deserve considerable blame for their failure to defend their nationality's reputation more devotedly." And defend it they could have – Biskupski repeatedly mentions Irish Americans, who were abundantly successful in bringing about significant changes to American film, including the introduction of the Production Code, the inclusion of numerous positive Irish characters, and the plethora of positive depictions of Irish Catholic priests in American film. Biskupski mentions pressures to assimilate, poverty, and lack of education as reasons for Polish-American failures to affect the negative depictions of Poles in films. In fact, though, poor people lacking formal education have organized to make change; witness Satygraha, the Civil Rights Movement, The United Farm Workers, and, indeed, Polish American strikers who played a significant role in the 1936-37 Flint sit-down strike. Further, as my own book shows, the Bieganski image has not gotten better since World War II, but worse. Today's wealthy and comfortable Polish Americans have yet to take significant cultural, political, and academic action against this image, which, in museums, in peer-reviewed books, and in entertainment and documentary films, is used to rewrite World War II history and place Polish, Catholic peasants in the position rightfully occupied by German Nazis. Polish Americans need to act. Their first act after reading this review can be to purchase Hollywood's War with Poland: 1939-1945 and also Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.


Danusha V. Goska is the author of Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture winner of the 2010 Halecki Award. She is also the author of the novel "Save Send Delete" forthcoming from O Books in 2012. She received her MA from UC Berkely under Alan Dundes, and her PhD at Indiana University. She is currently an adjunct professor.

Dr. Goska blogs about the intersection of Poland and America at Bieganski the Blog.