Pani Stefa and the Orphans
Out of the Shadow of Korczak
Translated by Sean Gasper Bye
At a moment when communists were engineering a New Man, and Zionists a New Jew, a doctor and a teacher devoted themselves to a social experiment: raising a new child.
Their orphanage is set amidst the desperate poverty of Jewish Warsaw; often the children are not orphans, but rather children of mothers unable to care for them, making their way out of rat-infested rooms with dirt floors or frozen cellars. In this polyphonic work of literary non-fiction, Magdalena Kicinska shifts the gaze from the legendary Dr. Korczak to the inscrutable Pani Stefa.
Artfully – in a style reminiscent of Hanna Krall and Agata Tuszyńska – the author pieces together a story of a life: a Polish Jewess who spoke French but not Yiddish; a pedagogue who was as demanding as she was self-sacrificing; a lonely woman who rarely in her life had a moment of privacy. In doing so, Kicińska shows us how it is sometimes the drama of history’s minor characters, which can cast the most penetrating light on their world.
Paperback 372 pages