Irene Tomaszewski

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Irene Tomaszewski (also Irena Tomaszewska, born May 1940) is a Canadian writer, editor and translator of Polish descent living in Montreal, Canada.[1]

Early life[edit]

Irene Tomaszewski (Tomaszewska, in proper Polish usage, since she is female) was born in 1940 to Polish parents in the Soviet Union's Rosochy prison, in the Arkhangelsk Oblast gulag. In June 1941, after Germany attacked its former Soviet ally, the family was released from the gulag.[2] In 1942, along with tens of thousands of other Poles, they were evacuated from the Soviet Union to the Near East. On their way south, Tomaszewski's mother Anna, pregnant with Irena, and her two sisters Wanda and Halina, were separated from the children's father, Felix.[3] In 1949, after six years in an East Africa refugee camp, the family were reunited in England, and subsequently emigrated to Canada.[4][5]


Tomaszewski was a founding president of the Canadian Foundation for Polish Studies. She co-authored, with Tecia Werbowski, Codename Żegota: Rescuing Jews in Occupied Poland, 1942-1945,[6][7] on a clandestine organization that helped Jews in Poland.[8]

Tomaszewski wrote the screenplay for the 1999 film based on the book, titled Żegota: The Council for Aid to Jews in Occupied Poland, 1942-45.

She translated the text and acted as editor for Inside a Gestapo Prison: The Letters of Krystyna Wituska, 1942-1944, published by Wayne State University Press in 2006.[9] The Tomaszewski translation was published earlier in 1997 under the title, I Am First a Human Being: The Prison Letters of Krystyna Wituska.[10] Books in Canada reviewed the work, noting that Tomaszewski first came across the letters while working on a documentary on Poland for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The translation draws on the earlier Polish language book by Dr. Wanda Kiedrzynska and from others who knew or were related to Wituska.[11] The book also contains an explanatory list of people mentioned in the correspondence.[12]

She is the editor of the Cosmopolitan Review, the quarterly, English-language magazine on Polish affairs.[4][13]

In 1999, Tomaszewski was invited to give the ninth Milewski Polish Studies Lecture at Central Connecticut State University on the topic of: "The Holocaust: Remembrance and Education". Professor Stanislaus Blejwas, in his introduction to the published address, called Tomaszewski one of the thoughtful voices in the discussion between Jews and Poles about the Holocaust.[14]

In 2014, Tomaszewski was the keynote speaker at the opening of Toronto's presentation of an exhibit about Jan Karski, "The World Knew – Jan Karski’s Mission for Humanity".[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Inside a Gestapo Prison | Wayne State University Press". Retrieved 2018-06-23.
  2. ^ Tomaszewski, Irene; Werbowski, Tecia (1999). Żegota: the Council for Aid to Jews in Occupied Poland, 1942-45. Price-Patterson. ISBN 9781896881157.
  3. ^ "Profile". KresySiberia. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  4. ^ a b "How to honour the victims of communism". Ottawa Citizen. 26 June 2015. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  5. ^ "DePaul and Screen New Film on Jewish Rescue". Retrieved 2018-06-23.
  6. ^ ABC-CLIO. "Code Name Zegota". Retrieved 2018-06-23.
  7. ^ "The exibition about Jan Karski in Toronto within the Holocaust Education Week". Retrieved 2018-06-23.
  8. ^ "Zegota : the rescue of Jews in wartime Poland / Irene Tomaszewski and Tecia Werbowski - Collections Search - United States Holocaust Memorial Museum". Retrieved 2018-06-23.
  9. ^ Tomaszewski, Irene (2006-05-18). Inside a Gestapo Prison: The Letters of Krystyna Wituska, 1942-1944. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 9780814338872.
  10. ^ "I am First a Human Being : The Prison Letters of Krystyna Wituska". Worldcat. OCLC 40939768. Retrieved 2018-07-03.
  11. ^ Maria Kubacki. "Epistolary Contraband - bearing witness to remaining human". Books in Canada. Retrieved 2018-07-03.
  12. ^ "Bibliographies: Poles". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 2018-07-08.
  13. ^ "Irene Tomaszewski — The Cosmopolitan Review". Retrieved 2018-06-23.
  14. ^ Irene Tomaszewski (2000). Stanislaus Blejwas, ed. "Milewski Polish Studies Lecture" (pdf). Central Connecticut State University. ISSN 1092-4280. Retrieved 2018-07-08.
  15. ^ "CIJA partners with the Polish and Jewish communities". Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. November 21, 2014. Retrieved 2018-07-08.

External links[edit]