Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Recalling Gen. Jaroslaw Dombrowski

The 140th anniversary of the suicidal death of Gen. Jaroslaw Dombrowski(aka Dabroski) via a knowingly fruitless stand on rue Myrha during the waning moments of the Paris Commune was two weeks ago on May 23, 2011.
For some unknown reason a Polish-French committee observed that occasion on May 25, 2011 in rue Myrha. I came across a reference to that date while doing some casual browsing in preparation of another rewrite of my novel, BEN CONNOLLY. I originally undertook this novel as a fictionalization of the life of Januarius A. MacGahan. I was in love with that project and spent 10 years of writing and research. The end result crashed on take off and was unreadable. I tried to resurrect MacGahan by changing him from a restricting historical character to the imagined Ben Connolly. That turned out not to be much of a novel either.
The best part of the experience was spending 30 days in Paris in 1984 when the dollar loomed like Mount Everest over the franc. I ate in a lot of good restaurants while roaming the scenes of the Paris Commune of 1871.
Getting back to Dombrowski: he became a red hero, a martyr to the cause, celebrated with a Polish biopic in 1975 directed by Bohdan Poreba, in the Spanish Civil War the Dabroski Battalion bore his name, at least one Polish school in Warsaw is named after him, and there are statues of him in the Ukraine.
Although he was a Russian officer, he joined the Polish uprising against the Czar in 1862 and wound up being sentenced to Siberia. He escaped, joined the Parisians—called the Communards--revolting against the French government, and eventually became the commanding general of the Communard forces. He was 34 when he accepted his fate and the hopelessness of escaping from Paris in his charge against the federal force on rue Myrha.
I have two Nineteenth Century biographies of Dombrowski, one in French, the other in German. Back in the 1980s, I flashed through the German version picking out bits of information at the New York Public Library. Recently through the joys of Google I found bookstores with scanned copies of the originals. I purchased both I don’t know if I will ever get around to the painful task of translating them. My German is limited and my French is worse.

A suggestion: My novel, THE PENCIL ARTIST is available as an e-book on Smashwords, Kindle, and Barnes and Noble; as a paperback on Amazon.

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