Polish Studies Initiative Presented Lecture on the Polish Poet Czeslaw Milosz

The Polish Studies Initiative (PSI) at Ohio State welcomed Dr. Irina Grudzinska Gross of Princeton University to campus on October 16, 2014. Grudzinska Gross discussed the complicated figure of Czeslaw Milosz, a Polish poet who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980.

Living in Warsaw during World War II, Milosz saw firsthand the devastation of Poland and struggled to reconcile partisan efforts against Nazi and then Soviet forces. Most controversially, Milosz questioned the efficacy of the Warsaw Uprising. Much of Milosz’s poetry published during these years, as analyzed by Grudzinska Gross, highlights the competing forces of Polish patriotism and horror at Polish society willfully ignoring the plight of Polish Jews and the futility of the Warsaw Uprising.

Milosz later immigrated to the United States where he distanced himself from some of his poems from the World War II period, rejecting direct analyses of these works. But as the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising was marked this year, Grudzinska Gross’ lecture was a timely opportunity to revisit Milosz’s work.

In spring 2014, PSI organized a Polish-Jewish studies workshop to assess this emerging field and highlight opportunities for further research and devise a model curriculum. Grudzinska Gross was one of the co-organizers of the workshop, and will be hosting a follow-up meeting in spring 2015 at Princeton University. Her lecture was an opportunity for the Ohio State and the Columbus community to engage more broadly with these complicated questions.