Elizabeth von Arnim now has a statue in Buk, a town near her home in Rzędziny (formerly Nassenheide). The town now also holds an annual rose festival and other activities to honour von Arnim and promote the county as a tourist attraction. You can see more pictures here and a lovely video in Polish of the June 2015 Rose Festival.
We thank Prof. Emeritus Roland Sussex at the University of Queensland for his translation of the following Polish newspaper article by E. Bruska.
Elizabeth’s monument in Buk
“There was everything here”
Where should the monument to Elizabeth von Arnim stand if not here, in Pomerania (Pomorze, Poland)? Where, if not in the borough of Dobra, whose countryside she wrote into world literature? That “undiscovered piece of English literary and garden inheritance, that piece of our heritage”, remembered today by the writer’s countrymen.
2 years ago a colleague Berenika Lemańczyk and I went to visit the head of the Town Council of Dobra, Teresa Dera, in order to ask her politely if she would be interested in the person of a writer unknown in Poland, once a resident of the borough, whom the world had discovered anew over more than two decades. We did not think that everything would turn out so beautifully. We had brought a Polish translation of the Countess’s first story, written in Rzędziny (then called Nassenheide), “Elizabeth and her garden”, which launched her unusual literary career, which lasted uninterrupted for 40 years until her last book in 1941. She had readers in Europe, America, Australia, and even Japan. Perhaps contemporary writing colleagues of the lady from Rzędziny do not dream about such fame? They do not dream?
Returning to the head of the Town Council, I will note only that she initially heard us politely together with her female team, and then sprang into action. A program under the slogan “Elizabeth” was entrusted to the hands of Izabela Dryjańska, and from that program emerged linked projects, and ideas span off for promoting the Borough through the writer and the promotion of her through the Borough in multiple forms – from culinary workshops, garden workshops, to sporting events and cultural encounters, most often with the participation of collaborative inhabitants of nearby Blankensee and its surrounds, in the former lands of the Arnims. The crowning feature of all the events organised under the patronage of Elizabeth are annual festivals of roses.
And so this Sunday at midday in Buk, on the other side of Dobra, a monument to the writer created by Bohdan Ronin-Walknowski will be unveiled – in the middle of a rose garden, by the church to which she would come to worship and which is also commemorated in her books. The monument was conceived by the head of the Borough Council and was made possible by Polish and Danish efforts, because the Otikon Foundation in Denmark became actively involved to the tune of half a million złotys (with a substantial contribution from the DSG Polska company) to support the Elizabeth initiative. Otikon suports cultural activities with international outreach, and Elizabeth von Arnim is … The whole world
We applaud the head of the Borough Council, because this is the first such monument to the writer in the world. So now let the English show how they will honour their countrywoman. It is necessary to recognise, that in recent years many of her books have been published, and recently they announced a re-release on DVD of film made at the beginning of the 90s based on her “The enchanted April” – there is the proof. There have also appeared new French, German, French, and Italian editions of her work in audio and e-books and in paper format.
As can be read on the Internet, the output of the writer from Rzędziny is equally interesting to the mainstream readers of books and to literary connoisseurs. Two years ago there appeared one after the other two important English publications devoted to her, and the most recent bibliography. The thematic variety of these publications corresponds, we would say, to the richness of the content and form of her output, which is stunning in its variety (it includes even a thriller), as was noted by one of the contemporary reviewers. And so for example 2 years ago participants in an international seminar in Trewirz heard about her, in a discussion of the theme of discrimination and molestation in a paper by Christa Tobler, a professor of European law at the universities of Basel and Leyden. As a historical example of “direct discrimination” Prof Tobler gave an example of hired agricultural workers (among them Poles) working in the fields of the count of Arnim: “The men receive from 1 1/2 to 2 marks a day and as many potatoes as they can eat, the women receive less, not because they work less, but because they are women” – the professor quoted a fragment of “Elizabeth and her garden”. And so the Countess from Rzędziny has also found a place in European law. In September in Cambridge the next conference of literary specialists is devoted to her work.
Many of the most recent admirers of our author continually ask on the Internet about the place where her initial work was written, and its second part “The solitary summer”. Sometimes they ask about Nassenheide, sometimes about the garden, sometimes about Rzędziny … some people are planning a visit to our country. “I am envious because you have everything so close in Europe”, wrote someone in Australia. But don’t let J. Weichbrodt, author of a letter published in December last year in the British Society of Historical Gardens, think that he is dissuading them from coming when he wrote: “Nassenheide in its present state is not worth visiting”. We are not inviting Mr Weichbrodt, who hasn’t yet realized what the village has been called since 1945. On the other hand, we warmly invite a gentleman from Canada who has falled in love with Rzędziny and its region – in spite of that “state”.
“There was everything here – peace and happiness, and life full of experience” – Elizabeth wrote about this countryside. From Sunday she will look over them from above the rose garden in Buk.
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