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Jastrun, Mieczysław

(Original surname Agatstein; 1903–1983), poet and essayist. Mieczysław Jastrun studied German and Polish philology and subsequently worked as a high-school teacher, publishing poetry in literary journals. After World War II, which he survived on the so-called Aryan side in Warsaw, Jastrun joined the Communist Party and edited the government-sponsored journal Kuźnica (1945–1949). After breaking with the party in 1957, he belonged to the group of writers actively defending freedom of speech.

Jastrun’s publications include the volumes of poetry Spotkanie w czasie (Meeting in Time; 1929), Dzieje nieostygłe (History Is Cooling Down; 1935), Strumień i milczenie (Stream and Silence; 1937), Godzina strzeżona (lit., “Protected Hour,” a Polish translation of a Hebrew term for the times when God hears one’s prayers; 1944), Rzecz ludzka (A Human Matter; 1946), Poemat o mowie polskiej (Poem about the Polish Language; 1952), Gorący popiół (Hot Ashes; 1956), and Punkty świecące (Shining Points; 1980). He also wrote the novels Mickiewicz (1949), Poeta i dworzanin (Poet and Courtier; 1954), and Piękna choroba (Beautiful Illness; 1961); the collections of essays Mit śródziemnomorski (Mediterranean Myth; 1962) and Poezja i rzeczywistość (Poetry and Reality; 1965); and the memoirs Smuga światła (Streak of Light; 1983) and Dziennik 1955–1981 (Diary 1955–1981; 2002). Jastrun also translated German, Russian, and French literature.

While neo-symbolism and a catastrophic worldview permeated his early poetry, Jastrun’s first postwar works echo the new historical experiences of socialism; he later returned to classic Polish and Mediterranean traditions. Except for a handful of poems inspired by the Holocaust (according to Artur Sandauer, “confessions of a Marrano hiding on the Aryan side”), Jastrun shunned Jewish themes. In 1944 a few poems, “Pieśń żydowskiego chłopca” (Song of a Jewish Boy), “Żydzi” (Jews), and “Poległym” (To the Fallen) appeared in the underground publication Z otchłani (From the Abyss) and in Godzina strzeżona. In his diaries Jastrun analyzes his own survival, wartime Polish–Jewish relations, and the issue of assimilation.

Suggested Reading

Natan Gross, “Żydowski problem Jastruna,” in Poeci i Szoa: Obraz zagłady Żydów w poezji polskiej, pp. 125–129 (Sosnowiec, Pol., 1993); Jacek Łukasiewicz, Mieczysława Jastruna spotkania w czasie (Warsaw, 1982); Mieczysław Jastrun, Dzienniki i wspomnienia, (Warsaw, 1955); Mieczysław Jastrun, Dziennik, 1955–1981 (Kraków, 2002); Artur Sandauer, On the Situation of the Polish Writer of Jewish Descent in the Twentieth Century, trans. Abe Shenitzer and Sarah Shenitzer (Jerusalem 2005).



Translated from Polish by Christina Manetti; revised by Magda Opalski