Jerzy Kronhold

Portrait Jerzy Kronhold
© Hartwig Klappert

Jerzy Kronhold was born in Silesian Cieszyn near the Czech border in 1946. He studied Polish Language and Literature at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków and Theatre Direction at the National Academy for Theatre in Warsaw. The poet and playwright debuted with his first texts in 1965. Following the unrest and demonstrations of March 1968 in Poland he joined the Group Teraz (Now) which is considered as belonging to the poets’ circle »New Wave«. This formed in opposition to the ideology and language of the ruling political system and championed the opening of the socialist aesthetic towards everyday life. Kronhold’s first volume of poems, »Samopalenie« (1972; t: Self-combustion), is both radical and provocative and explicitly shows its sympathy for the rebellious youth movement.

In the eighties he belonged to the activists of what is today the Polish-Czech-Slovakian foundation »Solidarity«, which at the time arose from the collaboration of independent movements in the two neighbouring countries. One year before, his second collection of poems »Baranek Lawiny« (1980; t: The Lambkin of the avalanche) appeared, and was followed shortly afterwards by »Oda do ognia« (1982; t: Ode to fire). In 1984 Kronhold’s poem »Astigmatismus« was translated into German and published in the anthology »Ein Jahrhundert geht zu Ende« (t: A century draws to its close).
For the twenty-first anniversary of the Warsaw Pact in 1989 Kronhold organised a demonstration in his hometown Cieszyn, in which some members of parliament took part and during which Polish citizens apologised to Czechs for the participation of Polish soldiers in the quelling of the Prague Spring uprising. Following the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, Kronhold founded the theatre festival »Na granicy« (On the Border) and published his poetry volume »Niż« (1990; t: Deep). He became the Polish Consul General in Ostrava, Czech Republic, in 1991 and for the past few years has been the head of the Polish Cultural Institute in Bratislava.
Kronhold presented his most recent volume of poetry in 2000, »Wiek Brazu« (t: Bronze Ages), which brought him renewed recognition as poet. In these short poems the author carries out a gentle and sometimes ironic departure from the gestures of impetuous protests. Some of the icons from his youth, figures such as Jan Palach and Ulrike Meinhof, are quoted, as well as Jesus, whose name however turns out to be an illuminated advertisement for jeans. Here, as opposed to his early texts, the author filters the miraculous and the momentous through various aspects of everyday life.
In 2004 Kronhold was awarded the Golden Cross of Merit by the Republic of Poland for his service to the advancement of understanding between Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. He lives in the countryside with his family.

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