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Polish War Herstories in Literature for Children

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In recent years, Polish literature for children and young adults has been enriched by numerous works referring to the Second World War. The reader learns the stories of direct participants in the events (e.g. 'Asiunia' by Joanna Papuzińska)
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  Sabina Świtała (Univeristy of Wrocław, Poland)   Dorota Michułka (University of Wrocław, Poland)   Polish War Herstories in Literature for Children ‘ War is not for girls. ’  Now I knew for certain that it was for girls, too, but it wasn't a happy thought. Paweł Berę sewicz:  Czy wojna jest dla dziewczyn?    Introduction Narratives about World War II are not uncommon in Polish literature for children and young adults. War stories are written by those who participated in the traumatic events (e.g. the protagonist of  Asiunia by Joanna Papuzińska) as well as ‘the sons and dau ghters of the victims, and those who have made themselves witnesses by adoption’, as Geoffrey Hartman calls them in the book The Longest Shadow: In the Aftermath of the Holocaust ( 1996, p. 9). Examples of texts marked with ‘absent memory’ (Ellen Fine), ‘inherited memory’ (Celia Lury), ‘mémoire trouée’ (Henri Raczymow), ‘mémoire des cendres’ (Nadine Fresco), and ‘postmemory’ (Hirsch 2011, p. 28) include Wojna na Pięknym Brzegu   by Andrzej Marek Grabowski and Ostatnie piętro  by Irena Landau, but also  Arka czasu by Marcin Szczygielski, phantasmal Kotka Brygidy   by Joanna Rudniańska , and fairytale-like Rutka by Joanna Fabicka. This article analyses texts addressed to the youngest audience that have appeared in the series Wojny dorosłych –   historie dzieci  , published since 2011 under the auspices of the Warsaw Uprising Museum by Literatura Publishing House from Łódź . Methodology When the intended audience of books about a true horror are children aged mostly between 7 and 10 years, the authors must show extraordinary tact and sensitivity in each aspect of the text, from the creation of the characters, to the depicted world, to the used language. This specific sensitivity is described by Lydia Kokkola as ‘an unusual combination of restraints’ (2003). Katarzyna Wądolny -Tatar notes that ‘ World War II narratives for children focus on individual experiences of the heroes and heroines following the principle  of age correspondence between the protagonists and the audience; they present experiences of child characters in the family context and ensure the emotional safety of the young reader, eschewing descriptions of cruelty and brining out a sense of deep compassion and empathy ’  (2017, p. 113). Post-war, and especially post-Holocaust, texts for children are analysed and interpreted with an emphasis on their didactic significance (Kokkola 2003, Wójcik -Dudek 201 6), while the very process of reading becomes an ‘ethical event’ (Wójcik -Dudek 2016, p. 29). As Krzysztof Witczak reminds us, ‘ due to cultural factors, the historical narrative (at least in European historiography) became oriented towards masculinity. This phenomenon resulted from separate social roles: women taking care of children and home were not the main participants of, among others, battles ’  (2016, p. 63). Within the scope of texts for non-adult reader, which are the subject of this paper, we can observe a growing interest in herstory. This preference, sometimes seemingly unconscious, results from the situation of children (the protagonists of post-memory stories) who, during the war, were even more in need of parental closeness (usually the mother who was next to them), and the warmth of the family home, taken away or gradually lost, passed into the realm of dreams. The need to include and appreciate the herstory narrative was noticed by feminist movements already in the 1960s. The lack of interest in the history of women was strongly emphasised in the 1970s by US feminists of the second wave, who introduced the term herstory  , which functions to this day in scientific jargon in opposition to the androcentric history. The creators of the term herstory   deliberately ignored the etymology of the word history. Instead, as Lucyna Marzec points out, they ‘used a playful pun to reveal a bitter truth’ (2010, p. 35). Adele Aldridge deconstructed the word history   as a compound word made up of story prefixed by his , which supposedly ‘suggested “masculinity” of this discipline’ ( Domańska  2005, p. 204). Thus, herstory was a story about her  . The resulting neologism criticised traditional historical writing and demanded saving women’s stories and experiences from oblivion. The heyday of the feminist perspective in war research (strongly associated with the Holocaust) occurred in the 1990s. The female researchers who stressed the need to talk about experiences of women in the Holocaust met with disapproval. The main criticism was based on the belief that the gender perspective would reduce the Holocaust to sexism.  There were also fears of ‘trivialisation and popularisation of the Holocaust” (Stöcker -Sobelman 2012, p. 15). Ignoring the voice of women in the process of shaping the memory and science related to the war experience results in an incomplete image (Stöcker - Sobelman 2012, p. 16). Thus, ‘the process of breaking the silence involved highlighting the women’s history but also sounding a warning that a one -sided account results in erroneous concepts’ (Stöcker -Sobelman 2012, p. 17). The significance of the gender perspective was also stressed by Hirsch, who wrote that ‘gender may influence the form and nature of the process of remembering’ (Hirsch 2011, p. 29).   Analysis and Interpretation Herstory present in the book series Wojny dorosłych –   historie dzieci is not a monolith but, due to the dramatic times, it has a certain homogeneity stemming from shared experiences. One of the basic practices of herstory-telling, not only related to the war period, is discovering and recalling stories of women and girls. This characterises both literary works based on personal experiences from the discussed series and fictionalized stories. A kind of reinforcement of the presented herstories, a link between the literary and non-literary realities, are the biographical notes and photographs placed on the last pages. The story of the little Asia, who was five years old when the war started, is finished by Joanna Papuzińska  as follows: Asiunia, a little girl in a pointed hood, who got an awful lot of presents for her fifth birthday, is today Professor Joanna Papuzińska . She was born on 3 January, 1939. . . . She terribly disliked the war because it first took her mum, then her home, dad, and brothers. Fortunately, almost everything ended well, but you already know about it from the book   (2017, p. 48). Andrzej Marek Grabowski makes his mum, Krystyna Grabowska, the narrator of Wojna na Pięknym Brzegu   (2016). The book describes the experiences of the adolescent Krysia as well as women from her family. Krysia is ten years old when the war breaks out; she helps her mum and grandma to hide a Jewish family, participates in the activities of the resistance movement (she delivers dispatches and weapons in her apple basket), and during the Warsaw Uprising she carries the wounded with her friends Jadzia and Maria.  In a book by Dorota Combrzyńska -Nogala , there is a following passage: ‘My name is Anna Szwykowska-Michalska and I used to be this little Chmurka [Little Cloud] ’ (2018, p. 70). During WWII, Chmurka is deported with her mother, grandmother, and aunts to Siberia. The childhood of Szwykowska-Michalska, spent surrounded by women, Siberian friends from the neighbourhood, and her cat Katafiej Katafiejewicz, is filled with suffering and tragedy but, nevertheless, captivates with its uniqueness. In another book, written by Izabella Klebańska  (2018), the eponymous heroine Jadzia is Jadwiga Brzezińska , who during the war was forced to hide at her relatives, away from her parents and sister. Anna Czerwińska -Rydel (2018) describes the herstory of Irena Sendler, who saved 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw ghetto. Nurse ‘Jolanta’ ( nom de guerre of Sendler) was also depicted in the book Wszystkie moje mamy by Renata Piątkowska  (2017). In this palimpsestic book, Szymon Bauman, a survivor of the Holocaust who is now an elderly man and can be found in the park every day, tells the narrator how, during the war, the lives of Sendler and his own became interwoven. Here, it should be mentioned that Irena Sendler is one of the most frequently remembered female figures of the Holocaust, both in Poland and abroad (Goldman Rubin 2015). In addition to the above examples, the herstory practice of remembering women figures also encompasses works whose heroines were only partially modelled on actual people living during the war. Irena Landau in Ostatnie piętro  introduces to the readers a girl named Cesia, who escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto and was hiding with a Polish family. The ordeal of Cesia is based on the experiences of the author herself, the heroine’s mother was modelled on Landau’ s mother, and Teresa, the woman hiding the little runaway, ‘resembled Helena, who had been hiding the author ’  (Landau 2015, p. 102). Another variant of herstory war narratives in literature for children can be associated with the survival strategies of women during the Holocaust as presented by Judith Tydor Baumel. In her article ‘Women’s Agency and Survival Strategies During the Holocaust’, the researcher writes about two strategies adopted by women: they either became involved in male activities or they created their own alternative ones (1999, pp. 329-347). An illustration of the first strategy can be found in the novel Czy wojna jest dla dziewczyn? by Paweł Beręsewicz  (2017). The story of Elka was inspired by the experiences of Elżbieta Łaniewska - Łukaszczyk  (nom de guerre ‘Black Elka’), who, being still a naïve child, could not come to terms with the fact that ‘war is not for girls’ (Beręsewicz  2017, p. 9).  When the war separated her first from her dad (who worked in intelligence and counter-intelligence of the Home Army [AK], was held in prisons in Kiev and Lviv, and then in the concentration camps Gross-Rosen, Sachsenhausen, and Buchenwald, where he died) and then from her mum (who was arrested by the Germans in 1943 and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp), she realized that the fight was hers, too: ‘“War is not for girls.” Now I knew for certain that it was for girls, too, but it wasn’t a happy thought’ (2017, p . 44). The accelerated lesson in maturity made the girl join the Scouts. Like her friends, Ela wanted to fight. She was a liaison officer during the Warsaw Uprising and also put her life at risk saving the wounded. Krystyna Grabowska from Wojna na Pięknym Brzegu  together with her female friends tracked saboteurs and, at the age of less than thirteen, she was urging her companions to action : ‘Look, we've got to do something to make   life hard for Jerries . . . It’s high time we joined the fight’ (Grabowski 2016, p.  71). The girls decided to join the Home Army; they took the oath and the commander who swore them in declared: ‘I receive thee among the soldiers of Freedom. Victory will be thy reward. Treason will be punished by death. ’ Upon hearing these words , the protagonist ‘felt elation mixed with fear, as if she were entering the depths of a forbidden forest’ (Grabowski 2016, p. 110). The girls who decided to enter the ‘male’ world of war had to show determination and courage, and their intentions were not always taken seriously. In the second strategy, women created their own activities, which could correlate with male activities, e.g. work in hospitals and care for the wounded described in Czy wojna  jest dla dziewczyn?   and in Wojna na Pięknym Brzegu . In this variant of herstory we can talk about a ‘women’s war’, which Svetlana Alexievich defines as follows: ‘‘‘ Wome n’ s war ”  has its own colours, its own smells, its own lighting, and its own range of feelings. It’s  own words. There are no heroes and incredible feats, there are simply people who are busy doing inhumanly human things ’ ( 2017, p. xvi). This dimension of herstory is presented in  Jadzia by Izabela Klebańska . The mother of the protagonist crocheted to help the home budget: Jadzia crouched next to her, looking at the darting crochet hook. The mum could conjure up real miracles, but it had been a long time since she ’d done anything for her daughters. N ow it was all for sale or on request. It was also an additional source of income, or rather barter. People somehow had lost confidence in money (2018, p. 11).
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