Jan Brzechwa

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Jan Brzechwa
Jan Brzechwa
Jan Brzechwa
BornJan Wiktor Lesman
(1898-08-15)15 August 1898
Żmerynka, Podolia
Died2 July 1966(1966-07-02) (aged 67)
Warsaw, Poland
Resting placePowązki Cemetery
OccupationPoet, Lawyer
Notable worksTańcowała igła z nitką
Akademia Pana Kleksa

Jan Brzechwa (Polish pronunciation: [ˈbʐɛxfa]), (15 August 1898 – 2 July 1966) was a Polish poet, author and lawyer, known mostly for his contribution to children's literature. He was born Jan Wiktor Lesman to a Polish family of Jewish descent.[1]

Early life[edit]

Brzechwa was born in Żmerynka, Podolia. His father was a railway engineer and Jan spent a lot of his childhood travelling around Eastern Poland ("Kresy") with his family. Brzechwa studied at the Jesuit college in Chyrów, (present day Khyriv in Ukraine), and upon moving from Podolia to Warsaw, he graduated from the School of Law at the Warsaw University. During the Polish-Soviet War, he volunteered for the 36th Regiment of the Academic Infantry Legion, a formation composed of university students and was decorated for his service. His formal writing debut took place in 1920 by way of various humor magazines. He worked as a lawyer and attorney for the Polish Society of Authors and Composers (ZAIKS) where he specialized and excelled in copyright law.[2]

Brzechwa was a cousin of another famous Polish poet, Bolesław Leśmian. He was married three times; first to Maria Sunderland, his first cousin once removed[3] and a niece of the renowned Polish artist Celina Sunderland,[4][circular reference] then to Karolina Lentowa (née Meyer), and finally to Janina Magajewska (1915–1989). His daughter from his first marriage, Krystyna (born 1928), is a painter.

Literary output[edit]

Jan Brzechwa was the writer's pseudonym. The name Brzechwa translates into 'fletching' (the tail section of an arrow). His poetry was written mostly in the melodic style of the 8-syllable accentual verse, the most popular rhythmic structure among the Polish stylistic variations.[5]

In 1926 he published Oblicza zmyślone ("Imaginary visages"), his first book of poems. His first set of poems for children Tańcowała igła z nitką ("Danced the needle with the thread") was published in 1937. Among his most popular works is Chrząszcz (The Beetle), a poem proverbial for containing one the hardest-to-pronounce phrases in Polish literature.[6] Its first line "W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie" (In the town of Szczebrzeszyn a beetle buzzes in the reeds) is the best known Polish tongue-twister, in which almost all of the consonants make distinct buzzing sounds. Brzechwa is also popular in Poland for having written a number of lyrical children's poems. He was a translator of Russian literature, translating works by Aleksandr Pushkin, Sergey Yesienin and Vladimir Mayakovskiy.

Brzechwa also wrote a long-running series of children's books based on the adventures of Pan Kleks, the headmaster of a magical academy, and his students. Many of the Kleks books and plot points were made into a series of films in the 1980s, while the poem Pchła Szachrajka (Adventures of a Cheating Flea) was developed into an animated film in 1989.

Many of Brzechwa's texts have been translated into English by Walter Whipple, but as of 2004 they have yet to be published. Brzechwa died in Warsaw in 1966 and is buried at the Powązki Cemetery, the most famous cemetery in the city.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brzechwa, Jan (1898–1966) The YIVO encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, Volume 1. Yale University Press, 2008. ISBN 0-300-11903-8.
  2. ^ "Jan Brzechwa | Życie i twórczość | Artysta".
  3. ^ "Jan Brzechwa | Życie i twórczość | Artysta".
  4. ^ pl:Celina Sunderland
  5. ^ Reinhard Köhler, Gabriel Altmann, Raĭmond Genrikhovich Piotrovskiĭ, Quantitative linguistics. Walter de Gruyter, 2005. ISBN 3-11-015578-8.
  6. ^ Kwapisz, Jan; Petrain, David; Szymanski, Mikolaj (6 December 2012). The Muse at Play: Riddles and Wordplay in Greek and Latin Poetry. Walter de Gruyter. p. 1. ISBN 978-3-11-027061-7.

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