He is the son of writer Tomasz Łubieński. He graduated in Ukrainian Studies and Cultural Studies at the University of Warsaw. His master's thesis in Cultural Studies was devoted to the legend of the Ukrainian anarchist and revolutionary Nestor Machno. It was later expanded into a book – a historical reportage titled Pirat Stepowy (Pirate of the Steppes), published by Wydawnictwo Czarne in 2012. The author filled an important gap in the knowledge of Ukrainian history. As Paweł Pieniążek notes in Krytyka Polityczna (02.05.2012):
Even in large bookstores, finding books about Machno is not easy, and most of the ones that came out were low-volume and rather hard to digest for the ordinary reader. In Poland, anarchists or other enthusiasts sometimes know something about him, there was even one comic book about him published. However, there was no book on the phenomena of Nestor Machno that could reach a wider audience. In his interestingly written historical reportage, interwoven with texts about today's Huliaipole, Łubieński finally fills the gap.
Łubieński held a scholarship from the Minister of Culture and National Heritage. He has written for such magazines as Lampa, Bluszcz, Nowe Książki and Rzeczpospolita, and he also writes for Tygodnik Powszechny and the Dwutygodnik.com website. In addition to his written work, he also co-authored a series of films titled Warsaw’s Cultural Melting Pot which describe the life of immigrants in Warsaw.
Since 2014 he has been running a blog about Warsaw’s nature – Dzika Ochota (Wild Ochota – Ochota being one of Warsaw’s district, but also meaning ‘craving’ or ‘desire’). Birds occupy a special place in Łubieński’s heart and it is to his passion for ornithology that we owe the book The Birds They Sang: Birds and People in Life and Art, which was published by Wydawnictwo Czarne in 2016 and for which Łubieński received the Warsaw Literary Premiere Award and was nominated for Polityka magazine’s Passport Award.
The fascination with birds which has accompanied the author since childhood (an affliction he calls ‘Birding Compulsive Disorder’) has become a pretext for writing about art, literature, history and cinema. What does James Bond have in common with birds? What did Hitchcock's birds have in mind? What effect does Jonathan Franzen's love of birds has on his prose? Professor Maciej Luniak from the PAN Institute of Zoology recommended Łubieński's book as follows:
There are a lot of different books about birds at the moment, but all of the ones I know deal with this topic from a natural perspective. This one shows birds from the perspective of a humanist, in a very personal way, but also by conveying rich and reliable knowledge. It is a book for the (more and more numerous!) group of people already burning with an ornithological fascination, as well as for readers looking for an interesting read who so far have had less contact with this topic. For them, it will reveal the world of birds, astonishing not only because of the richness of their characters and behaviours but also by how much it is present in the human world.
However, the author does not draw inspiration solely from cultural texts; on the contrary, his work is intertwined with his own experiences, which allows him to create a story that is both erudite and personal. Bird-watching requires paying attention to our surroundings, to the nature in which we exist, even when we live in the middle of a big city.
It turns out that a clump of bushes is enough to attract interesting birds. Every year in spring, in the thicket above the so-called Patelnia (the ‘Pan’ – the square in front of Centrum metro station in Warsaw), you can hear the nightingale's trill. This place basically serves as a dumpster for itinerant sellers and a lavatory for the homeless, but the undismayed singer returns and complains to Varsovians at night-time. The thicket also attracts other, completely unexpected birds. In the spring, the ortolan's singing, the improvisations of the marsh warbler and the screams of the great-reed warbler can be heard here. For a month now, a barred warbler has been sitting in the bushes. (The Birds They Sang: Birds and People in Life and Art, p. 81)
Łubieński’s passion is contagious not just through his literature. He also organises walks for other bird watching amateurs, guiding them, among others, through his beloved Szczęśliwicki Park.
- Pirate Stepowy [Pirate of the Steppes], Wydawnictwo Czarne, Wołowiec 2012.
- The Birds They Sang: Birds and People in Life and Art, transl. Bill Johnston, Westbourne Press, London 2020.
- NIKE 2017 – readers' award for the book The Birds They Sang: Birds and People in Life and Art
Originally written in English by Natalia Mętrak-Ruda, June 2017