Wisława Szymborska- The Biography

Wisława Szymborska- Polish poet, essayist, translator and recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature. She was born on 2 July 1923 in Prowent, Poland. Her father was a steward of Count Władysław Zamoyski at that time, a Polish patriot and cheritable patron. After the death of Count Zamoyski in 1924, her family moved to Toruń and in 1931 to Cracow, where She lived and worked until her death in 2012. When World War II broke out in 1939, She continued her education in underground classes. From 1943, She worked as a railroad employee and managed to avoid being deported to Germany as a forced labourer. She also began writing stories and occasional poems. At the beginning of 1945, she began studying Polish Literature before switching to sociology at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow. In March 1945, she published her first poem - "Looking for words" in the daily newspaper. Her poems continued to be published in various newspapers and periodicals for a number of years. In 1948, she quited her studies without a degree due to her financial circumstances. The same year She got married to poet Adam Włodek, whom she got divorced in 1954. Their marriage was childless. Her first book was published in 1949, but it didn't pass censorship as it "didn't meet socialist requirements". Like many other intellectuals in post - war Poland, however Szymborska adhered to the People's Republic of Poland's (PRL) official ideology early in her career, signing na infamous political socialist themes, as seen in her debut collection - "That is what we are living for", containing the poems "Lenin" and "For the Youth", who are building Nowa Huta, about the construction of a Stalinist industrial town near Cracow. In 1953, Szymborska joined the Staff of a literary review magazine - "Literary Life", where she continued to work until 1981 and from 1968 ran her own book review column, called "Lektury Nadobowiązkowe". She also translated French literature into Polish. The Nobel Prize in Literature 1996 was awarded to Wisława Szymborska. She died on 1 February 2012 in Carcow, aged 88. Her personal assistant, Michał Rusinek confirmed the information and said that she "died peacefully, in her sleep". She was working on new poetry right until her death, though she was unable to arrange her final efforts for a book in the way she would have wanted. Her last poetry was published later in 2012. She was a compulsive smoker.


By Aleksandra Gross and Konstantina Gandou

Wisława Szymborska




Wisława Szymborska found inspirations for her reflections in everyday usual situations, in social or political occurrences. Such phenomenon appears in 'W biały dzień' poem. Situation in it shows us resort's guest consumption. We find out how the character looks like, what kind of memories he has, which nervous or automatical impulses he has. What mights amaze us is that the author uses subjuctive mode which tells us to notice that under cover there is some kind of disturbing enigma. Its explanation apperas at the end of a poem, when someone shouts 'Mr Baczyński, there is a call for you!' This line reveals another meaning. It turnes out to be a reflection about death at a very young age and the legend that we create after that. Gustily interrupted life paradoxically saves poet from everyday routine and builds a myth about him for next generations. This verse may be perceived as a historical and philosophical reflection.




In a poem called 'Prospect' we find another interesting exertions. As the title suggests we may expect some kind of advertisement. The author tells us that being submissive to it is the worst thing we can possibly do. It deprives our awareness and sense of reality.




In another line 'The Great Man's Mouse' Szymborska gives us a reflection about the life of an individual in the XXI century . She tells us about our loneliness and isolation among the people. At the same time she admits that the human from XXI century was extremly experienced by the history and he/she gained the awareness of triviality of all human's matters. And that is why the poet watches a safe man of passing belle epoque, with a little bit of irony. The pretext for this kind of deliberations is visiting a house in which a great man used to live by a group of students. This situation is shown in words: This bench – don't touch it – he made of stone himself / and – be careful – three steps – we are going inside.




The Second distinguishing feature of Szymborska's style is using official, scientific or colloquial language. There are a lot of idioms. A poem „Funeral” resembles a conversation. It consists of people's guotes who take part in a funeral. It makes you feel you can't identify with another person. You notice that people are indifferent to the other's problems. It emphasizes you can't verify your life even when a death is coming. An official style is in „I imagine world” poem. It is connected with colloquial style. Mixing different styles is in „A choice in support of pornography” poem. There are colloguialisms and scientific words. A poem called „A love at first sight” is full of idioms which are usually used in ordinary conversations. She writes about people who are in love this way. Different styles of language can come near philosophical problems. In Szymborska's poetry you can find many philosophical motives. They refer to the human cognitive limitations. Szymborska wants to tell us that a human involuntarily perceives the world anthropocentrically. His authorities and range of concepts sentence him to futility of cognition, e.g. stone being. In the „Conversation with the stone” the stone arranges its interior (furnishes it) but doesn't let human to go inside. Not only that – the stone doesn't even have a door. It is inscrutable being. And also a human can be such a mysterious entity.


The poet is fascinated by countless wealth of the world, its diversity and uniqueness. This is the main theme of „Birthday”. The poem tells about a world that we cannot fully taste, experience. The world is given to us, but it is beyond us. The line character (the lyrical subject) of the poem asks: “So much world all at once – how it rustles and bustles!/ Moraines and morays and morasses and mussels,/ How to line them all up, how to put them together?/(...) Isn’t sunset a little too much for two eyes/ That, who knows, may not open to see the sun rise?/ I am just passing through, it’s a five minute stop./ I won’t catch what is distant: what’s too close, I’ll mix up.” (translated from Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh) Szymborska extends a reflection about the transience of human life and the wealth of the world. The gap between vanity and desire to experience the world.



By : Klaudia, Magda, Theodora, Thanasis


Wisława Szymborska - poems

Man existence in modern world is one of the most important problems brought up in Szymborska’s poems, where she tries to answer to metaphysical questions such as: Why here? Why now? Why in this body?

We can see her fascination with different posibilities of existence in poem „Zdumienie” („Astonishment”), where Szymborska tries to solve metaphysical issues with questions:


Why only once in my very own person?
Precisely on earth? Under this little star?
After so many eras of not being here?

In spite of seas of all these dates and fates,
these cells, celestials and coelenterates?


Szymborska is interested in problem of people acting in theatrum mundi. In poem „Wrażenia z teatru” („Impressions from the Theatre”) she seems to talk about man attachment to his life and difficulty of coming to terms with perspective of leaving this world. At the same time she hopes that future life is complement of earthly existance.

She also tries to find a way to set free from man limitations and deterministic nature laws in literary work and creating utopian worlds, what we can see – for example - in poem „Radość pisania” („The Joy of Writing”).


                                                               ( Anna, Androniki )


Władysław Reymont- The Biography


Władysław Stanisław Reymont was born in Kobiele Wielkie in 1867. He was a son of village organist, but his mother was a woman of gentility. He spent his childhood in the countryside. He wasn't interested in learning, so his parents decided that their son will become a craftsman. He had been learning a tailor profession in Warsaw for four years and, finally, he become an apprentice, but he didn't take up a job in this profession. He decided that he will be an actor. He joined a troupe of actors. He was impressed by actor's life, but he didn't have talent. The theatre was coming back to him as an unfulfilled dream. Then, he became a doorman at a train station. He didn't fancy this job, so he started writing. He quited his job and moved to Warsaw in 1894. He has been writing short stories. His first novel „Comediant”, a story about a young actress inspired by his experience as an actor, was published in 1896.


The topic of „Comediant' is a history of an actress from a provincial theatre- now we can say that the writer used his own experiences- with a big success. 'The Comediant' opened the doors to the Reymont's literature career. After that Polish creator changed his lifestyle: he traveled around the Europe, spending most of his time abroad writing, publishing and sightseeing. Just like the other outstanding Polish writers- Henryk Sienkiewicz or Stefan Żeromski.


Władysłam Reymont wrote 'Ziemia Obiecana'- the story about a Polish city Łódź- in France. Than over 6 years took him to write 'Chłopi' ( The Peasants ) that succedeed a lot. Later he got the Nobel Prize for that. Reymont went back to his mother country from Nicea and met Polish peasants and that was his last public speech. He died in Decemer of 1925, aged 58. Reymont became a famous, admired and accepted by readers, writer. Such a way of fate was rare at the very beginning of the XX century.


By Klaudia Michalak and Evangelia Kasnaki



Henryk Sienkiewicz - Polish writer and social-worker, the portrait of human.


1. He was born on 5 May 1856 in Wola Okrzejska in the Russian part of Poland.
2. He was fascinated by history and literature. He was reading works of Polish, famous artists such as: Rej, Kochanowski, Górnicki, Skarga, Niemcewicz. He was interested in Robinson Cruzoe and Napoleon's lives. 
3. The education under the guidance of home teachers, since 1958 - teaching in secondary schools in Warsaw.
4. 1866 - General Certificate of Secondary Education and entrance exam to Main School.
5. He studied Law, later Medicine.
6. Three years of study at the Faculty of Philosophy in 1867.
7. 1876 - he decided to leave Poland and went to the United States (Travel trail led by Germany, Belgium, from there across the Ocean to New York and then to San Francisco, where he went to Anaheim in Southern California. He has lived there for a fen months). The writer spent time on hiking in the mountains and forests. All time writing. Then he visited Boston and Pittsburg, too. In 1878, he returned to Warsaw.
8. Stay in France.  
9. The trip to Galicia and then to Italy.
10. Marriage to Maria Szetkiewicz (18 August 1881). Birth of two children - Henryk Józef (12 July 1882) and Jadwiga (13 December 1883).
11. Illness and death of his wife (19 October 1885). Bereavement . 
12. Writer's trip to the sanatorium in Austria and then travel to the Middle East. 
13. Participated in numerous philanthropic actions. 
14. Long-term anti - Prussian activity .
15. Twenty-fifth literary jubilee  (He received an estate in Oblęgorek as a society gift for Litwos).
16. Stay in Spain and a trip to Africa in 1981
17. 1905 -Sienkiewicz received the Nobel Prize in Literature for ,,Quo Vadis". 
18. Journey to Wien in 1914 and then to Swietzerland. He organised a committee to help victims of the war in Poland. 
19. November 25, 1914 the writer died of a heart attack in Vevey. 1924 Submission of the remains in the basement of Saint John's Cathedral in Warsaw.
By Aleksandra Gross, Giannis Kapelas and Eleni Chatzimouratidou


Henryk Sienkiewicz – ‘Quo Vadis’

Preparing to write this novel, Henryk Sienkewicz focused on learning more about Rome history in Nero times to find even the slightest details about daily life, names of artefacts, outfits, architecture or typography and city maps. He had used Florian Bobrowski ‘Latin-Polish Dictionary’ and other, multilingual encyclopedias. The author took care about fidelity of realities and was almost flawless in this area.

He started to write in 1895 – the first chapter was published on 26th of March in ‘Gazeta Polska’ (‘Polish Newspaper’) and the last – on 29th of February 1896. It was really hard, but also pleasant for him.

‘Quo Vadis’ means literally: ‘Where are you going, my Lord?’. The plot concentrates on Vinicius (a military tribune and Roman patrician), Ligia (daughter of a deceased king of the Ligians, hostage of Senate and people of Rome) and their love to each other. There

There are also many movies based on this book, but the most famous is definitely Jerzy Kawalerowicz ‘Quo Vadis’ (2001) with Paweł Deląg, Magdalena Mielcarz and Bogusław Linda.

There are are also many plot twists like Ligia’s escape, try of kidnapping her, Vinicius change or imprisonment and miraculous rescue on the arena. The historical plot focuses on the Emperor of Rome, Nero, and on the Christianity (especially on persecutions of Christians).



                                              ( Anna Nowakowska, Ariola Kanina, Maria Karadimou )


Zygmunt Krasiński - further information


Zygmunt Krasiński


Juliusz Słowacki in Paris


Adam Mickiewicz Rome Dresden

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Juliusz Słowacki poet of the November Uprising

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Adam Mickiewicz and his Crimean Sonnets

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