When I was approached by Warwick University’s Chantal Wright to take part in the event “Writing Home” within the Birmingham Literature Festival, I saw it as an opportunity to present a great Polish woman poet, Maria Pawlikowska-Jasnorzewska, whose work I have been translating for over two decades. MP-J was hailed by Czeslaw Milosz as “The Polish Sappho”. Tragically, this fascinating Bohemian figure became a WWII refugee, ending up in England, where she died in Manchester in 1945. Yet, her work and life story are barely known here. The invitation to BLT spurred my efforts to set up this website, which I launched at the IKON Gallery event on 15 October.
My thanks go to Chantal, who came up with the brave idea of organising this meeting of authors from very disparate parts of the world, at the time when at the top of the news agenda is migration and a refugee crisis. I also wish to thank the IKON Gallery, a beautiful venue, which hosted us with great warmth, attracting a generous audience prepared to listen and respond so sensitively to our communications – delivered in English but also Hindi, Bengali, Somali and Polish! And of course I feel extremely grateful to have met and worked alongside Chantal Wright, Rohini Chowdury, Shirin Ramzanali Fazel and Zaman Shahaduz. We spent hours together before and after the event, sharing in conversations which were incredibly inspiring and enriching.