Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for June 13th, 2007

Polonaise

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 13th June, 2007

zina-rohan-novel.jpgMuch of yesterday happened to a Polish tune — a situation that is likely to occur more frequently as I research my next major biography, of the Polish-born painter Feliks Topolski, and get more involved in the mushrooming Polish community in London and their concerns. In the afternoon, I had tea, cherries and strawberries with the octogenarian writer and publisher, Krystyna Bednarczyk, at her atmospheric house in Colindale, the walls hung with Topolski drawings and the garden more Mitteleuropa than north London. A former member of the Polish Resistance, Krystyna worked alongside her (now deceased) husband, the poet and distinguished soldier Czeslaw Bednarczyk, for many years, producing over 1,000 titles at their Poets and Painters Press, underneath the arches in Concert Hall Approach on the South Bank. These days, she continues to publish limited edition works at her home, as well as being President of the Polish Writers Association in London. The Bednarczyks were incidentally instrumental in helping William Cookson get the literary review Agenda functioning.

In the evening, I was at Daunt’s bookshop in Notting Hill Gate for the launch of a new novel by my former Bush House colleague, Zina Rohan: The Officer’s Daughter (Portobello Books, £11.99). This doorstep of a book — or step-ladder, as Zina self-deprecatingly referred to it — tells the story of a 16-year-old Polish girl Marta, who is camping near the river that formed the river between Poland and Germany on the day that the Second World War broke out — and then begins a long and perrillous journey taking her many thousands of miles across her homeland, the Soviet Union and Persia. Though this is fiction, the sort of extraordinary experiences the young heroine undergoes were replicated in myriad varities by people caught up in the maelstrom of the War and its aftermath, often with more calamitous consequences.

Link: www.portobellobooks.com

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