Julia Hartwig's Biography
Poet, writer, essayist, translator from French and English, author of many volumes of poetry, introductions to Edward Hartwig’s photographic albums and books for children.
Childhood and education
Julia Hartwig was born in Lublin on 14 August 1921, as the youngest child of Maria (née Biryukov) and Ludwik Hartwig. Until 1918, her parents had lived in Russia. Her father had run a photographic studio in Moscow since 1909. It was there that their other children – Edward, Walenty, Zofia and Helena – were born. The Hartwig family was forced to move to Poland during the Bolshevik Revolution.
Julia Hartwig spent her childhood in Lublin. The family lived at no. 2, Staszica Street, and later on Krakowskie Przedmieście St.. The main source of income was the father’s photographic studio.
Julia Hartwig began her education at the primary school located near the Lublin cathedral. Since childhood, she was being raised in the spirit of tolerance – as a child, she attended both a catholic and an orthodox church, accompanied by her mother. She went on to study in the Union of Lublin Gymnasium, where she met future writers Anna Kamieńska, Hanna Malewska and Anna Szternfinkel. In 1936 she debuted in an interschool literary periodical titled W Słońce (Into the Sun). At that time, she had an opportunity to meet writers Jerzy Pleśniarowicz, Józef Łobodowski, as well as Józef Czechowicz who reviewed one of her first works. She passed her matura (high school final exam) in 1939.
The war period
During World War II, like her brothers, she participated in the underground resistance movement. She was a Home Army (Pol. Armia Krajowa) liaison and worked in the field of underground culture. At that time she enrolled on Romance and Polish Philology courses at the underground Warsaw University. Among her professors were Julian Krzyżanowski, Witold Doroszewski and Władysław Tatarkiewicz. At the university she met poets Tadeusz Gajcy and Zdzisław Stroiński. After the war she continued her studies at the Catholic University of Lublin and then at the Warsaw University.
In 1945, she published a few works in Wybór wierszy poetów lubelskich (A Selection of Poems by Lublin Poets). In that period, she was also publishing in periodicals Twórczość and Kuźnica. Between 1947 and 1950 she lived in France, receiving a scholarship from the French government and studying French literature. She also worked in the Polish embassy in Paris. In 1954, she married a poet and writer, Artur Międzyrzecki. She continued her literary work, publishing poems, translations of French literature and reviews in periodicals Nowa Kultura (New Culture), Świat (The World) and Poezja (Poetry).
In 1970, together with her husband, she left for the United States. While living there, she participated in the International Writing Program. She visited Canada twice, in order to give talks at the University of Ottawa, among others.
After the return to Poland, she worked with her husband, publishing volumes of poetry written by herself and translated from other languages, as well as essays and prose. Together they published Antologia poezji amerykańskiej (Anthology of American Poetry), several books for children, a volume of translated poetry and prose by Guillaume Apollinaire, and Rimbaud’s letters. Apart from poetry, Hartwig published Dziennik Amerykański (American Diary), Zawsze powroty – dzienniki podróży (Always Returning. The Diaries of a Journey) and monographs on Apollinaire and Gérard de Nerval.
Julia Hartwig is a member of Polish Writers’ Union (Pol. Związek Literatów Polskich), the Polish Pen Club and Polish Writers’ Association (Pol. Stowarzyszenie Pisarzy Polskich).
The anti-communist opposition
Julia Hartwig was active in the anti-Communist opposition movement. In January 1976, she was one of the signers of the “Memorial of 101” which expressed protest against the projected modifications to the constitution of People’s Republic of Poland. Between 1986 and 1991, she was a member of the trade union “Solidarność” (Solidarity).
Julia Hartwig’s literary output consists of over a dozen volumes of poetry and prose poetry, as well as monographs, essays, translations and children’s books. Collections of her poetry include: Pożegnania (Farewells) (1956), Czuwanie (Waking) (1978), Czułość (Tenderness) (1992), Zawsze od nowa (Always Anew) (1999), Nie ma odpowiedzi (There is no Answer) (2001), Błyski (Flashes) (2002), Bez pożegnania (Without Goodbye) (2004), To wróci (It will Return) (2007), Jasne niejasne (Clear Unclear) (2009), Wiersze wybrane (Selected Poems) (2010), Gorzkie żale (Lenten Lamentations) (2011), Zapisane (Written Down) (2013).
Julia Hartwig also wrote volumes of narrative poems in prose, like Mówiąc nie tylko do siebie (Talking not only to Myself) (2003), sketches: Pisane przy oknie (Written next to a Window) (2004), monographs: Apollianire (1962), Gérard de Nerval (1972), translations: Max Jacob. Poematy Prozą (Poems in Prose) (1983), books for children: Pierwsze przygody poziomki (First Adventures of Wild Strawberry) (1961).
Julia Hartwig’s works were translated into French, English, German, Italian, Russian, Greek, Hungarian, Finnish, Lithuanian, Serbian, Dutch and Flemish.
She has received numerous prizes: the ZAiKS (Society of Actors and Composers) Prize (1976), „Prix de Traduction” awarded by the Hautvillers Foundation from France (1978), Polish Pen Club Prize (1979 and 1997), Officer’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta (1997), Minister of Culture’s Prize for lifetime achievement (2001), The Great Prize of the Culture Foundation (2003), Medal for Merit to Culture – Gloria Artis (2005), Jan Parandowski Prize, awarded by Polish Pen Club (2009), “Kamień” (The Stone) – prize awarded at the “Miasto Poezji” (The City of Poetry) festival (2009).
She is a four-time nominee for the Nike Literary Award.
In 2008, Julia Hartwig was awarded the National Order of the Legion of Honour - the highest decoration awarded by the French government. In 2013, in the 12th edition of the Cyprian Kamil Norwid Prize, she was awarded the “Dzieło życia” (The Work of a Lifetime) prize for lifetime achievement.
Place of residence and family
Julia Hartwig was born in Lublin. She died on 14 July 2017 in Pennsylvania.
Husband – Artur Międzyrzecki (1922–1996) – poet, translator, essayist, social and political activist. Author of books: Koniec gry (Game Over), Wojna nerwów (War of Nerves), Warszawa Prusa i Gierymskiego. Szkice z dawnej Warszawy (Prus’ and Gierymski’s Warsaw. Sketches from the old-time Warsaw); volumes of poetry: Rzeka czarownic (Witches’ River), Nieskończona przejrzystość (Infinite Limpidity); translations of works by Charles Baudelaire, Guillaume Apollinaire, Arthur Rimbaud, song lyrics, including Trzej przyjaciele z boiska (Three Friends from the Football Pitch), a song that was widely popular in Poland since the 1950s.
Daughter – Anna Daniela (b. 1955) – graduated from Columbia University with a degree in Philosophy. She currently lives in New York.
Brother – Edward (1909–2003) – one of Poland’s most remarkable photographic artists. He created a unique style of photography, in which the light becomes an actor, bringing out the shapes of nature. He photographed landscapes, theatre plays, architecture and sport events.
Based on: Czachowska, J., ed., Szałagan, A., ed., Współcześni polscy pisarze i badacze literatury. Słownik biograficzny, Warszawa 1994.