Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki and the Greeks that came to (and left) Poland

Greeks Go Home To Die  is the latest novel published by Polish writer Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki, the book having been brought out by Znak in June 2013. An excerpt of the novel translated by Julia and Peter Sherwood appeared in B O D Y’s Sunday European Fiction and as a follow up here is a transcript to a video of the author introducing his novel as well as some background about the Greek emigration to Poland and other communist countries that took place following the country’s civil war. The latter is drawn from Magda Piekarska’s review of the novel in the local Wrocław edition of Gazeta Wyborcza of June 28, 2013 (both translated by Julia Sherwood).

“My name is Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki and I am the author of this book, Greeks Go Home To Die, just out from Znak.

My latest novel is not about the Greek crisis; it doesn’t touch upon populist current affairs. Rather, it is concerned with past history, with the Greeks who used to live in the small town where I grew up, people I shared my childhood, school and religion with, and who are no longer around since most of them went back to Greece after 1975.

But the book isn’t all serious – it’s also quite funny in places, for example, when it describes how people living in exile search for substitutes for things, such as cicadas. Cicadas don’t exist in Poland but one of the characters manages to find one, even though it has no idea it is a cicada.

I haven’t written the book because Greece is now a hot subject for the media, and the title is not meant to suggest that they die at home because these days they can’t afford to go to hospitals. I’ve been collecting material for this book for years and then, three years ago, I met a Greek writer during a literary residency in France. I was actually supposed to write another book during that residency but I started to write the Greeks. It took a few years and now the book is finished.”

Background to the Greek diaspora in Poland (Magda Piekarska/Gazeta Wyborcza):

The plot of the novel is set against the backdrop of actual history: following the civil war in Greece in the late 1940s, some 14,000 Greeks and Macedonians who had supported the communist guerillas arrived in Poland. The largest group settled in Lower Silesia. Zgorzelec, with around 9,000 refugees, became the Greek capital of Poland, but emigrants settled all over Lower Silesia, including in Bielawa [Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki’s hometown] as well as in Wrocław, which even boasted a Greek primary school in Worcell Street.

After 1974 many Greeks disappeared from Poland as entire families returned to their motherland. However, some of them have stayed on, particularly those who were in mixed marriages. Their children, who have made Poland their home, include the Wrocław-based philosopher and musician Ilias Wrazas, sculptor Christos Mandzios, and stage designer Michal Hrisulidis. Wrocław now has the largest concentration of Greeks in Poland while only a handful remain in Zgorzelec: for example, musicians Jorgos Skolias and Milo Kurtis were born there. The songwriter Eleni was born in Bielawa.

Photo – Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki by Agnieszka Klimko

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Categories: Afterwords

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3 Comments on “Hubert Klimko-Dobrzaniecki and the Greeks that came to (and left) Poland”

  1. 05/08/2013 at 12:58 pm #

    I’m married to a Greek and imagine his surprise when, a few years ago, when he visited a Siberian town, he came across a Greek family who had been there since the Greek civil war. It was too hard for them to return to Greece after 1975 and by now I think they feel they have lost all ties to their motherland. But they were very isolated – the only Greeks in their town – and so eager to speak the language with a native, especially in front of their children and grandchildren.

    • 05/08/2013 at 3:40 pm #

      That’s fascinating. I’ve met a Greek here in Prague too who was married to a Czech and settled here. But what bad luck to get resettled in Siberia – if only by the weather difference between there and Greece!

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