cmilosz.jpgCzeslaw Milosz, a Polish writer, educator and Nobel laureate, died on Aug. 14. Cause of death was not released. He was 93.
Born in Szetejnie (now Lithuania), Milosz studied classical languages and law at the University of Vilnius. He published his first two volumes of poetry while working for the Polish Radio in the 1930s, then watched in horror as the German and Soviet troops invaded his country during World War II. In response, Milosz penned essays for the Resistance in Warsaw.
Fluent in six languages, Milosz served in the diplomatic service of the People’s Poland after the war ended. He became disillusioned with Stalinism, however, and in 1951, sought political asylum in France. After his defection, his published work was banned in Poland, but continued to circulate underground. Milosz was often suicidal during this time period, yet he channeled his pain into several books, including “The Captive Mind,” which discussed the plight of intellectuals under communist rule. He also won the European Literary Prize in 1953 for his novel, “The Seizure of Power.”
Milosz immigrated to the United States in 1960 and taught Slavic languages and literatures at the University of California, Berkeley, for more than 20 years. Although American audiences have had access to English translations of his work since the early 1970s, people in Poland were only allowed to read his books after he won the 1980 Nobel Prize in Literature. Over the next eight years, his words inspired members of the Solidarity trade union movement in Poland to bring down the Soviet-imposed regime.
When the Iron Curtain fell in 1989, Milosz returned to his homeland. Although he’d spent nearly three decades in exile, he was regarded as a freedom fighter and hailed as a hero.
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