The voice of a generation: tragic poet Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński named as patron of 2021
Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński, a talented poet whose life was cut short by the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, is to be honoured next year after being picked out to act as one of the five patrons of 2021.
Viewed as one of Poland’s most outstanding literary talents of the WWII era, 2021 would have marked his 100th birthday.
A member of the so-called Kolumb Generation – a group of young writers born around 1920 who found their transition into adulthood disrupted by WWII – Baczyński started writing in middle school and quickly found himself the subject of plaudits.
The outbreak of war forced him to abandon his plans for studying at the Academy of Fine Arts. Shelving his career ambition to become a graphic artist or illustrator, he instead studied Polish at the underground University of Warsaw and joined the fight for Poland’s liberation.
Actively serving as a member of the Polish Home Army and various other military units, Baczyński continued to write throughout WWII, publishing four tomes of poetry, two in 1940, one in 1942 and another in 1944, as well as a number of pieces in underground publications.
Though heavily influenced by his wartime experiences and the occupation, his work also touched on universal themes like the development of the human soul and psyche as well as his reflections on youth and growing up – which was, in his case, dramatically accelerated by the war.
He wrote many ‘catastrophic poems’ about the destruction of civilisation, values and his own generation, following a style popularized by the artists and writers of the fin de siècle epoch. But aside from poems coloured by his experiences of the war, his oeuvre also features poems far removed from the heaviness of conflict and that, instead, follow themes of beauty, hope and fairy tale inspirations.
All of Baczyński’s works have survived, including over 500 poems. His most famous include Elegy of the Polish boy, quotes from which were used in the Uprising-themed song Godzina W by Lao Che, and War Poems (Wiersze Wojenne) which were set to music and performed by singer Ewa Demarczyk in 1965. His life has also been documented in two Polish films.
Baczyński often constructed his poems to speak on behalf of his generation; this was directly recognized by the Sejm who stated that his patronage would also honour the other poets of the Kolumb Generation who lost their lives during the German occupation.
Killed when he was just 23-years-old, Baczyński was shot by a sniper in the first days of the Warsaw Uprising while stationed at his post outside Pl. Teatralny’s Blanków Palace. Today, a plaque marks this spot.
Subject to numerous posthumous decorations, including the Medal for Warsaw 1939-1945, in 2018 President Andrzej Duda bestowed the Order of Polonia Restituta on Baczyński citing his cultural achievements.
Remembered via several busts, statues and commemorative plaques found all over Poland, Baczyński’s remains were moved to Powązki Military Cemetery where he was laid to rest alongside other distinguished combatants.
Announced at a meeting of the Sejm on 27th November, next year’s other patrons will be writers Stanisław Lem, Cypriad Kamil Norwid and Tadeusz Różewicz as well as Cardinal Wyszyński.