Historical fiction
Piotr Zaremba
Ashes

From heroism to betrayal – a passionate story about people in post-war Poland

As the car drove up to the Party building Mikołajczyk felt more unease than ever before. The security men stayed in the vehicle – they must have felt
what was up, or maybe they had orders. He hadn’t attended a single cabinet meeting since the election.

There was a lot of hustle and bustle around the gate – people were coming in for the session of the Supreme Council. A small group stood by at the side.

“PSL, the Lackeys’ Party! Lackey, lackey, back to London!” they burst out shouting. Someone threw a snowball, but it missed him.

“Scoundrels,” Hulewiczowa made a clichéd remark to sum up the way he was being treated, and he felt embarrassed at the triteness of her words. He went inside briskly.

“There aren’t even eighty people here,” Witold Kulerski, secretary of the Council and faithful companion of Mikołajczyk’s predicament through good times and bad in London informed him as he reached his office. “People have been phoning in from the provinces since the morning with news of arrests. Some were rounded up from their homes, presumably they’ll release them, but after the weekend.“

voters’ register, and anyone who wanted their name put back on the list of voters was advised to declare their support for the Block. A voter in Leszno was told he had no right to check the register to see if his name was on it, and when he insisted he was locked up in the cellar of the local Security Office. (. . .) ”There’s no sense in holding a boycott, we have to be part of the new parliament to tell the whole truth about the abuses practised by the Block, about the rigged elections, in order to stop them from getting their own way with the Small Constitution. Perhaps we’ve chosen a path full of thorns, but one that leads to ultimate victory, and the effort we make to win it will make it all the more precious.”

The response he got was applause, but not as enthusiastic as in October. Those who had come looked at one another, trying to find an answer in other people’s faces, since they could find none in their own hearts.

Excerpt translated by Teresa Bałuk-Ulewiczowa

Historical fiction
Piotr Zaremba
Ashes

From heroism to betrayal – a passionate story about people in post-war Poland

Publisher: Zysk i S-ka, Poznań 2018
Translation rights: Zysk i S-ka, anna.giryn@zysk.com.pl

The plot of Ashes takes place in the 1940s and ‘50s in post-war Poland. It’s a passionate story about the toil of millions of Polish people whose lives have been shattered by the war, people who sometimes go in for dodgy deals with the new Communist authorities, yet are heroic at other times. Just how difficult and complex those decisions, attitudes, and motives were is shown by the story of Stanisław Jarosz, the pivotal character in the novel’s progress. He’s a sort of Everyman – a lawyer who becomes the chairman of the Warsaw court and has to face up to a series of everyday temptations, challenges, and inner contentions. One of the other characters is Stanisław Mikołajczyk, the wartime prime minister of the Polish government-in-exile who attempts to play a political game with the Communists.

With the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel and profound respect for the people of Poland, Piotr Zaremba tries to find an answer to the question of how far the compromises could go, of where the red line lay beyond which all you could get was just humiliation. In Ashes we have everything from heroism to betrayal.

And between them a hundred thousand other behaviours, because that’s what Poland was like in the 1940s and ‘50s. For all that, Zaremba’s book is very Polish. His aim is to give the reader an insight into all those icons of the Polish Peasants’ Party [Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe] and those Doomed Soldiers, but also a picture of the grey, sometimes nasty, run-of-the-mill guys. His characters aren’t cut out for the Hollywood clapperboard, they’re true to life. Ashes is a tribute to the people of Poland and their attitudes in the face of a burgeoning Communist Hydra.

Ashes delivers its tough lesson to every one of its readers, regardless of how much or how little he knows about Polish history. But it isn’t a boring academic lecture. Zaremba’s highly precise recall of the atmosphere of those times, together with a wickedly fascinating storyline and its fine language blend together to create a gripping drama. For anyone who wants to understand Polish post-war reality Ashes is a must-read.

Marcin Fijołek, translated by Teresa Bałuk-Ulewiczowa

Publisher: Zysk i S-ka, Poznań 2018
Translation rights: Zysk i S-ka, anna.giryn@zysk.com.pl

Selected samples

<
>
Łukasz Orbitowski
Orbitowski
Małgorzata Rejmer
Rejmer
Rafał Wojasiński
Olanda
Wojciech Kudyba
Kudyba
Włodzimierz Bolecki
Bolecki
Jerzy Liebert
Liebert
Wojciech Zembaty
Zembaty
Wojciech Chmielarz
Chmielarz
Bogdan Musiał
Musiał
Joanna Siedlecka
Siedlecka
Krzysztof Tyszka-Drozdowski
Drozdowski
Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz
Marek Bieńczyk
Bienczyk
Leszek Elektorowicz
Elektorowicz
Adrian Sinkowski
Sinkowski
Szymon Babuchowski
Babuchowski
Lech Majewski
Majewski
Weronika Murek
Murek
Agnieszka Świętek
Swietek
Stanisław Szukalski
Barbara Klicka
Klicka
Anna Kamińska

She climbed her first peaks in a headscarf at a time when women in the mountains were treated by climbers as an additional backpack. It was with her that female alpinism began! She gained recognition in a spectacular way. The path was considered a crossing for madmen. Especially since the tragic accident in 1929, preserved … Continue reading “Halina”

Wojciech Chmielarz

First, Marysia, a student of an exclusive private school in Warsaw’s Mokotów district, dies under the wheels of a train. Her teacher, Elżbieta, tries to find out what really happened. She starts a private investigation only soon to perish herself. But her body disappears, and the only people who have seen anything are Gniewomir, a … Continue reading “Wound”

Anna Kańtoch

A young girl, Regina Wieczorek, was found dead on the beach. She was nineteen years old and had no enemies. Fortunately, the culprit was quickly found. At least, that’s what the militia think. Meanwhile, one day in November, Jan Kowalski appears at the police station. He claims to have killed not only Regina but also … Continue reading “Penance”

Marek Krajewski

The year is 1922. A dangerous time of breakthrough. In the Eastern Borderlands of the Republic of Poland, Bolshevik gangs sow terror, leaving behind the corpses of men and disgraced women. A ruthless secret intelligence race takes place between the Lviv-Warsaw-Free City of Gdańsk line. Lviv investigator Edward Popielski, called Łysy (“Hairless”), receives an offer … Continue reading “A Girl with Four Fingers”

Ks. Tomasz Stępień

This question is closely related to the next one, namely: if any goal exists, does life lead us to that goal in an orderly manner? In other words, is everything that happens to us just a set of chaotic events that, combined together, do not form a whole? To understand how the concept of providence … Continue reading “Order and Love”

Jakub Małecki
Szczepan Twardoch
Wiesław Helak
Maria Wilczek-Krupa
Anna Kańtoch
Rafał Kosik
Paweł Sołtys
Dorota Masłowska
Wiesław Myśliwski
Martyna Bunda
Olga Tokarczuk
Various authors
Mariola Kruszewska
Waldemar Bawołek
Marek Oleksicki, Tobiasz Piątkowski
Wojciech Tomczyk
Urszula Zajączkowska
Marzanna Bogumiła Kielar
Ks. Robert Skrzypczak
Bronisław Wildstein
Anna Bikont
Magdalena Grzebałkowska
Wojciech Orliński
Klementyna Suchanow
Andrzej Franaszek
Natalia Budzyńska
Marian Sworzeń
Aleksandra Wójcik, Maciej Zdziarski
Józef Łobodowski

The work of Józef Łobodowski (1909-1988) – a remarkable poet, prose writer, and translator, who spent most of his life in exile – is slowly being revived in Poland. Łobodowski’s brilliant three- volume novel, composed on an epic scale, concerns the fate of families and orphans unmoored by the Bolshevik Revolution and civil war and … Continue reading “Ukrainian Trilogy: Thickets, The Settlement, The Way Back”

Piotr Zaremba
Wacław Holewiński
To the top

© 2019 The Polish Book Institute