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Polish Noble's Award Winners
CZESŁAW MIŁOSZ
Czesław Miłosz (June 30, 1911 – August 14, 2004) was a Polish poet and essayist. Czesław Miłosz won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980, when he lived in California. He spent the last days of his life in Kraków, Poland.

Born in Šeteniai, Lithuania, in a Polish gentry family (Lubicz noble clan), he always underlined his connection to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Miłosz studied law at the University in Wilno|. His childhood was spent partly in Russia around the time of the Revolution.

In 1944 he refused to take part in the Warsaw Uprising. A diplomat for the communist People's Republic of Poland, he broke with the government in 1951 and sought political asylum in France. In 1953 he received the Prix Littéraire Européen, a European literature prize.

In 1960, he came to the United States, but it wasn't until 1970 that he became a naturalized citizen. In 1961 he became a Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley. He retired in 1978 but continued to teach there. When the Iron Curtain fell he was able to return to Poland.

Czesław Miłosz received the National Medal of Arts and an honorary doctorate from Harvard University in 1989. In addition to his poetry, his book The Captive Mind is considered one of the finest studies of the condition of the intellectual under repressive regimes. In this book, he observed that the intellectuals who became dissidents were not necessarily the ones with the strongest minds, but those with the weakest stomachs. The mind can rationalize anything, he said, but the stomach can only take so much. He also said that as a poet he avoided touching his nation's wounds for fearing of making them holy.

Czesław Miłosz is honored at Israel's Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust as one of the "Righteous Among The Nations." His poems were put on the monuments of fallen shipyard workers in Gdańsk. Many of his books and poems have been translated into English by his friend and Berkeley colleague Robert Hass.

Miłosz died in 2004 at his home in Kraków at age 93. His first wife, Janina, died in 1986. His second wife, Carol, a U.S.-born historian, died in 2002.


MARIA CURIE - SKŁODOWSKA
Marie Curie (Polish: Maria Skłodowska-Curie, née Marya Skłodowska, November 7, 1867 – July 4, 1934) was a Polish-French physicist and chemist. She was a pioneer in the early field of radioactivity, later becoming the first two-time Nobel laureate and the only person with Nobel Prizes in two different fields of science (physics and chemistry - due to the effects of sharing, she effectively obtained 1.25 Nobel Prizes). She also became the first woman appointed to teach at the Sorbonne. She was born a Pole in Warsaw, and spent her early years there, but in 1891 at age 24, moved to France to study science in Paris. She obtained all her higher degrees and conducted her scientific career there, and became a naturalized French citizen. She founded the Curie Institutes in Paris and in Warsaw.

Wisława Szymborska
Wisława Szymborska (born July 2, 1923) is a Polish poet, essayist and translator. Honored by the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1996 and by numerous other awards, she is generally considered the most important living Polish poet. In Poland, her books reach sales rivaling prominent prose authors — although she once remarked in a poem entitled "Some like poetry" [Niektorzy lubia poezje] that no more than two out of a thousand people care for the art.

Szymborska frequently employs literary devices, such as irony, paradox, contradiction, and understatement, to illuminate underlying philosophical themes and obsessions. Szymborska is a miniaturist, whose compact poems often conjure large existential puzzles. Although most of Szymborska's poems are barely a page in length, they often touch on issues of ethical import, reflecting on the condition of Man both as individual and member of human society. Szymborska's style is marked by intellectual introspection, wit, and a succinct and stylish choice of words.

Szymborska's reputation rests on a relatively small body of work: she has not published more than 250 poems. As a person, she is often described as modest to the point of shyness. Long cherished by her Polish literary contemporaries (including Czesław Miłosz), Szymborska became much better known in international circles after her 1996 Nobel Prize. Szymborska's work has been translated into many European languages, as well as into Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese and Chinese.

LECH WALĘSA
Lech Walesa was born on September 29, 1943 in Popowo, Poland. After graduating from vocational school, he worked as a car mechanic at a machine center from 1961 to 1965. He served in the army for two years, rose to the rank of corporal, and in 1967 was employed in the Gdansk shipyards as an electrician. In 1969 he married Danuta Golos and they have eight children.

During the clash in December 1970 between the workers and the government, he was one of the leaders of the shipyard workers and was briefly detained. In 1976, however, as a result of his activities as a shop steward, he was fired and had to earn his living by taking temporary jobs.

In 1978 with other activists he began to organise free non-communist trade unions and took part in many actions on the sea coast. He was kept under surveillance by the state security service and frequently detained.

In August 1980 he led the Gdansk shipyard strike which gave rise to a wave of strikes over much of the country with Walesa seen as the leader. The primary demands were for workers' rights. The authorities were forced to capitulate and to negotiate with Walesa the Gdansk Agreement of August 31, 1980, which gave the workers the right to strike and to organise their own independent union.

The Catholic Church supported the movement, and in January 1981 Walesa was cordially received by Pope John Paul II in the Vatican. Walesa himself has always regarded his Catholicism as a source of strength and inspiration. In the years 1980-81 Walesa travelled to Italy, Japan, Sweden, France and Switzerland as guest of the International Labour Organisation. In September 1981 he was elected Solidarity Chairman at the First National Solidarity Congress in Gdansk.

The country's brief enjoyment of relative freedom ended in December 1981, when General Jaruzelski, fearing Soviet armed intervention among other considerations, imposed martial law, "suspended" Solidarity, arrested many of its leaders, and interned Walesa in a country house in a remote spot.

In November 1982 Walesa was released and reinstated at the Gdansk shipyards. Although kept under surveillance, he managed to maintain lively contact with Solidarity leaders in the underground. While martial law was lifted in July 1983, many of the restrictions were continued in civil code. In October 1983 the announcement of Walesa's Nobel prize raised the spirits of the underground movement, but the award was attacked by the government press.

The Jaruzelski regime became even more unpopular as economic conditions worsened, and it was finally forced to negotiate with Walesa and his Solidarity colleagues. The result was the holding of parliamentary elections which, although limited, led to the establishment of a non-communist government. Under Mikhail Gorbachev the Soviet Union was no longer prepared to use military force to keep communist parties in satellite states in power.

Walesa, now head of the revived Solidarity labour union, began a series of meetings with world leaders. In November 1989 he became the third person in history, after the Marquis de Lafayette and Winston Churchill, to address a joint session of the United States Congress.

In April 1990 at Solidarity's second national congress, Walesa was elected chairman with 77.5% of the votes. In December 1990 in a general ballot he was elected President of the Republic of Poland. He served until defeated in the election of November 1995.

Walesa has been granted many honorary degrees from universities, including Harvard University and the University of Paris. Other honors include the Medal of Freedom (Philadelphia, U.S.A.); the Award of Free World (Norway); and the European Award of Human Rights.


HENRYK SIENKIEWICZ
born 5 May 1845.
As research into readers and books has confirmed, Sienkiewicz has been the most popular novelist for over one hundred years in Poland, and is the most popular Polish author in the world. His works are still printed in large numbers, and Quo vadis was translated into 40 languages. Most of his novels were also "translated" into scripts and filmed.

He was born in Wola Okrzejska, a village in Podlasie, to an impoverished noble family, on his father’s side deriving from the Tartars who had settled in Lithuania in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. After graduating from grammar school he studied at the Philological Faculty of the Warsaw Central School. He was poor and dreamt of a career in writing. His debut took place in 1869, when he was still a student, in Przeglad Tygodniowy ("The Weekly Review"). Having finished his studies, with some of his works already printed, in 1873 he became the person responsible for a regular series of feature articles Bez tytułu ("Without a Title") in "Gazeta Polska" ("The Polish Gazette"), and in 1875 the series Chwila obecna ("The Present Moment"). From 1874 he was in charge of the literary department in "Niwa" and worked on a trilogy of short stories, Stary sługa ("The Old Servant"), Hania and Selim Mirza, which he finished in 1876.

He married Maria Szetkiewiczówna from Lithuania in 1881. They had some happy years together, but in 1885 she died of tuberculosis. They had two children. In 1893 he married Maria Wołodkowiczówna from Odessa; this marriage, however, finished in 1895 in divorce at her motion. In 1904 Sienkiewicz married Maria Babska, whom he had known since 1888.

From 1875 he travelled widely. Travel was for him a way of life and the condition of creativity as he became accustomed to writing "on the road"; in motels and hotels, and he was one of the most hard-working writers of the epoch (his works, edited by J. Krzyżanowski between 1948 and 1955, appeared in 60 volumes). He started travelling on a large scale between 1876 and 1878, when he went to the USA on a trip paid for by "Gazeta Polska". He toured California (San Francisco, Anheim, Los Angeles) for nearly three years and sent to "Gazeta" his Listy z podróży ("Letters From a Journey") and short stories. After his return to Europe he stayed in Paris, then in January 1879 went to Lwów and from there to Huculszczyzna and Tarnopol, to Szczawnica and Krynica, later to Venice and Rome, and finally came back to Warsaw in the autumn. Every year he would change the places in which he stayed at least a few times. For example, after having finished Potop ("The Deluge") in 1887, and this was not an exceptional year, in January he went from Kraków to Warsaw, in February to Lithuania to hunt, in March again to Kraków, then to Vienna, Abbacia on the Adriatic Sea, where he started writing  Pan Wołodyjowski ("Colonel Wołodyjowski"). In May he was treated in a spa in Kaltenleutgeben near Vienna, where he continued to write, then in Brussels and Ostende, from where he travelled to England and France, in September to Gastein and to Kaltenleutgeben and Vienna again, he returned to Warsaw in November just to leave for Kraków, Tarnów and Zakopane after just a few weeks. He spent a lot of time in Italy, Switzerland and France, and he happily travelled to the castles around Poland, to Nałęczów and different spas in Galicia, but he also travelled along less frequented paths (in 1886 to Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece, in 1891 to Egypt and Zanzibar). He did not change that style of life even after he had received a palace and an estate in Oblęgork near Kielce in 1900, a gift from his readers. He would rather visit a place than settle there. Since he had become the object of a cult, he was invited to various celebrations, congresses and balls, especially those sponsored by conservative circles, and he never declined an invitation. This increased even further after he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1905.

After the First World War broke out he left Oblęgork and moved away from the conflict zone. He settled in Switzerland, where he was in charge of a committee to assist Polish victims of the war and gathered in a short time about 20 million Austrian kroner. After his death in Vevey he was buried in the local Catholic church then, in 1924, his body was brought to Warsaw and buried in the vaults of St John’s Cathedral.

He achieved not only prestige and fame during his lifetime, but also financial success. After writing his trilogy, he became the best paid Polish writer (he received 70,000 roubles from the publisher for the right to reissue it over 20 years). When in 1888 an unknown fan donated 15,000 roubles to him, Sienkiewicz opened a scholarship fund in the name of his deceased wife, designed for artists suffering or endangered from tuberculosis. Konopnicka, Wyspiański and Tetmajer were granted its help. The value of Oblęgorek was around 70,000 roubles, the Nobel Prize brought him another 100,000 roubles in 1905.

He started as a writer of Positivism. His feature articles, letters from America, Humoreski z teki Worszyłły (1872), and later Szkice węglem (1877), Janko Muzykant and Z pamiętnika poznańskiego nauczyciela (1879), Za chlebem (1880) i Bartek Zwycięzca (1882) are evidence of his ideological membership of the advocates of organic work, of his criticism of the conservatism of the nobility and of his strong disapproval of the landowners for turning their backs on the peasants. However, unlike some Positivist idealists, he did not have a tendency to idealise the people. His writing was not in accordance with the Positivist standards of being biased. In his trilogy of short stories the theme of the genre dominates, and in such American stories as Latarnik (1881), Wspomnienie z Maripozy (1882) or Sachem (1883), the theme of patriotism, neglected by the Positivists at the time of the defeat of the January Uprising, can be easily seen. Ogniem i mieczem ("With Fire and Sword"), published in episodes from 2 May 1883 to 1 February 1884 and accepted by the audience with growing enthusiasm, proved that Sienkiewicz changed his views. Here, he turned away from contemporary subjects towards history. It is the history of the Polish-Ukrainian conflict in the first half of the seventeenth century. With this novel he renews a lesson of military patriotism criticised by the Positivists and refers to those traditions which said that the nobility was the power of the country. The sequels of this multi-volume series about the seventeenth century (about the war with Sweden and the battles on the Polish-Turkish border), which was published simultaneously in all three annexed areas, Potop ("The Deluge") and Pan Wołodyjowski ("Colonel Wołodyjowski") (1884-1888), ensured Sienkiewicz’s fame as a favourite of the audience, and his later historical novels; Quo vadis (1895-96), about the beginnings of Christianity in Ancient Rome and Krzyżacy ("The Teutonic Knights") (1897-1900), about the times of Queen Jadwiga and Jagiełło and the origin of the Polish-Lithuanian victory over the Teutonic Knights at Grunwald, only strengthened that fame. Even the less successful contemporary novels Bez dogmatu ("Without Dogma") (1889-90), and Rodzina Połanieckich ("The Polaniecki Family") (1893-94), or the not quite as successful historical novels, such as Na polu chwały ("On the Field of Glory") (1903-5), about King Jan III Sobieski’s rescued Vienna in 1683, or Legiony ("Legions") (1914), about the first post-partition attempts to organise the struggle to regain independence, were unable to weaken his popularity.

In his historical novels Sienkiewicz followed and colourfully and impressively used various traditions. He overtook Walter Scott’s idea of putting the characters and fictional plots (love, adventure) in the foreground of the story, and real historic events (real wars, real characters; rulers, warriors, officials) in the background. He owed his colourful characters, pathos and optimistic overtones of the events to the tradition of the epic poem from Homer to Pan Tadeusz. From the messianic beliefs of Old Poland and Romanticism, he took the idea of Providence watching over the course of history. He often borrowed from Romantic stories, especially as far as the style was concerned, the style which up to this day is praised as one of the outstanding features of Sienkiewicz’s artistry. The older Dumas taught him how to present the speed of the action and create the tensions of the adventures. In such ways the historical works of Sienkiewicz superbly refreshed the repertoire of such motifs as rivalries, duels, ambushes, kidnappings, partings, tricks, unexpected rescues, escapes, pursuits, disguises, fortune telling, etc. At the end of the Trilogy, Sienkiewicz stressed that it was written to raise the spirit of the nation. This was, however, expressed through putting the importance of heroic deeds above work or education as well as the subjectivity of opinion about "us" and "them". "Us", i.e. Polish and Catholic knights, although not without sin and sometimes weak, definitely outdo other nations and religions. Facing the Muslim (Turkish, Tartar) East, they act as a bastion of Christianity. Sienkiewicz put Polish Catholic religiousness and military tradition in the foreground of raising the spirits and hopes for the future.

The unusual popularity of the author of the Trilogy and Quo vadis had from the very beginning been accompanied by a duality of opinion within the environment of the critics, writers and researchers into literature. His supporters, from Stanisław Tarnowski in the nineteenth century to Julian Krzyżanowski in the second half of the twentieth century, cite the popularity opinion polls, patriotic arguments and artistry. His opponents, however, question the ideological and intellectual value of his works, talk about the "whitewashing" of the nobility and other false pictures of society, the one-sidedness of educational issues, the lack of psychological depth and helplessness towards philosophical themes, so important for a modern man. They also point to an extensive use of literary stereotypes. They are willing to call Sienkiewicz "the first-class writer of the second class". These critics include Bolesław Prus, Aleksander Swiętochowski, Stanisław Brzozowski and Witold Gombrowicz.

Death - 15 November 1916.

WŁADYSŁAW STANISŁAW REYMONT
Władysław Stanisław Reymont (May 7, 1867 – December 5, 1925) (born Stanisław Władysław Rejment) was a Polish writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1924.

(Stefan Żeromski, who was considered a better candidate from Polish literature, was refused as allegedly anti-German.)

Reymont's baptism certificate indicates that his original surname was "Rejment". The change was "ordered" by himself during his debut, as it was supposed to protect him in the Russian-annexed area from any trouble for having published in Galicia a work which would not be allowed under the Tsar's censorship. Kazimierz Wyka, an enthusiast of Reymont's work, surmises that the correction could have been meant also to wipe out any association with the word rejmentować which in Polish local dialects means "to swear".


In November 1924 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature over rivals Thomas Mann, Maxim Gorky and Thomas Hardy. Polish public opinion counted on the award for Żeromski, but the prize for the author of Chłopi was welcomed as an appropriate decision as well. He could not take part in the ceremony in Sweden due to his heart illness. The certificate and a cheque for 116,718 Swedish kroner were sent to France where he was being treated.

In 1925, when his heart recovered somewhat, he went to a farmers' meeting in Wierzchosławice near Kraków, where Wincenty Witos welcomed him as a member of PSL "Piast" (the Polish Peasant Party) and praised his writing skills. Soon after that event, Reymont's health deteriorated. He died in Warsaw and was buried in the Powazki Cemetery. The urn with his heart was laid in one of the pillars of the Holy Cross Church.

Reymont's literary output includes about 30 extensive volumes of prose. There are works of reportage: Pielgrzymka do Jasnej Góry ("Pilgrimage to Jasna Góra") (1894), Z ziemi chełmskiej ("From the Chełm Lands") (1910 - about the persecutions of the Uniates), Z konstytucyjnych dni ("From the Days of the Constitution") (about the revolution of 1905) and some sketches from the collection Za frontem ("Beyond the Front") (1919). There are numerous short stories on life in the theatre, village life or work on the railway: Smierć ("Death") (1893), Suka ("Bitch") (1894), Przy robocie ("At Work") and W porębie ("In the Clearing") (1895), Tomek Baran (1897), Sprawiedliwie ("Justly") (1899) and a sketch for a novel Marzyciel ("Dreamer") (1908). Then there are the novels: Komediantka, Fermenty, Ziemia obiecana, Chłopi, Wampir ("The Vampire") (1911), which was sceptically received by the critics, and a trilogy written in the years 1911 - 1917: Rok 1794 ("1794") (Ostatni Sejm Rzeczypospolitej, Nil desperandum and Insurekcja) ("The Last Parliament of the Commonwealth", "Nil desperandum" and "Insurrection").
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