Zofia Grochowalska Abramowicz, also known as the poet of Auschwitz, was a Polish Catholic working for the Resistance. She was captured at the beginning of the war and spent four years at Ravensbruck and Auschwitz. Literary production — plays, poems, etc — was a secret operation at the camps. The prisoners, if found out could lose their lives. When the Allies began bombing the area, the Germans evacuated Auschwitz and Zofia buried her poems in a jar at the camp. After the war was over, a woman who was at the camp with her went back, dug up the poems and returned them to Zofia.
Through an interesting story in itself, the originals of Zofia’s poems have come to Cherie Braun. She has had them translated and was recently featured on National Public Radio’s The Story. Since then, Braun has started a blog and has been approached about making Zofia’s story into a movie. Braun has also almost completed the manuscript of a book containing all of the poems and a biography of Zofia. She is looking for a publisher.
After hearing the story on Public Radio I hope someone does publish the book. Zofia was not a professional writer before the war and when the war ended she did not continue writing. What she left, however, is amazing and beautiful and well worth reading.
You can hear several of the poems in the radio broadcast. Braun has one of them, “The Fragrance of Lindens” on her website in its entirety. To tease you and get you to go read it and listen to the podcast linked above, here is the final stanza of the poem:
And when darkness ignites the stars
Shadows trail in mist, above the meadow
An aroma, as of a censer, flows from afar
These are the lindens, the blossoming lindens.