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Theatre of War: the historical context of Andrzej Bobkowski’s Wartime Notebooks (Szkice piórkiem)

Updated: Jun 18, 2021

Period preceding notations: September 1939 – May 1940

Europe, 1939
Europe, 1940

Bobkowski's diary encompasses years 1940-1944. Among others it offers a personal interpretation of wartime conflict.

Diary begins in May 1940 with German offensive against the Low Countries and France. However, the Second World War commenced nine months earlier, on September 1,1939 with German invasion of Poland from the West and subsequent declarations of war on Germany by the United Kingdom and France on September 3, although no military support to Poland was offered. In accordance with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 23, 1939, a non-aggression pact between Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany that enabled to partition and annex territories of their neighbors - Poland, Finland, Baltic States and Romania - on September 17, 1939 Russians mounted an invasion of Poland from the East. Finland fiercely defended its independence from the Soviet aggression in the Winter War which lasted from November 1939 till March 1940. Baltic States – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia - were annexed by Russia in June 1940 and Romania in August 1940. In April 1940 Germany invaded Denmark and Norway to protect shipments of iron ore from Sweden. Both countries capitulated soon.

There is no trace of those developments in war theatre in Bobkowski’s diary which is noticeably France- and Poland-centric. No wonder, France was Bobkowski’s place of residence during this period and Poland was the country of his origin. As World War II was a global conflict, he discusses also fortunes of other countries and regions, albeit to a lesser degree.

There's a hint in Bobkowski's diary that missing first 9 months of World War II is a result of burning a few notebooks by his wife who decided that keeping them was too dangerous if got into wrong hands (25.11.40).

Bożena Witowicz

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