Anna Onichimowska

Anna Onichimowska was born in Poland in 1952 and studied Polish Language and Literature.  For several years she worked as a children’s book publisher and editor and in 1980 brought out her own collection of poems, ‘Gdybym miał konia’ (Engl: If I had a Horse).  Since then she has published over twenty books for children and adolescents of all ages, over forty plays for radio and theatre, and scripts for television.  In her children’s books, Anna Onichimowska advances the traditional form of the short story within the Polish tradition. In the spirit of Janucz Korczaks, she looks to the everyday problems of her young readers, infusing them with sensitive humour and elements of the fantastic.  Thus in her collection of stories „Najwyźsza góra świata“ (1996; Engl: The Highest Mountain in the World), the little protagonists live through arduous moments: illness and death in the family, separation of parents, exclusion and solitude, but also, experience from the point of view of adults, smaller existential problems such as the longing for a pet.  As in many of her other works, there is no sharp distinction between reality and fantasy in her children’s novel, ‘Koniec œwiata i poziomki’ (1999; Engl: The End of the World and Wild Strawberries).  Here the travel adventures of a family – which she relates by means of classical fairytale elements such as transformation, capture and discovery of treasure – seem to be a common game in which reality forms only a part of the great world of fantasy.  ‘Dzieci zorzy polarnej’ (1998; Engl: Children of the Northern Lights), a collection of short stories written with the Finnish author Tom Paxal, are inspired by Scandinavian myths. Here too magic, dream and sensations determine the experiences of the protagonists.  In „Hera moja miłość” (2003; Engl: Heroin, my Love), Onichimowska depicts how easily young people can become junkies, and how drug addiction can lead to unintended and dramatic consequences.  Her portrayal is honest and disturbing.  She outspokenly describes adolescents as moody, and portrays adults in their frequently self-referential way of life.  Her book brims with confidence, but also shows how love can cement what appeared to be broken for a long time.
Anna Onichimowska has won multiple awards both in Poland and abroad, among them the Kornel Makuszyñski Literature Prize in 1997 and the IBBY Diploma in 2001. At the fourth European KIBUM in Saarbrücken, her illustrated book ‘Żółta zasypianka’ (2000; Engl: Yellow Lullaby) came out in a German and French translation.  Onichimowska is the director of the Świat Dziecka Foundation and second chairwoman of the Polish IBBY Section. She lives in Warsaw.

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