Kozłowski: a new novel about the Katyń Massacre and the pain of post-war Polish exile

August 5, 2019

From acclaimed biographer and filmmaker Jane Rogoyska, Kozłowski: a new novel that explores the tragedy of the Katyń Massacre and the pain of post-war Polish exile.
Kozłowski tells the story of a young Polish army doctor whose life is changed forever by a single, mysterious event: the disappearance, in April 1940, of 4,000 of his comrades from a Soviet interrogation camp in Starobelsk, Ukraine. Exiled in post-war London, Kozłowski builds a new life, working to convince himself that the past cannot affect him. In reality, the past is the only place he longs to be. As the silence surrounding his lost comrades deepens, his attempts to submerge his feelings threaten to destroy him.
A novel about loss, memory and guilt, written in sparse and elegant prose.

“In this heartbreaking novel, Jane Rogoyska writes with tragic power about one of the last century’s foulest crimes – Stalin’s mass murder of his Polish prisoners in 1940. In a fiction boldly using real names and events, she brings the victims of Katyń and the other murder sites, together with their families and the handful of traumatised survivors, back to brief life and hope” – Neal Ascherson

“Those questions of what makes a life worth living, of identity and belonging, and the myths, memories and beliefs we live by, are the central threads running through this beautiful and immensely readable novel, carrying the reader onwards through the ever-shifting fabric of the wartime and post-war world” – Caroline Wyatt, European Literature Network.

Jane Rogoyska says about writing Kozłowski: “My grandfather was a Polish journalist, economist and civil servant who, at the outbreak of the Second World War, was Deputy Director of the Bank of Poland. He had also been, in his youth, a member of the Polish intelligence services and had fought for Polish independence with Marshal Piłsudski. My father’s early memories of fleeing Warsaw with his parents on a specially commissioned government train (along with a large part of the government gold supply hidden under the floorboards) has always exerted a powerful fascination for me. That journey marks a transition: not just the moment when my father’s destiny changed irrevocably but the point at which the sophisticated, cosmopolitan, multicultural Poland of the 1930s, to which my grandfather and the protagonists of this book belonged, came to an abrupt end.
My mother is English and I was brought up speaking only English at home, travelling to Poland as a student in 1990 just as the brutal legacy of the Second World War, including the Katyń Massacre, was being discussed openly for the first time. My fascination with war, politics, espionage, exile and memory has its roots in my family background and in that first encounter with a freshly post-communist country, grappling with its past. In an unexpected irony, when researching Kozłowski I discovered that my great-uncle, Ludwik Rynkowski, was among those murdered at Katyń”.

The book was published on May 16th 2019 by Holland House Books, launched at  Ognisko Polskie – The Polish Hearth Club  in London on May 17th. You can buy it here.

Jane Rogoyska – educated at Cambridge University, writer and filmmaker, studied film in Leeds and Poland, going on to make a series of award-winning short films and working extensively as writer and director. She is the author of the acclaimed biography of the German photojournalist Gerda Taro, who died while reporting on the Spanish Civil War. “Gerda Taro: Inventing Robert Capa” (Jonathan Cape 2013) is now in development as a feature film based on her own script. Jane continues to work across different media on creative projects in film, theatre and radio including, in 2018, writing and presenting Still Here: a Polish Odyssey for BBC Radio 4, a documentary about Polish deportees to the USSR who settled in the UK after World War II.

Source: Holland House Books

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