06 Aug 2013

Death of a Poet

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Krzystof Kamil Baczynski (1921-1944)

My Polish correspondents have been remembering the anniversary (two days ago) of the death of Krzystof Kamil Baczynski, one of the greatest Polish poets of the last century, on the 4th day of the Warsaw Uprising at the mere age of 23.

Baczynski served in the Polish Resistance (Armia Krajowa) in which he fought with Battalion Zoska, a reconnaissance/ranger battalion largely recruited from former Polish Boy Scouts. He served during the Warsaw Uprising in Battalion Parasol, an elite unit (also largely made up of former Boy Scouts), intended eventually to become part of a parachute brigade, which specialized in attacks on the Gestapo.

Zbigniew Czajkowski-Dabczynski, in his book Dziennik Powstanca (Diary of an Insurgent), gives a detailed report of his death:

It was then that I saw Krzysztof for the last time, because they left for a new position at Palac Blanka [in the Warsaw Old Town area] without me. That day I heard from a buddy that he was hunting Germans with great success from the ruins of the Opera House. The next day a call came for a first-aid patrol to come help a wounded in the Palac Blanka. Not having much to do I joined them. At his post, in a corner room, we found Krzysztof lying on a Persian rug with a huge wound in his head. [He had been shot by a German sniper.] He was dead. Nurses carried the body over to the City Hall (next door). That same evening the funeral was held. It was rather solemn. The grave was dug in the City Hall courtyard. Some sixty people, soldiers, officers, civilians, were present. Someone said a few words. The body was lowered to the grave. We all sang the National Anthem, then the grave was filled.”

The Polish writer and critic, Stanislaw Pigon, had this to say at the news of Baczynski’s death: “What can we do? We belong to a nation whose lot it is to shoot at the enemy with diamonds.”

His pregnant wife Barbara, the subject of the famous erotic poems, was killed September 1st.


Biała magia

StojÄ…c przed lustrem ciszy
Barbara z rękami u włosów
nalewa w szklane ciało
srebrne kropelki głosu.

I wtedy jak dzban – Å›wiatÅ‚em
zapełnia się i szkląca
przejmuje w siebie gwiazdy
i biały pył miesiąca.

Przez ciała drżący pryzmat
w muzyce białych iskier
łasice się prześlizną
jak snu puszyste listki.

Oszronią się w nim niedźwiedzie,
jasne od gwiazd polarnych,
i myszy się strumień przewiedzie
płynąc lawiną gwarną.

Aż napełniona mlecznie,
w sen siÄ™ powoli zapadnie,
a czas melodyjnie osiÄ…dzie
kaskadÄ… blasku na dnie.

Więc ma Barbara srebrne
ciało. W nim pręży się miękko
biała łasica milczenia
pod niewidzialną ręką.

4 I 1942


(translated by Alex Kurczaba)

White Magic

Standing before the mirror of silence
with her hands in her hair,
Barbara pours into her glass body
silver droplets of her voice.

And then like a jar
she fills with light and glasslike
filters stars through herself
and the white dust of the moon.

Through the quivering prism of her body
in the music of white sparks
minks will glide past
like fluffy leaves of sleep.

Hoarfrost will coat the bears in it
brightened by polar stars
and a stream of mice will weave through
flowing in a loud avalanche.

Until filled up with milk
she’ll slowly sink into sleep
as melodically time will settle at the bottom
in a cascade of glare.

And so Barbara has a silver body. In it
the white mink of silence stiffens softly
under an unseen arm.


Read aloud in Polish:


One Feedback on "Death of a Poet"

john guzlowski

Thanks for posting this. I didn’t know his work but am always looking for poets who fought with the Polish resistance. One of my favorites is Anna Swir.

Here’s one of her poems about the Warsaw Uprising:


I worked as an orderly at the hospital
without medicine and water.
I carried bedpans
filled with pus, blood and feces.

I loved pus, blood and feces—
they were alive like life,
and there was less and less
life around.

When the world was dying,
I was only two hands, handing
the wounded a bedpan.


I blogged about her at http://writingpolishdiaspora.blogspot.com/2011/03/poems-about-warsaw-uprising-1944.html


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