Wanda Wasilewska

Wanda Wasilewska
Native name Polish: Wanda Wasilewska
Ukrainian: Ванда Львівна Василевська
Russian: Ванда Львовна Василевская
Born (1905-01-21)21 January 1905
Kraków, Austria-Hungary
Died 29 July 1964(1964-07-29) (aged 58)
Kiev, Soviet Union
Resting place Baikove Cemetery
Occupation Prose writer, poet, playwright, screenwriter, editor, political activist
Language Polish language
Residence Kraków, Warsaw, Lviv, Kiev
Citizenship  Poland
 Soviet Union
Alma mater Jagiellonian University
Genre Novel, story
Literary movement Socialist realism
Spouse Roman Szymański (1935–31),
Marian Bogatko (1936–40),
Oleksandr Korniychuk (1939–1967)
Children Ewa Wasilewska

Wanda Wasilewska (Polish pronunciation: [ˈvanda vaɕiˈlɛfska]), also known by Russian name Vanda Lvovna Vasilevskaya (Russian: Ва́нда Льво́вна Василе́вская) (21 January 1905 29 July 1964), was a Polish and Soviet novelist and left-wing political activist. She fled the German attack on Warsaw in September 1939 and took up residence in Soviet-occupied Lviv and eventually in the Soviet Union. She was the founder of the Union of Polish Patriots there and played an important role in the creation of the Polish 1st Tadeusz Kościuszko Infantry Division. The division developed into the Polish People's Army and fought on the Eastern Front during World War II. Wasilewska was a trusted consultant to Joseph Stalin and her influence was essential to the establishment of the Polish Committee of National Liberation in July 1944, and thus to the formation of the Polish People's Republic.


Wasilewska was born, the second of three daughters, on 25 January 1905 in Kraków, Poland. Her father was Leon Wasilewski, a Polish Socialist Party (PPS) politician and first foreign minister of the newly re-emerging independent Poland. She studied philosophy at the University of Warsaw and Polish language and Polish literature at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. After graduation she remained in Kraków and achieved her doctorate in 1927. While studying she started cooperation with the Union of Socialist Youth and the Society of Workers' Universities.

Soon after she finished her studies she started working as a school teacher and a journalist for various left-wing newspapers, among them Naprzód, Robotnik, Dziennik Popularny and Oblicze Dnia. She also became the chairperson of the Płomyk and Płomyczek monthlies for children, where she introduced Soviet propaganda. Although she was often criticised for her radical left-wing opinions, she joined the PPS instead of the communist party, where she was soon promoted to a member of the main party council. In her early political career she supported an alliance of all the left-wing parties including the communists against the ruling Sanation. She was also an active supporter of many strikes in Poland. During one of the demonstrations in Kraków she met Marian Bogatko, whom she later married. In 1936 Wasilewska, among other left-wing Polish and Western Ukrainian writers, participated in the Lviv Ant-Fascist Congress of Cultural Workers.

After the Polish defeat in the Invasion of Poland in 1939 and the partition of the country into Soviet and German occupied zones, she moved to Lviv where she automatically became a Soviet citizen. The Gestapo acting at the request of the NKVD helped to transfer her daughter and her furniture from Warsaw to Lviv.[1] She was associated with various communist organisations uniting local Polish and Ukrainian communists. She was also a journalist for Czerwony Sztandar ('The Red Banner'), a pro-Soviet newspaper printed in Polish. In early 1940, Joseph Stalin awarded her a seat in the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union. She also became the chair of the Dramatic Theatre in Lviv. After the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Wasilewska fled before the advancing Nazi army and joined the Red Army as a war correspondent and a functionary of the Political Commandment (Politupravleniye) of the Red Army, with the military rank of colonel.[2] She was also one of the founders (together with Jerzy Putrament) of the Nowe Widnokręgi monthly.

After consultations with Stalin she became the head of the Union of Polish Patriots (Związek Patriotów Polskich), a mass-membership political and social organization for Polish citizens in the Soviet Union, formed in 1943. In 1944 she also became deputy chief of the Polish Committee of National Liberation (PKWN), a provisional government sponsored by the Soviet Union and established in Lublin, in opposition to the Polish government-in-exile in London. Wasilewska at times favoured the incorporation of Poland as a republic of the Soviet Union.[3]

After the war, Wasilewska decided to stay in the Soviet Union and retired from public life. Stalin is said to have valued her opinion more highly than those of other Polish communists.[4] Wasilewska had limited Russian and Ukrainian language abilities, but was a long-term member of the Supreme Soviet. She died on 29 July 1964 in Kiev and is buried in the Baikove Cemetery.

She also became involved in a relationship with Ukrainian playwright Oleksandr Korniychuk, with whom she moved to Kiev.

Wasilewska was a triple recipient of the Stalin Prize for literature (1943, 1946, 1952). During Stalin's lifetime she was considered a classic writer of Soviet literature and her works were included in the Soviet school curriculum. She was almost completely forgotten as a writer after Stalin's death in 1953.[5]


Wanda Wasilewska was one of the first Polish writers to follow the rules of socialist realism. She wrote several novels and a handful of poems. The communist government in Poland named countless streets and schools after her and she was one of the most notable figures in communist society. After the war, some of her books were obligatory school reading.

  • Królewski syn (1933)
  • Oblicze Dnia (1934)
  • Kryształowa Kula Krzysztofa Kolumba (1934)
  • Ojczyzna (1935)
  • Legenda o Janie z Kolna (1936)
  • Płomień na bagnach (1940)
  • Pieśń nad Wodami (a trilogy: 1940, 1950, 1952)
  • Tęcza (1944)
  • Po prostu miłość (1945)
  • Gwiazdy w jeziorze (1950)
  • Rzeki płoną (1952)
  • Pokój na poddaszu (1954)
  • Że padliście w boju (1958)


  • Aleksander Wat, Mój Wiek Warszawa 1990
  • Helena Zatorska, Wanda Wasilewska, Warszawa 1977
  • Adam Ciołkosz, Wanda Wasilewska: dwa szkice biograficzne, Polonia Book Fund: Londyn 1977
  • Eleonora Salwa-Syzdek, Działalność Wandy Wasilewskiej w latach drugiej wojny światowej, Warszawa 1981
  • Ed. Eleonora Salwa-Syzdek, Wanda Wasilewska we wspomnieniach, Warszawa 1982
  • Eleonora Syzdek, W jednym życiu - tak wiele, Warszawa 1965
  • Zmarła Wanda Wasilewska. "Nowiny", p. 1–2, No. 179, 30 July 1964

See also


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