The “Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre is a local government cultural institution based in Lublin. It works towards the preservation of cultural heritage and education. Its function is tied to the symbolic and historical meaning of the Centre’s location in the Grodzka Gate, which used to divide Lublin into its respective Christian and Jewish quarters, as well as to Lublin as a meeting place of cultures, traditions and religions.

Part of the Centre are the House of Words and the Lublin Underground Trail.

The “Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre is a local government cultural institution based in Lublin. It works towards the preservation of cultural heritage and education. Its function is tied to the symbolic and historical meaning of the Centre’s location in the Grodzka Gate, which used to divide Lublin into its respective Christian and Jewish quarters, as well as to Lublin as a meeting place of cultures, traditions and religions.

Part of the Centre are the House of Words and the Lublin Underground Trail.

Józef Czechowicz (1903–1939). ENGLISH VERSION

Czechowicz was born, created his works and died in Lublin. His tragic death is reminded by the statue of the poet in Plac Czechowicza. The poet is seen as a nostalgic and catastrophic writer, nevertheless, he was also the leader of Lublin avantgarde and bohemia. The author of Poemat o mieście Lublinie (A Poem about Lublin) was a modern poet, whose works had strong influence on the next generations. So far, his output in the fields of drama, journalism, translation, photography and pedagogy has remained unnoticed. Czechowicz – regionalist has also been forgotten. Above all, this underestimated mistifier, genius and visioner, who lived a short but fascinating life, left – despite his early death – a very rich collection of works.

The "Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre" Centre organises events to commemorate Józef Czechowicz’s birth and death, every year there is also a public reading of Poemat o mieście Lublinie (A Poem about Lublin) combined with a walk around the places described in it. Special papers contributed to the poet’s work are issued here as well.

 

Place and Date of Birth

Józef Czechowicz was born on 15th March, 1903 in a basement flat in Kapucyńska 3 St in Lublin. The building no longer exists, it used to be situated in the back of what today is Galeria Centrum (Centrum Department Store).

Czechowicz’s Family

Czechowicz was born in a poor family. His father was a bank janitor, and his mother a washerwoman. The poet soon lost all his close relations. This fact leaves a visible mark in his works. The poet’s older brother, Stanisław Czechowicz, a journalist with a vivid mind and brisk style, died of tuberculosis in 1925, at the age of 26.
He was buried in the Lublin cemetary at Lipowa St. The poet’s younger brother, Janek, whom Józef Czechowicz did not even remember, had been buried there as well in 1903. His father, Paweł Czechowicz, died in 1912, suffering from serious mental illness. Małgorzata Czechowicz, Józef Czechowicz’s mother, to whom his poems were often dedicated, died in April 1936. His sister, Katarzyna, died in 1958. Her family live in the Ukraine today.

Schools

Starting in 1913, Czechowicz attended a Russian primary school, then in 1917 he finished the First Seven-Form City School (for men) in Lublin. There was a break in his education when he volunteered to go to the army during the Polish-Soviet war in 1920. He continued his education in Teacher’s College, and in the years 1924–1925 he attended a Higher Teacher’s Course in Lublin. In the academic year 1928/1929 he completed his education in the Institute of Special Pedagogy in Warsaw.
 

Czechowicz – Pedagogue

A young graduate, Czechowicz was employed as a teacher in Słobódka. In the years 1923–1924 he taught in Włodzimierz Wołyński.
Since 1926 he also worked in a special school in Lublin, where he became a manager. He edited magazines for children: "Płomyk" and "Płomyczek". He was also active in "Głos Nauczycielski" ("Teacher’s Voice").
Czechowicz’s friends remember him as a person who treated his teacher’s profession seriously, taking notes, observing his pupils, which can be seen in entries in his diary.

The Poet’s Debut

Czechowicz’s real debut was printing his poetic prose – Opowieść o papierowej koronie (A Story of a Paper Crown) – in the first issue of "Reflektor". The issue had forty A3 pages. His first poetry tome was printed in 1927 under the title Kamień (Stone), published by "Biblioteka Reflektora" (Reflector’s Library). It includes a poem We czterech (Four of us) describing the "Reflektor" times. The next tome of poetry from 1930 – dzień jak co dzień (day as everyday) talks about childhood, and the lyrics from the prowincja noc (province night) are partly contributed to Lublin and Zamość. In 1932 a tome titled ballada z tamtej strony (a ballad from the other side) appears, in 1934 – z błyskawicy (from the lightning), and two years later – a tome titled nic więcej (nothing more).

The "Reflektor" Group and Magazine

After meeting the creators of the ‘Reflektor’ – Konrad Bielski and Wacław Gralewski – in the summer of 1922, Czechowicz sent them samples of his literary works and corresponded with them. The materials sent included the Opowieść o papierowej koronie (A Story of a Paper Crown). While choosing texts for the first issue of the "Reflektor", the young editors resigned from Czechowicz’s poetry, but decided to use this story. Later, they recognized the value of his poetry and started to print first poems in "Reflektor" – for example the one titled Na wsi (In the country). After entering these circles, Czechowicz also became acquainted with Czesław Bobrowski and Stanisław Grędziński. The group of literates used to meet most often in the office of "Express Lubelski" ("Lublin Express"), in Gralewski’s editing room. It was an important period in the young artist’s life, whose poetic breakthrough could be seen when he worked on the second issue of the "Reflektor" in 1925.

The Avantgarde Leader

In addition to restaurants, pubs and artists’ flats, where the Lublin bohemia used to meet, in pre-war Lublin there were several places which gained significance due to the presence of young artists and literates. They were Lublin "literary salons": Mieczysław Biernacki’s place, Franciszka Arnsztajnowa’s place at Złota 2 St , rev. Ludwik Zalewski’s villa at Graniczna 1c (now 9) St. Other, worth mentioning for their atmosphere and legend, are so called "ojciec Grudzień’s" pub and Edward Hartwig’s studio at Narutowicza St. Czechowicz, together with Łobodowski, was the bohemia leader. In 1934 he organized the famous "Avangarda Warsaw raid", which was an expression of rebellion against the "Wiadomości Literackie" ("Literary News") and the "Skamander" poetical gorup.

The Poet in Warsaw

In 1933 Czechowicz, author of three poetry tomes, moved to Warsaw. When he worked in Związek Nauczycielstwa Polskiego (Polish Teacher’s Association) he used to help many colleagues-authors – he supported printing their works or helped them financially. Czechowicz took care of a group of poets living at Dobra 9 St.: Henryk Domiński, Wacław Mrozowski and Bronisław Ludwik Michalski. When he lived in Warsaw, the poet made friends with, among others, Czesław Miłosz, Anna Świrszczyńska, Stanisław Piętak, Paweł Hertz. During his studies he got acquainted with the circles of poetic groups "Kwadryga" and "Meteor". In Warsaw he also edited the famous magazine for children, "Płomyczek", where he published his works under different names.

Czechowicz – Journalist

Czechowicz – publicist wrote for many Lublin and Warsaw magazines. As early as in the years 1924–1925 he worked for a literary supplement of "Przegląd Lubelsko-Kresowy" ("Lublin and Eastern Poland Review"). He edited daily newspapers: "Ziemia Lubelska" (1930), "Kurier Lubelski" (1932) and "Dziennik Lubelski".
In later years he was one of the people who created "Pion" and "Pióro", which he had established with Ludwik Fryde. "Pióro", bibliophilic issues of which came out in 1938 and 1939, was edited by Czechowicz together with Czesław Miłosz. In years 1934–1936, in turn, he edited the "Miesięcznik Literatury i Sztuki" ("Monthly Magazine of Literature and Art"), published by Związek Nauczycielstwa Polskiego (Polish Teacher’s Association), where he presented a programme opposing the views of "Skamander". He was also associated with "Kamena" and its creator, Kazimierz A. Jaworski. Czechowicz was also responsible for literary columns in "Państwo Pracy" and "Zet".

Czechowicz Bibliophile

According to memories of numerous people, in his home library Czechowicz had books on Lublin, which proves his interest in the past and culture of the city. The poet often visited Lublin bookshops and libraries to watch and read books.
In 1926 he was one of the founders of Lubelskie Towarzystwo Miłośników Książek (Lublin Book Lovers’ Association). Naturally, the most desirable places to meet for people from such circles were bookshops, including the one run by a legendary Lublin bookseller, Franciszek Raczkowski.
As a member of the Lublin Book Lover’s Society, Czechowicz took part in meetings organized, among others, in Museum at Narutowicza 4 St. When he was a secretary of LTMK, he wrote a poem Z kroniki bibliofilów lubelskich (From the chronicles of Lublin bibliophiles) (1931).
He wrote a few articles concerning popularizing reading and love of beautiful books, which were printed in "Express Lubelski", "Kurier Lubelski" and "Ziemia Lubelska".
In 1932 the poet was one of the founders of Związek Literatów w Lublinie (Writers’ Association in Lublin).
In addition to that, Józef Czechowicz worked with rev. Ludwik Zalewski on publishing an anthology of contemporary Lublin poetry which was published in June, 1939.

Czechowicz – Photographer

Czechowicz’s collection of photos includes pictures from 1930s and is an important document concerning old Lublin and Lublin Region. The poet also took many photos when he was on a scholarship in France. Czechowicz was a friend of a well-known Lublin photographer, Edward Hartwig, who remembered the poet’s visits in his atelier. On photos of Lublin made by Czechowicz we can see, among others,The Grodzka and Krakowska Gates, The Old Town with its streets and views of the Jewish district which does not exist today.

Czechowicz and the Radio

The poet used to write some works exclusively for the radio. A famous Poemat o mieście Lublinie (A Poem on Lublin City) is a kind of radio audition.
In his Warsaw period he was a literary manager of Polish Radio in Warsaw. He also wrote own announcements to his auditions. Like in the cases of auditions: Puste mieszkanie (An Empty Flat) or Herbata (Tea).

 

Czechowicz and the Cinema

Czechowicz was the first Lublin journalist so greatly involved in cinema industry – he wrote reviews, advertised films and criticized conditions in Lublin cinemas. He used to write under different pen names, such as "Kinoman" ("Cinema Fan").
In "Kurier Lubelski", of which he was the editor-in-chief and publisher, from January to July 1932 we can find a Na srebrnym ekranie (On silver screen) section, contributed to film issues. Probably it was written by the poet himself.

Czechowicz and Theatre

The poet wrote few dramas, published in "Pion": Czasu jutrzennego (Of Tomorrow Time), Jasne miecze (Bright Swords) and Obraz (The Picture). First of them was staged in Warsaw in Teatr Nowy in 1939. A small number of dramas is the result of the fact that the poet turned to this genre relatively late. However, in some of his previous works one can find a specific form of introducing dialogues and drama elements in the form of poems (Opowieść o papierowej koronie, Dwugłos, eros i psyche, elegia żalu, Rozmowa czyli kochankowie). His drama is a poetic drama, close to symbolic theatre.
Czechowicz also wrote theatrical reviews. Particularly, a lot of texts on theater were published in "Kurier Lubelski" in 1932, when he was its editor. Under the pen name Recenzent (Reviev Author) he wrote many reviews of plays in Lublin Theatre, close to which he had grown up, as the house on Kapucyńska St was situated near the Theatre on Narutowicza St. (then Namiestnikowska).
In the years 1927–1928 Czechowicz was a member of Komisja Teatralna (Theatrical Committee), set up in 1921 by the Lublin Magistrate as an opinion-giving body for the local authorities. Other members of the Committee were: Wacław Gralewski, rev. Ludwik Zalewski, Konrad Bielski, Feliks Araszkiewicz.
A close friend of Czechowicz was a thetre man, director, Wilam Horzyca.

 

Tragic Death

When the war broke out Czechowicz left Warsaw and returned to Lublin. He died in his hometown bombardment on 9th September 1939 between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. It happened at Ostrowska barber’s shop which was situated in a house at Krakowskie Przedmieście 46 St.

Major Works

Kamień, Lublin 1927

Poemat o mieście Lublinie, 1934
Ballada z tamtej strony, Warszawa 1932
Stare kamienie, Lublin 1934
Wyobraźnia stwarzająca. Szkice literackie, edited by Tadeusz Kłak, Lublin 1972

Koń rydzy. Utwory prozą, edited by Tadeusz Kłak, Lublin 1990

 

Tomasz Pietrasiewicz, Aleksandra Zińczuk

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Audio

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