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Szabados’ Latest Will Inspire You
Reviewed by Debra M. Dudek

My Polish Grandmother: from Tragedy in Poland to her Rose Garden in America by Stephen Szabados
Print available from PAJBookstore
Amazon Kindle Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN: 978-1721679225
2018. Soft cover, 119 pages.

One of the tasks on your genealogy “must do” list is to write your family’s story. This task can seem intimidating, especially when there are multiple generations involved. Instead of focusing on multiple individuals, why not write a narrative based on the life and times of one specific individual? Author and lecturer Stephen Szabados has recently published a must-read new book which outlines this “one-person” genealogical narrative perfectly. His book, My Polish Grandmother: From Tragedy in Poland to her Rose Garden in America not only provides a blend of facts into a well-rounded non-fiction narrative, it sets itself up as a carefully researched case study for individuals with foreign-born European ancestors. My Polish Grandmother chronicles the life of Anna Chmielewska, a woman of slight stature who possessed a commanding presence and fierce love for her family. Szabados takes great pains to document his ancestor’s turbulent years spanning the early 20th century in the countryside of Poland, the struggles of the Great War, a sea voyage to North America, and finally her life and experiences in the United States.

What sets this book apart on the shelf:

  • Well-written and engrossing non-fiction narrative
  • Clearly defined outline of research individuals
  • Exceptional list of essential genealogical research questions
  • Examples of using both family history, personal memory, and essential research elements in presenting information
  • Detailed maps and photographs
  • Available in print and as a downloadable e-book

Szabados delivers a personal family story in a manner and format which is relevant to genealogists of all abilities and experience levels. I really appreciated learning all of the small details of Anna’s life, and the author went to great lengths to provide both everyday and crucial details in a way which is enjoyable to read. He makes important notes about availability of records, narratives, facts, and other essential information without interrupting the flow of the story. This is a great read which will please casual readers and researchers alike.

When you’re finished reading this book, you may be inspired to sit down and begin writing your own family history. Even if you do not consider yourself to be a writer, and if English wasn’t your favorite class in school, there are so many different publishing and software products available which can help you on your journey to pass memories and stories down to the next generation.

My Polish Grandmother: from Tragedy in Poland to her Rose Garden in America, is available from the Polish American Journal Bookstore or from the author at His site also offers a full list of his published books, Polish Genealogy assistance, and his speaking schedule.

Debra M. Dudek is Head of Adult and Teen Services at the Fountaindale Public Library District in Bolingbrook, Ill. She specializes in British genealogy and technology topics. She is currently pursuing a second master’s degree in Genealogical, Palaeographic & Heraldic Studies from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.


A Reason to Fall in Love with Polish Food from the BBC’s Renatka Behan

by Catherine A. Hamilton

Wild Honey and Rye: Modern Polish Recipes
(Interlink Books, 207 pp., $21.98)

Inspired by her Polish heritage, Renatka Behan writes an elegant cookbook that brings traditional Polish cuisine into the modern kitchen. “Love of good food and pride in my Polish heritage are the two things that inspired me to write this book.”

In her debut cookbook, Wild Honey and Rye: Modern Polish Recipes, acclaimed food writer for BBC Good Food Magazine Renatka Behan gives traditional Polish cuisine a fresh look. Her innovative twist on classic Polish recipes is as enticing as her whip-smart assortment of newly designed dishes—many of them inspired by recent food tours in Warsaw, the upbeat “food capital” of Poland.

“My aim is to introduce you to Polish food in a new way … with an emphasis on seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as a selection of healthy grains,” Behan says.

When asked, “Why fall in love with Polish food?” Behan replied that she could give hundreds of reasons, but she gives us five very good ones in her cookbook. The first is that “Polish food is fresh, vibrant, versatile and modern.” And you’ll find her recipes emphasize seasonal fruits and vegetables.

While Renatka may lighten a traditional Polish menu with her signature substitutions, she preserves what is at the heart of authentic Polish cooking: fresh garden goods, nature’s herbal seasonings, and homemade everything! From white cheese to flavored vodkas, Behan shares her art of making Polish cooking light, and she introduces the use of ancient grains—buckwheat, barely and millet—in place of rice and potatoes. A favorite is her Polish vegan version of risotto, “Kaszotto” (pp. 121-122), made with millet, mushrooms and veggie stock.

Wild Honey and Rye invites lovers of classic Polish cookery as well as those in search of fresh seasonal fare to discover new flavor combinations in soups, market salads, infused honey, vegetarian, vegan, seafood, and meat entrťes—and dumplings, of course. Featuring more than 100 beautiful recipes with extraordinary photography, from breakfast to dessert, Behan brings a new wave in Polish cookery. Written for both the novice and seasoned cook, Behan’s cookbook is coined “Modern Polish Cooking” (Nowoczesna Kuchnia Polska), because she simplifies many traditional recipes, decreasing time in the kitchen, and the results are both delicate and elegantly presented.

On each page expect to be transported in time—a bit of an escape to the Poland of old. Before you make Mizeria, a cucumber and dill salad, you visit the Queen of Poland in the 16th century. “Mizeria was said to have been the favourite salad of Queen Bona Sforza, an Italian noblewoman who married the Polish King Sigismund I (Zygmunt the Old) in 1518. She was homesick for Italy and was said to have brought all her Italian cooks with her to Poland to recreate the recipes she missed. ‘Mizeria’ derives from the Latin word for ‘misery’ – but though it doesn’t have the happiest name, it is one of the best-known salads in Poland.” Page 48 features this heirloom salad with its fresh new look that emphasizes presentation.

So enamored was I that I took a week off just to play in the kitchen and road test Behan’s recipes to my heart’s content! In the section titled “Light Bites and Street Food,” I was delighted to find a recipe for “Second Breakfast” (drugie śniadanie). Behan explains: “Kanapki, from the French word ‘canapť’, are a staple in Poland …. The Poles eat Kanapki (an open-faced sandwich) for breakfast, or sometimes for their second breakfast, ‘drugie sniadania’…” Who knew that anyone besides the hobbits of the Shire ate a second breakfast?

Behan’s recipes are written in English with the Polish recipe titles (and other Polish words of interest) appearing adjacent in italics. All measurements are conveniently displayed in both metric and the U.S. traditional “Imperial” system, using cups and ounces. Add to that the benefit of specific details on finding and using fresh ingredients, her building-block techniques, and suggested pairings with other recipes in the book. She even provides the pages numbers. The recipes are straight forward and easy to follow. From the beginning Ren invites the chef to go to the kitchen and experiment—a boon for the more advanced.

I moved easily through this cookbook, sampling recipes from the delights of Polish breakfast (śniadanie) to salads (sałatka), from Light Bites to Sweet Treats, loving the assortments of savory to sweets, the exploration of flavors, and new techniques.

Oh, for the pierogi, Renatka rolls out all of our favorites and then some. Seven different pierogi stuffings—including the fresh strawberry or blueberry recipes featured today!

Before becoming a chef and a food journalist, Behan was a defense attorney in England. Now a mother of three and a cookbook author, she was born and raised in England. On page one of her introduction we learn that Behan’s father, Longin, was named after the character in Henryk Sienkiewicz’s With Fire and Sword. Both Behan’s parents were born in Poland before World War II. Her father, uncle, and grandfather fought the Nazis in the 1st Armored Division in the West after being deported to the eastern regions of Russia, near Oblast Archangelsk. Her mother’s family was also deported and sent to labor camps, narrowly escaping with their lives when the war was over. They eventually made their way to safety in England.

“I have often caught myself trying to reconcile the very ‘Polishness’ of my upbringing with the British sleeve of my passport. Perhaps if I had been called Susan, I might have felt less Polish, but being the only ‘Renatka’ in a class of British children did make me stand out a bit.”

Behan’s parting word? “Smacznego!”


A Look at the Polish Presence in American Screen Images

CHICAGO — In “The Polish Presence in American Screen Images,” educator and film buff Joseph W. Zurowski annotates more than 800 films pointing out the “Polish presence,” how ever minuscule, in each. From well remembered to completely obscure, these films will surprise you, either because you never noticed that there was anything Polish about them or because you marvel at Zurowski’s perseverance in dissecting them for these Polish elements.

From film classics like A Streetcar Named Desire (with Marlon Brando as the brutish Stanley Kowalski) to the forgettable Invasion of the Bee Girls (with Katie Saylor as Gretchen Gudowsky), Zurowski has arranged the films alphabetcally with an alphabetical index, making the guide a little difficult to use (chronological listing with alphabetical index would have been more user friendly). The author restrains himself from too much editorializing in favor of explaining for example that “Karol is a common Polish name for Charles or Carl.” The introduction to the book is clearly more defensive, taking the film industry to task for everything from its spelling inaccuracies to its unrelenting ridicule of Poles and Polish Americans.

The Polish Presence in American Screen Images is a remarkable reminder that Polish Americans are portrayed in myriad ways in cinema. The next time you watch Gran Torino (2008), note that Clint Eastwood is portraying Walt Kowalski and judge for yourself what his Polishness has to do with the character.

The book is available from the Polish Musuem of America, and will be stocked by Polish American Journal Bookstore in time for Christmas orders.

All proceeds from the sale of “Screen Images” will directly benefit the Polish Museum of America.

— Leonard Kniffel


A Polish Christmas Comedy in Two Acts from Outskirts Press

DENVER — Outskirts Press announces “Right Angles: A Polish American Christmas Comedy in Two Acts” by Nicholas Divine, C.P. The 5.5 x 8.5 black & white paperback in the performing arts / theater / general category is available worldwide on book retailer websites such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble for a suggested retail price of $10.95. The webpage at was launched simultaneously with the book’s publication.

Set in a snowy New England mill town, “Right Angles” is a comedy that centers around the matriarch of a Polish American family, Kasia Angielski. Kasia is deeply concerned about doing the right thing for the right reason within the moral and cultural parameters of her fellow Poles; she’s also trying to understand the baffling customs of her new country. Join Kasia and her eccentric family and friends as she hosts the annual Wigilia, the traditional Polish Christmas Eve supper, when things go terribly wrong at one of the most reverent times of the year.

Deftly constructed at 78 pages, “Right Angles” is being aggressively promoted to appropriate markets with a focus on the performing arts / theater / general category. With the United States, wholesale distribution through Ingram and Baker & Taylor, and online availability through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and elsewhere. Additionally, “Right Angles” can be ordered by retailers or wholesalers for the maximum trade discount price set by the author in quantities of ten or more from the Outskirts Press Direct bookstore at

Nicholas Divine, C.P., a graduate of Holy Apostles College and Seminary, Cromwell, Conn., is a member of the Congregation of the Passion, a Roman Catholic Congregation of priests and brothers known as the Passionists. Nicholas was born, educated, and worshiped in Old Ward Four, a Polish American neighborhood in Holyoke, Mass. He served in the United States Army, taught in both public and Catholic schools, and served as a campus minister in Birmingham, Ala. He resides in the Passionist Community at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, pursuing further studies.

“Right Angles” is the author’s most recent book to date.

For more information, visit, or contact Brother Nicholas at [email protected].




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