Poet. Born on the 22nd of January 1921 in Warsaw, died on the 4th of August 1944 in the Warsaw Uprising.
He attended the Stefan Batory State Gymnasium from 1933, where he passed his secondary school leaving examination in 1939. He was a member of the semi-legal Socialist Youth Organization ‘Spatakus’ (from 1937 he was a member of this organization’s executive committee, from 1938 he co-edited Strzały – a periodical published by this organization). During the German occupation, he lived in Warsaw. For a short period, he attended the C. K. Norwid Municipal School of Painting and Decorative Arts.
Conspirator and Poet
From 1940, he published conspiratorial volumes of poetry (under the pseudonym Jan Bugaj, amongst others). He also published verse anonymously in underground anthologies and magazines (Dzień Warszawski, Miesięcznik Literacki). As a poet, he collaborated with the literary office of the Mobilization Propaganda Subdivision ‘Rój’ of the Bureau of Information and Propaganda of the Home Army.
From the autumn of 1942, he studied Polish philology at underground educational gatherings organised by the Warsaw University. He was a member of the editorial committee of the social-literary monthly Droga, which was published from December 1943 to August 1944 by a group of students. Baczyński was also involved with the socialist organization ‘Płomienie’. He received scholarships from conspiratorial literary funds.
In the summer of 1943, he joined the Scouts’ Assault Group of the Home Army. He trained at the ‘Agricola’ School for Infantry Reserve Officer Cadets. This organisation granted him the rank of senior riflemen officer cadet of the infantry reserve. From 1943, he was a selector of ‘Alek’, the 2nd platoon of ‘Rudy’, which was the 2nd company of the battalion ‘Zośka’. From July 1943 he was deputy commander of the 3rd platoon of the 3rd company of the battalion ‘Parasol’. When the Warsaw Uprising started he couldn’t reach his platoon. He fought in the vicinity of Theatre Square, where he died.
Baczyński’s artistry was characterised by dynamic change. His stance toward reality evolved which caused him to introduce changes to his repertoire of artistic means. He began writing as a gymnasium student. The ‘early’ stage of his literary creativity ended in 1941. Until then he was chiefly influenced by J. K. Weintraub, Czechowicz and the poetry of the Vilnius Żagary group (especially by the works of Zagórski and Rymkiewicz).
In the forefront one may find, apart from the cosmic scenery typical of the catastrophists, the contrast between an idyllic childhood, which constituted an Arcadia of beauty and tranquillity, and the catastrophe, which destroyed that pleasant world. Contrary to the poets that inspired him, Baczyński was a poet who wrote about the apocalypse fulfilled.
In the autumn of 1941, Baczyński’s style underwent a substantial change. The poet suffered from ‘occupation shock’ and he turned toward the romantic tradition (especially toward Słowacki and Norwid). After this turn occurred Baczyński’s literary activity was marked by a conflict of two tendencies. On one hand, the poet was inclined to create ‘clean’ verse, which left room for free, imaginative interpretation, on the other he wanted to write committed poetry which would present a stance toward current events.
This second tendency prevailed and the poet’s role started to resemble that of an inspired seer, an awakener of consciences. The meaning of his poems remained, however, ambiguous and fluent. The language used by Baczyński became strongly metaphorical, it started to make use of numerous symbols, key-words and surprising combinations of motifs (the motif of water was most important). Two styles, the intellectually-discursive one and the visionary-symbolic one (which referred to fairy tales, legends, myths and dreams) were constantly interlacing.
The erotics devoted to Baczyński’s wife, Barbara Drapaczyńska, are an important part of the poet’s output. They transcended the existing conventions of love poetry which dictated that a woman should be presented unrealistically, as an element dissolved in nature. After joining the Scouts’ Assault Groups in 1943 Baczyński began to write more about fighting, the soldiers’ ethos, the choices one has to make before one becomes militarily active. The author made perfect use of these topics when he created the poem Wybór (Choice), which is a parable about the fates and motives of the youth of the Home Army.
During his lifetime Baczyński was already highly regarded, especially by his older colleagues (for instance by Andrzejewski and Iwaszkiewicz). Baczyński’s peers, however, who were involved with the right-wing periodical Sztuka i Naród, didn’t consider his works noteworthy. The post-war reception of his works was always influenced by the biographical legend, according to which Baczyński was a perfect representative of this generation of Columbuses. His poetry is popular with readers, respected by literary scholars and seldom criticized. Baczyński himself is considered the greatest creator of the war generation.
Editions of poems from the years 1940-1944:
- Zamkniętym echem (Closed Echo), Warsaw 1940 – 7 copies
- Dwie miłości (Two Loves), Warsaw 1940 – 7 copies
- Modlitwa (Prayer), Warsaw 1942 – 3 copies
- Wiersze wybrane (Chosen Poems), Warsaw 1942 (pseudonym: Jan Bugaj)
- Arkusz poetycki Nr.1 (Poetical Sheet No. 1), Warsaw 1944 (pseudonym: Jan Bugaj)
- Śpiew z pożogi (Singing from the Conflagration), Warsaw 1944 (pseudonym: 2nd Lt Piotr Smugosz)
A shortlist of post-war selections of poems:
- Śpiew z pożogi (Singing from the Conflagration), Warsaw, Wiedza 1947
- Utwory zebrane (Collected Works), edited by: A. Kmita-Piorunowa and K. Wyka, introduction: K. Wyka; Kraków, Wydawnictwo Literackie 1961
- Utwory wybrane (Selected Works), selection and introduction: K. Wyka; Kraków, Wydawnictwo Literackie 1964
- Wybór poezji (Selected Poetry), edition and introduction: J. Święch; Wrocław, Ossolineum 1989 BN I 265
Author: Bartłomiej Szleszyński, Faculty of Polish Studies of the Warsaw University, July 2003, translated by Marek Kępa