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Building the Barricade - Anna Świrszczyńska - translated by Piotr Florczyk - Introduction by Eavan Boland
$20.00 - ISBN 978-1-945680-68-7

Building the Barricade, a volume of poems by the Polish poet Anna Świrszczyńska (1909-1984), is a seminal collection of poetry of witness. Divided into three sections, the poems document Świrszczyńska’s experience as a military nurse during the sixty-three days of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. 


In a statement regarding the publication of Building the Barricade Świrszczyńska wrote: “Life in Warsaw during the Uprising was a nightmare. The city was deprived of water, electricity, gas, and food supplies. For the most part, the sewer system did not function; the hospitals had no medicines or clean water. Day and night German bombers raged over the capital, burying the living beneath the rubble.”

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“Anna Świrszczyńska's elemental, extractive accountings of the Warsaw Uprising present a history of pain and of personhood so irremediable and unembellished that neither can be stripped from even the dead. Building the Barricade, harrowing and demanding, here takes its place in English among the twentieth century's master works of war-witness.” 


—Jane Hirshfield


"'War made me another person,' said Anna Świrszczyńska. Building the Barricade is the outcome of that change in that it took thirty years for these experiences to find their way into language. But the poem is also, undoubtedly, an agent of change, for us as well as her. Stanza by stanza we see the speaker transformed, stripped of anything but the terrible truths she is recording." 

—Eavan Boland


Anna Świrszczyńska was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1909. She attended Warsaw University where she studied medieval and baroque Polish literature. She began publishing poems in the 1930s. During the Nazi occupation of Poland, Świrszczyńska joined the Polish Resistance and was a military nurse during the Warsaw Uprising. Anna Świrszczyńska died in Krakow of cancer in 1984.


Piotr Florczyk is the author of East & West, a volume of poems, Barefoot, a chapbook of poems, and Los Angeles Sketchbook, a collection of brief essays and photographs. He has also translated several books of Polish poetry. He teaches global literary studies at the University of Washington, Seattle. 

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