& occasionally about other things, too...

Monday, October 14, 2013

To look for something and find the other...

Guest post 
by Aleksandra Skiba

It was pure chance that I visited http://www.joga-joga.pl/ I've been training yoga for seven years but, to tell the truth, my interests concentrated on the asanas than philosophy itself. The yoga accessories which I wanted to see were to help me to simplify my exercises and only by accident I noticed a title of an article which was advertised there.

It read: Wanda Dynowska (Umadevi – Bogini Światła) by Kazimierz Tokarski.
If it had been just a Polish name I would have left it without a second look but it seemed like a strange or rather an exotic compilation. I looked at the preface and didn't realize when I finished the whole article – fascinated by its subject, its heroine.
Wanda Dynowska seemed an unusual woman who met unusual people.
Wanda Dynowska - Umadevi
She was acquainted with Mahatma Gandhi who called her Umadevi, and Dalai Lama who said in all probability about her that a Polish woman encouraged him to vegetarianism. She spent her life helping people and it didn’t matter to her whether one was a Hindu or a Pole or a Tibetan.
She searched her path between her Polish roots and her Indian choice but the thing which drew my attention was her involvement in writing, translation and the most important part – publishing.
Over 30 years Dynowska's Polish-Indian Library (Biblioteka Polsko-Indyjska) was bringing Indian literature closer to Polish language readers. But her activity, known only to a niche, was broadly unrevealed.
I decided to find out more about her work on this field. I knew it could be an uneasy task.
She published in India in the second half of the last century, so sending the books to Poland, which at that time was behind the iron curtain, must have been a challenge even if books didn't include political topics.
Wondering if there is anything in Poland, and more closer in my town on Dynowska, I started my search – as a typical librarian would – from a catalogue. To my great joy, I found many works listed on the Polish union catalogue KaRo. What's more important, I found the books belonging to Dynowska's series in Książnica Pomorska, my home library.
I discovered also there were two series Indian-Polish and Polish-Indian Library which included reprints as well as original works. The first one was to show the English-speaking readers Poland with its geography, history, policy and culture. The second series was directed to the Polish readers and contained Dynowska's own writing and her translations related to yoga, religious or mystic topics and literature.
My efforts of getting information about Dynowska's publishing activity started to take a proper shape but I didn't know that another figure would emerge on the stage soon.
The next step to broaden my knowledge was to borrow the books which Książnica Pomorska had in its collection. I did it and began to look at them, studying the text and the covers and mastheads. Studying the mastheads I noticed a name which was repeated constantly as a publisher's one, Maurycy Frydman.
Maurycy Frydman - Bharatanda
I had encountered the name for the first time in Tokarski's article and when I began to see his name more frequently, I decided to look closer at his activity. It wasn't an easy task though.
Frydman led a modest life and didn't reveal too much information about himself. Known as Bharatanda he was a Mahatma Gandhi's friend and a person absorbed in such experiments as drafting a new constitution for the State of Aundh, or organising a free custodian colony in Atpadi.
It was also obvious there were strong friendship and cooperation between him and Dynowska but it appeared his involvement in the publishing was more important than I thought at the beginning. Although he didn't translate the texts or edit them, he supported the process of publishing for years. I discovered later, he took over Polish-Indian Library when Dynowska, being 81 years old, retired from her duties.
Going on with my search in the paper and online sources I was impressed by two Poles' effort. Living abroad they published about 132 books almost without help and with limited amount of money (they started with a sum earned by Dynowska at the Polish Consulate in Bombay in 1940s).
The books were published in a small number of copies but some of them had even second edition and many of them contained not only the text but also illustrations, footnotes, comments. I believe that such efforts need to be remembered and recorded for posterity. That is the reason I wrote an article on them which will be published in Bibliotekarz Zachodniopomorski, a Książnica Pomorska periodical.
I hope there will be an English-language publisher who would be interested in Dynowska and Frydman's publishing activity too. The English version of my article is still waiting for its editor.

About the author: Aleksandra Skiba is a librarian at Pomeranian Library (The Central Library of the West Pomeranian Province) in the Polish city of Szczecin
Read previous post on GAB on the same / related subject: Rediscovering a poet

Wanda Dynowska - Umadevi: http://cosmopolitanreview.com/wanda-dynowska-umadevi/
Maurycy Frydman - Bharatanda: http://www.gurusfeet.com/guru/maurice-frydman

Cosmopolitan Review a transatlantic review of things Polish, in English has more articles of on similar subjects by Irene Tomaszewski. Tomaszewski is a writer, editor at CR, founding president of the Montreal-based Canadian Foundation for Polish Studies and program director of Poland in the Rockies. She is the author of "Inside a Gestapo Prison 1942-44: The Letters of Krystyna Wituska" and "Codename Żegota: The Most Dangerous Conspiracy in Occupied Europe," co-authored with Tecia Werbowski, published by Praeger in Spring 2010.

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