Jan Brzechwa in 1961, photo: Danuta Łomaczewska / EAST NEWS
Jan Brzechwa in 1961, photo: Danuta Łomaczewska / EAST NEWS

Poet, satirist and translator; author of popular works for children. He was a lawyer specialized in copyright law. Born on August 15, 1898 in Żmerynka in Podole [now in Ukraine], died on July 2, 1966 in Warsaw.

Jan Brzechwa, pseudonym of Jan Wiktor Lesman, born in Żmerynka in Podole [now in Ukraine], was the son of a railway employee. Jan Brzechwa began to study medicine in Kazan, and then studied law at the University of Warsaw. During the years 1920-1921, he volunteered for the Polish-Soviet war. He specialized in copyright law, but was a poet, satirist and translator by avocation; he was the author of popular works for children. His cousin, poet Bolesław Leśmian, however, did not recognize his writings as "true" literature.

Brzechwa made his debut in 1915, when he published his verse poems in "Sztandar" (Petrograd) and "Kłosy Ukraińskie" (Kiev). Beginning in 1918, he wrote satirical cabaret texts under the pseudonyms "Szerszeń" (Hornet) and "Szer-Szeń". He published several volumes of poetry: Oblicza zamyślone (1926), Talizmany (1929), Trzeci krąg (1932), and Piołun i obłok (1935). He became popular as an author of children's poetry, including Tańcowała igła z nitką (1938), Kaczka Dziwaczka (1939), Przygody Pchły Szachrajki (1946), Brzechwa dzieciom (1953) and the novel Akademia Pana Kleksa (1946).

He published memoirs, titled Gdy owoc dojrzewa ("When the Fruit Ripens", 1958). He translated children's literature and plays from Russian, including Chekhov. Although he used the pseudonym "Jan Brzechwa" beginning in 1946, he continued publishing articles on law under his true name. Jewish themes appeared only in his satirical works, such as in the play Moryc (Moritz) (1927), which he wrote together with Julian Tuwim and Marian Hemar.

He worked as a legal advisor, specializing in copyright issues at the Union of Stage Artists and Composers (ZAiKS) during the years 1924-1939; in 1945-1948, he worked at the Publishing Cooperative "Czytelnik", and again at ZAiKS. In 1953-1955, he headed the ZAiKS Council, and from 1957 was the chairman of the board. In 1958-1966, he was a member of the Board of the Polish PEN Club. In 1965, he received a lifetime achievement award from the Ministry of Culture and Art.

Source: www.diapozytyw.pl (website developed as part of Adam Mickiewicz Institute's activities)