"Author captures drama of teen's life." That's the headline on a story in the Commercial-News, the daily newspaper in Danville, Illinois, where Danuta spent the latter part of her life.
Five years ago, while visiting Xi’an, China, I board a tour bus bound for the Tomb of the Terracotta Soldiers. The only open seat places me next to a fellow American, a friendly looking gentleman with gray hair and mustache. Jim Taylor, he says as we shake hands.
Over the course of the day, I learn that while Jim calls Seattle home, he lives most of the time in Micronesia, where he works as a legal adviser to Pacific island nations. He’s been vacationing in China for three weeks, spending part of the time with a farm family in the north. Before parting, we discover that we will both be in Shanghai the following week. Jim plans to have dinner there with a friend, another American who had established a marketing firm in China. He invites me to join them and I do. It’s a fascinating evening, learning about the life of an American ex-pat in the wild east of Chinese capitalism.
Facebook enables Jim and me to stay intermittently in touch. I follow his latest island-hopping adventures. He learns that I recently published a novel about a young Polish girl who escapes from a Siberian labor camp and makes her way to Iran. Once or twice, we exchange emails.
This morning, I check Amazon to make sure my book Danuta is still being offered there and discover a new reader review. It’s from a James W. Taylor and begins, “When I read Danuta, I didn't read anything – I saw it as I would a movie, each word developing the story line.”
Yes, the reviewer is the same gentleman I met on the bus in Xi’an. He has downloaded the novel to his Kindle and read it in Saipan.
Someday, Jim and I will meet again. I’ll buy him a drink in thanks for his thoughtfulness. Question is, where in the world will that be?
A British cable network has commissioned a new television series on Poland's little known heroes of World War II. Among the stories presented in "Heroes of War" will be that of Witold Pilecki, who got himself arrested and sent to Auschwitz to witness the atrocities there. The five-part series will be shown on History UK. Let's hope "Heroes of War" makes it to the United States, as well.
Since publishing Danuta, I’ve met some fascinating people around the globe who share an interest in the Polish experience in World War II. Most of these are the offspring of those who suffered at the hands of the Nazis and Soviets. But not all.
One who stands out is Derek Crowe. A Scot who works by day as a senior web developer at Strathclyde University in Glasgow, Derek maintains in his off hours a website (www.derekcrowe.com) devoted to “Photography, Poland and Railways.” The offerings there include 85 blog posts on Polish topics, a listing of 65 books on Poland, and a searchable archive of photos of the graves of many of the 2,100 Polish servicemen and women who are known to be buried in the United Kingdom.
To my surprise, Derek told me in an email exchange that he is not of Polish descent. “I don't have any Polish blood in me, but have always admired the Poles for the sacrifices they made in World War 2 and for their refusal to give up,” he wrote. “We owe them a debt of gratitude. The story of how they were invaded by both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, the murders at Katyn, the deportations to Siberia, the escape from the Soviet Union, Solidarity, martial law in 1981, and the long wait of 50 years before they regained their freedom, it's an incredible story!”
It is an incredible story – one that you don’t have to be of Polish descent to appreciate.