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Jane Rogoyska is a writer and historian whose work explores themes of conflict, exile, identity, memory and politics in 20th-century Europe. She has a particular interest in the turbulent period between the 1930s and the beginning of the Cold War, with a recent focus on Poland’s wartime and post-war experience.
She studied Modern Languages at Cambridge University and film direction at the NSFTV in Leeds and the Polish National Film School in Łódź, working extensively as a filmmaker before deciding to focus on her own research. Her books include the first English-language biography of the photojournalist Gerda Taro and the prize-winning ‘Surviving Katyń’ (Mark Lynton History Prize, 2022). She has also collaborated on projects in radio, film, theatre and photography.
Writing about Katyń
My grandfather was a Polish economist and civil servant. At the outbreak of the Second World War he was Deputy Director of the Bank of Poland. In his youth, he had been a member of the Polish intelligence services and fought for Polish independence with Marshal Piłsudski.
My father’s early memories of fleeing Warsaw with his parents on a specially commissioned government train (along with government gold hidden under the floorboards) has always exerted a powerful fascination over me. That journey marks a transition: not just the moment when my father’s destiny changed irrevocably but the point at which the sophisticated, cosmopolitan, multicultural Poland of the 1930s, to which my grandfather and the protagonists of Kozłowski and Surviving Katyń belonged, came to an abrupt end.
My mother is English. I was brought up speaking only English at home. I learned Polish as an adult, travelling to Poland for the first time as a student in 1990 just as the brutal legacy of the Second World War, including the Katyń Massacre, was being discussed openly for the first time. My fascination with war, politics, espionage, exile and memory has its roots in my family background and in that first encounter with a freshly post-communist country, grappling with its past.
In an unexpected irony, during my research I discovered that my great-uncle, Ludwik Rynkowski, was among those murdered at Katyń.