Broniewska, Janina (1904–1981)

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Broniewska, Janina (1904–1981)

Polish Communist writer and activist who served as secretary of the Union of Polish Writers. Born in Kalisz, Russian Poland, on August 5, 1904; died in 1981; married Wladyslaw Broniewski (a revolutionary poet).

Born in the last years of Poland's subjugation to foreign rule in the city of Kalisz in Russian Poland on August 5, 1904, Janina Broniewska early exhibited her rebelliousness, spending countless hours in student cafes arguing over the fine points of revolutionary ideology. After graduation, she became a teacher and contributed articles for children to newspapers and journals. Some of her most outstanding work appeared in Plomyczek (Little Flame), a children's journal published under the auspices of the Polish Association of Teachers and edited by the noted writer Wanda Wasilewska . A political militant, Broniewska was a leader in the teacher's union, which she led in a number of dramatic strikes in the 1930s. By the late 1930s, she was moving closer to Communism, in part because her husband, the noted revolutionary poet Wladyslaw Broniewski (1897–1962), was also moving in that direction.

With the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939, Janina Broniewska and her husband fled to Soviet-occupied eastern Poland, when that part of the country was annexed to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. This was a difficult time for them both, with Wladyslaw serving a term of imprisonment imposed by the NKVD in Lvov; he was released after the Nazi attack on the USSR. With Soviet blessings, Janina joined a Moscow-sponsored political organization, the Union of Polish Patriots. She also became active in Soviet-approved literary activities, serving on the editorial board of the journal Nowe Widnokregi (New Horizons). Although she knew little about military affairs, in 1944 she became chief editor of the journal Polska Zbrojna (Armed Poland).

Returning to liberated Poland in 1945, Broniewska became a major literary personality, at least in part because she had gained the trust of Soviet cultural advisors resident in Warsaw. Over the next years, she published books based on her wartime experiences, including Marching with the First Army (1946) and From the Notebooks of a War Correspondent (1953). A book written for young readers, About the Man Who Had No Fear of Bullets (1948), was a biographical study of Karol Swierczewski, the famous "General Walter" of the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War. The regime showed its warm regard for Broniewska's literary and political work by awarding her the 1949 City of Warsaw Literary Prize. The most controversial part of her career after 1945 was the role she played as secretary of the Union of Polish Writers, a position that entailed supervising the political loyalty of the organization's members. Watchful of ideological and artistic "deviations," she earned the undying animosity of many of Poland's most talented and independent-minded writers. Broniewska died in 1981 at a time when the rise of the Solidarity movement and a near-universal demand for intellectual freedom made it obvious that Polish cultural life would no longer submit to any form of regimentation.


"Broniewska, Janina," in Wielka Encyklopedia Powszechna PWN. Vol. 2. Warsaw: Panstwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1963, p. 152.

Toranska, Teresa. "Them": Stalin's Polish Puppets. Translated by Agnieszka Kolakowska. NY: Harper & Row, 1987.

John Haag , Associate Professor, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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Broniewska, Janina (1904–1981)

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