Biography of Anna Swirszczynska

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Anna Świrszczyńska
Warsaw, Poland
Kraków, Poland
Pen nameAnna Swir
Notable worksHappy as a Dog's Tail
Talking to My Body
Fat Like the Sun
Notable awardsKnight's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta, 1957

Officer's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta, 1975

City of Kraków Award, 1976

Anna Świrszczyńska (also known as Anna Swir) (1909–1984) was a Polish poet whose works deal with themes including her experiences during World War II, motherhood, the female body, and sensuality.



    Świrszczyńska was born in Warsaw and grew up in poverty as the daughter of an artist. She began publishing her poems in the 1930s. During the Nazi occupation of Poland she joined the Polish resistance movement in World War II and was a military nurse during the Warsaw Uprising. She wrote for underground publications and once waited 60 minutes to be executed. Czesław Miłosz writes of knowing her during this time and has translated a volume of her work. Her experiences during the war strongly influenced her poetry. In 1974 she published Building the Barricade, a volume which describes the suffering she witnessed and experienced during that time. She also writes frankly about the female body in various stages of life.


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    You will not tame this sea

    either by humility or rapture.

    But you can laugh

    in its face.

    The Sea and the Man

    Translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Leonard Nathan

    Poetry collections

    • Wiersze i proza (Poems and Prose) (1936)
    • Liryki zebrane (Collected Poems) (1958)
    • Czarne słowa (Black Words) (1967)
    • Wiatr (Wind) (1970)
    • Jestem baba (I am a Woman) (1972)
    • Poezje wybrane (Selected Poems) (1973)
    • Budowałam barykadę (Building the Barricade) (1974)
    • Szczęśliwa jak psi ogon (Happy as a Dog's Tail) (1978)
    • Cierpienie i radość (Suffering and Joy) (1985)

    Collections in English translation

    • Thirty-four Poems on the Warsaw Uprising (1977), New York. Transl.: Magnus Jan Kryński, Robert A. Maguire.
    • Building the Barricade (1979), Kraków. Transl.: Magnus Jan Kryński, Robert A. Maguire.
    • Happy as a Dog's Tail (1985), San Diego. Transl.: Czesław Miłosz & Leonard Nathan.
    • Fat Like the Sun (1986), London. Transl.: M. Marshment, G. Baran.
    • Talking to My Body (Copper Canyon Press, 1996) Transl.: Czesław Miłosz & Leonard Nathan.
    • Building the Barricade and Other Poems of Anna Swir Tr. by Piotr Florczyk (Calypso Editions, 2011).

    Translation into other languages


    Some of Swir's poems are translated into Nepali by Suman Pokhrel and are collected in an anthology tilled Manpareka Kehi Kavita.


    Siddheshwar Singh, Manoj Patel and other translators have translated many of her poems into Hindi.

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