History Professor Explores Family, Warsaw Uprising in New Book

History professor Yanek Mieczkowski has written several books involving major historical figures such as Dwight D. Eisenhower and Gerald Ford. His current project is also centered on some important folks: his parents.

Oceans Apart: A World War II Story of Devastation, Defeat, and Determination tells the story of the unlikely couple, Bogdan Mieczkowski and Seiko Kawakami.  The book will be published later this year by McFarland Press.

Bogdan Mieczkowski was 19-years-old when he joined resistant activities in Warsaw, Poland during World War II. The Uprising began Aug. 1, 1944, as the Nazi army marauded through the city. The Polish fighters, most amateurs and many teenagers, succeeded initially in regaining some of their city. But the relentless bombing and ground assaults continued, and the resistance ultimately surrendered on Oct. 2, 1944.

A reported 200,000 Polish civilians and 15,000 fighters died during the Uprising.

After the war, Mieczkowski arrived in New York and ended up in Chicago, amid the large Polish population living there at the time. He earned a doctorate in economics and returned to New York to work at a Polish research institute. It was in the city that he met Seiko Kawakami, an assistant to the branch head of Mitsui Bank in Manhattan who, like Mieczkowski, has been touched by World War II: in Hokkaido, Japan, she and her classmates were forced to leave high school and work in a factory, making gas masks. The two fell in love and ended up marrying.

In August 2022, Yanek Mieczkowski returned to Poland to participate in anniversary ceremonies commemorating the Uprising. While in Warsaw, he met with the Japanese ambassador to Poland, Akio Miyajima, to discuss his forthcoming book, which “bridges the countries of Poland and Japan,” he said. He also attended a reception at which the president of Poland, Andrzej Duda, awarded medals to veterans of the Uprising. 

The book captures important history as there are fewer and fewer living veterans of that era. Bogdan Mieczkowski passed away in 2020 at the age of 95; Kawakami is 93 and lives in Cocoa Beach. “I’m grateful for their recollections, and I’m also glad I have weaved them into a book,” Mieczkowski said. “We’re losing the WWII generation at a rapid pace.”

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