In Being Krystyna, Agnieszka appears as the reluctant biographer of an inspirational lady who survived the Holocaust. Agnieszka is also a real person, also from Poland, and a friend of author Carol Browne. Carol interviewed Agnieszka about her experiences of not just appearing in a book but also living as a young Polish person in modern day Britain. You can read the full interview on Carol's blog https://authorcarolbrowne.wordpress.com
I grew up in the UK with certain ideas about World War II but for you in Poland the picture must have been very different. Poland suffered horrendously under Nazi occupation. When you were growing up, what were your impressions of this period of history?
We learn history chronologically in Poland (I was very surprised that it is different in England) but World War II topics are covered several times during primary and secondary school because of the many significant dates when various annual events are organised in the country and it is important than even young students know what happens and why. I also learnt what life was like in wartime from listening to my grandfathers.
When I was ten my whole class went to Warsaw to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. When I was sixteen, I entered a competition about a Polish priest—Frelichowski—who helped people in the war camps even though he knew he was risking his own life. Reading about him to prepare for the competition, I found out many things I didn’t learn from the compulsory books I read in school.
I think the majority of Poles are aware of the important dates related to different events and periods of the war and the Nazi occupation. We have lots of books on these topics, some written by survivors.
I know that books about the war are sad but often they have happy endings too and they always have some important lessons and messages for us. That’s why everyone should read at least a few…
During World War II, the UK had a great deal of respect for the bravery of the Polish people. I am interested to know what the Polish people thought of the Brits!
To tell the truth, Poles felt betrayed by France and the UK at the beginning of the war. There were agreements signed before the war that Poles would receive financial and military help in a case of a war; however, we didn’t receive any help for quite a long time.
On a more positive note, when Warsaw fell and Germany announced victory, Great Britain didn’t want to accept it. I think later, after 1939, we had more support from the allies and developed a better relationship with the UK. Many Polish pilots decided to support this country in the famous Battle of Britain.
I don’t have much knowledge of the exact support we received during and after 1940, but by asking me this question you motivated me to explore this aspect a bit more, especially as I live in the UK now.