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"What the War Taught Her"

October 9, 2013

It is rare for life to turn out the way we hoped and dreamed. Often, there are obstacles along the way we could have never imagined. For Teresa Guzlowski, who was born in a small wooded village in Poland, this is an understatement. One day, the Germans descended on her village, killing many of her family and friends. She survived; spending three years in a concentration camp followed by six years in refugee camps after the war was over.

Her story is told through the poetry of her son, Dr. John Guzlowski, who will speak as part of Averett's Women's Leadership Circle Series on Tuesday, Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. in the multipurpose room of the Student Center. The event is free and open to the public.

"What the War Taught Her" is the title of one of John's poems about his mother, who came to America with little more than the things she could fit into a suitcase. In the years that followed, she worked on farms, in factories and in office buildings constructing a life for herself and the family.

John was born in one of those refugee camps before his family moved to America in 1951 as displaced persons. Growing up in the immigrant and refugee neighborhoods around Chicago, he met people with Auschwitz tattoos on their wrists and women who walked from Siberia to Iran to escape the Russians. His poetry, fiction and essays try to remember them and their voices. They also remember his parents, who survived their slave labor experiences in Nazi Germany.

Guzlowski has won awards for his poetry including PAHA's Creative Arts Award and the American Council for Polish Culture's Cultural Achievement Award. He has written several books of poetry including "Language of Mules," "Lightning and Ashes" and "The Third Winter of War: Buchenwald." A professor emeritus at Eastern Illinois University, John recently completed a novel about the German soldiers who murdered his mother's family during the Second World War. The novel will be published in 2015 by Cervena Barva Press.