Terry A. Tegnazian, president and co-founder of Aquila Polonica Publishing, based in Los Angeles with an office in England, is not Polish, not of Polish descent, not married into Polishness, and is a lawyer by training, not a publisher. Yet she finds herself scouring archives and histories for unknown accounts about Poland during World War II because Aquila Polonica’s sole purpose is to bring out books about the Polish experience during that war. (Aquila polonica is Latin for “Polish eagle,” and the company is so named for the eagle that adorns the Polish flag.) The house brought out its first small list three years ago, and Tegnazian is still enthusiastically dedicated to her mission.
The newest release is Capt. Witold Pilecki’s The Auschwitz Volunteer: Beyond Bravery (just out in April), which recounts the Polish officer’s undercover operation to get himself arrested by the Nazis and imprisoned at Auschwitz in order to smuggle out intelligence to the Allies about the then-three-month-old camp and to build a resistance organization among the prisoners.
Witold Pilecki (pronounced VEE-told pee-LETS-kee) survived nearly three years of starvation, disease, and brutality, but he accomplished his mission before escaping from Auschwitz in April 1943. “His clandestine intelligence reports from the camp, received by the Allies beginning in early 1941, were among the first eyewitness evidence of what was going on at Auschwitz,” a press release notes. Pilecki was eventually executed in 1945 by the Communists as a Western spy.
Pilecki’s heroic story was uncovered during the course of dissertation research by Jozef Garlinski, the father of Jarek Garlinski, the publisher’s usual translator, and Tegnazian jumped on the book as an example of exactly what drew her to her cause and sustains her in it. Jozef Garlinski’s dissertation was published in 1975 as a book called Fighting Auschwitz; Aquila Polonica will soon be bringing out an updated edition.
How did Tegnazian get to be so specialized? “That’s the number one question I always get asked,” she says. “People don’t know about this page of history. Part of why we don’t know more is that the Communists suppressed it. We are filling in blank pieces of the canvas. It’s pretty exciting, sometimes overwhelming. I meet tons of people, and I feel as if I’m doing something that matters, bringing a lost history out to the world.”
The house is working with the Polish embassy in Washington on an event for the book to take place in the fall. The Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and the YIVO Institute in New York have also expressed interest in sponsoring events in the fall. The book is a Featured Selection of the History Book Club and a selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club and the Military Book Club.
Aquila Polonica titles are distributed in the U.S. and internationally by National Book Network. Look for the publisher at the NBN booth (3757, 3758).