The Poet and her First Secretary – a meeting with Michał Rusinek

On the 18th of February (Thursday), at 6:00 PM, join us at the Voivodeship Public Library in Krakow – Arteteka – for a special meeting with Michał Rusinek. The occasion for the meeting will be the premiere of the book Nic zwyczajnego. O Wisławie Szymborskiej [Nothing Ordinary: About Wisława Szymborska]. It is a very personal portrait of the poet, the likes of which we have not seen before. The event will take place under the patronage of the Krakow Festival Office, which is the operator of the UNESCO City of Literature programme. Admission to the meeting is free.

Only one Author could write about the Nobelist with such tact, subtlety and insight. There was nothing ordinary in the fifteen years of being secretary to Wisława Szymborska, after all. She – a fresh Nobel Prize winner. He – master of arts in Polish studies. He was supposed to help her for three months, between the announcement of the prize and its awarding in 1996. In the end, he stayed for much longer.

Michał Rusinek describes the everyday and the extraordinary situations. He recounts how he copied poems, replied to letters, and accompanied Szymborska in moving and travelling. Everyday shopping, sumptuous feasts, the famous “lotteries” and formal meetings – Rusinek’s book is the portrait of a lady with an unusual sense of humour, which allows us to understand the phenomenon of the poet and where the essence of her reader-beloved poetry lay.

In Michał Rusinek’s newest book, we meet a Wisława Szymborska whom we have not met before. It is a portrait of a remarkable person, who skillfully wrote about the most important things, a portrait that allows us to get closer to her and the essence of her poetry.

An eccentric elderly lady. Giggling, sometimes frivolous, fond of language games and practical jokes. She preferred talking with regular people to poetry congresses and discussions with intellectualists.

Depression. Melancholy. Harsh judgment of herself and others. Perfectionist, intolerant of talking about trivialities and wasting time on meetings with people, which didn’t give her anything besides, as she called them, empty calories.

After the Nobel, she would say that she would do everything she could to not become a personality, but to remain a person. She was once recognised by a taxi driver, who told her, “It is an honour for me to drive such a great personality”. He was partly right: she was quite a peculiar representative of our species.


Nic zwyczajnego_Michał Rusinek


Michał Rusinek was born in 1972 in Krakow, and still lives there with his family. He was the secretary to Wisława Szymborska, and now runs her foundation. He works in the Faculty of Polish Studies of the Jagiellonian University, where he gives lectures in theory of literature and rhetoric. He sometimes translates from English, and he has written books for children and adults, as well composing poems or song lyrics. He also writes columns about books and language.

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