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A Conversation with Grzegorz Kwiatkowski
A conversation between UConn Professor of Translation Studies Peter Constantine and Polish poet, Grzegorz Kwiatkowski

In the summer of 2015, Grzegorz Kwiatkowski and his friend Rafal Wojczal made a gruesome discovery. Walking through the forest outside the Stutthof Concentration Camp, where Kwiatkowski’s grandfather had been interned during the Second World War, the two young men came upon several thousand old shoes. They were grimy and gray: single shoes, shoes in pairs, men’s, women’s, children’s shoes, all of them tattered, weather-beaten, many decades old. As Kwiatkowski and his friend cut their way through the undergrowth, they were to find many thousand more. The many thousand shoes Kwiatkowski found in the forest had been dumped and buried in the 1960s by a Polish government that felt it was healthier not to dwell on the painful and controversial years under Nazi occupation. A manageable number of shoes had been selected for the exhibit; the rest were thrown away.

For Kwiatkowski these actions, and actions like them, are symbolic of society’s preference for silence in the face of history’s terrors. In his collection of poems, "Crops" translated by Professor of Translation Studies Peter Constantine, Kwiatkowski brings together the stark voices of victims, perpetrators, collaborators, and apologists all bearing witness—in very different ways—to pogroms, brutality, and murder in Nazi-occupied Poland, as well as subsequent acts of brutality and genocide in other parts of the world.

“We must not forget our tragic past because it might well return. The mechanism for its return has already been set in motion.”

Mar 7, 2023 03:30 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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