Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Glaukopis Misspells G - O - S - K - A, or I am Denounced in Poland

It's been brought to my attention that Glaukopis, a Polish publication, has published an article that mentions me. The article is by John Radzilowski. Its title is "On Polish Historical Studies in the United States: The case of Professor Marek Jan Chodakiewicz."

I don't read Glaukopis, but a friend does, and forwarded the article to me.

The article's main point is that there is a conspiracy afoot to damage the career of Polish-American historian Marek Jan Chodakiewicz. Those working to damage Chodakiewicz have this motive: they want to protect Politically Correct, and anti-Polish, ideology in America.

The guilty parties who have damaged Chodakiewicz include the following: Antony Polonsky, Piotr Wrobel, Istvan Deak, Joanna Michlic, and … drumroll, please … I'm embarrassed to type my own name after such a list of luminaries … me.

I try to tell my students that you don't have to probe very far to deflate conspiracy theories; they are absurd on their face, and those who believe in them are not processing reality accurately.

The above list is not plausible as a list of people who would conspire to damage Chodakiewicz, to damage Poland, or to protect politically correct ideologies.

In fact, with the exception of my name, if you removed the scholarly contributions of this group of people to advancing understanding of Poland in the West, you'd be left with a very anemic scholarship.

I'm lucky enough to have been reading this list of scholars for a very long time. As a Polish American, I would be heartsick if I didn't have access to Wrobel, Polonsky, Deak. I must confess that I'm not a fan of Prof. Michlic's scholarship, but I respect her efforts.

See, I grew up during an era where there was nothing – and I mean nothing – available on the Polish or Polish American experience, or, for that matter, the Slovak experience, the Lithuanian experience, the Serb experience – I've written about this silence in an essay.

Reading Polonsky, Wrobel, Deak – it's a miraculous experience to me. These scholars and others like them gave my own history to me. I cherish these names.

And – Politically Correct? Again and again I've seen these scholars stand up in public and say what needed to be said about Eastern Europe, damn the inevitable criticism from those who want to demonize anyone living east of Germany.

That's point number one. If anyone in Poland is uninformed enough to believe that these scholars are worthy of being disrespected in the pages of a Polish publication, I sincerely hope that that person will learn more about the scholars.

Point number two: me? Are you serious?

Grouping me with the above scholars pays me an utterly unearned compliment. I'll tell you this – I probably bake better cookies than Istvan Deak, but that is the only arena in which I would compete with him.

To suggest that I have the clout to damage an academic's career is really, really, REALLY beyond belief. I barely have enough power to fail a student who doesn't hand in a final paper. And – I beg of you – don't let this information leak out to my students!

Merely the inclusion of my name on this list renders the main idea of the entire article not only absurd, but laughably so.

Further – no intelligent person who has read more than one line of writing by me would ever group me with the Politically Correct or the ideologically pure. My complete lack of Political Correctness or Ideological Purity is immediately evident to anyone who has an above one-digit IQ. I'll go further – my book, "Bieganski," is the single most Politically Incorrect book on Polish Jewish relations ever written.

I'm tempted, at this point, to confess. Yes, Yes! I want to shout. I am part of the conspiracy! I'm glad we've all been found out and can come out of hiding and shout our truth to the world! Black helicopters flew me to Area 51, where top Army brass, "Greys" – Greys are space aliens to you civilians – Art Bell, Frank Sinatra and Laurence Harvey greeted me. Sinatra and Harvey kept insisting that we play cards, but both became very agitated anytime they were dealt the queen of diamonds. Ultimately, though, my fearless leaders decided that I would never make a really great conspirator, because I am dyslexic. I kept forgetting if the pellet with the poison was in the flagon with the dragon or the vessel with the pestle.

All right, enough kidding around.

My role in the conspiracy: Six years ago, I wrote a review of one of Chodakiewicz's books for a small journal. I acknowledged the strengths of Chodakiewicz's work, and pointed out its weak points. That's what book reviewers do. It's not what powerful conspirators do. Here's the review in question.

I am unaware of anyone having any reaction to this review (except for the author of the Glaukopis article.) In short, my guess is that very few people ever read the review. In any case, I stand by the review.

Glaukopis fails to make the case that Marek Jan Chodakiewicz has been professionally damaged at all. Chodakiewicz held the Kościuszko Chair in Polish Studies at the University of Virginia. President Bush appointed him to a 5-year term to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. He holds the Kosciuszko Chair in Polish Studies at Institute of World Politics. He has published several books and articles. His books are all on sale at Amazon, and have received good reviews.

Chodakiewicz has received several grants and awards, as listed on his Wikipedia page.

Glaukopis' Polish readers may not realize this, but America is in a recession right now. The official unemployment rate is close to ten percent; unofficial estimates are higher.

The recession is especially bad among PhDs. I know excellent teachers and scholars, with publications and strong letters of recommendation, who have been unable to find full-time jobs. These marginally-employed PhDs have no job security, no health insurance, and, given the job market, very little hope for any kind of a normal future in academia.

Given the Depression-like, not Recession-like, conditions on the American humanities academic job market, for anyone to attempt to depict a man who has published, won awards, and held endowed chairs as a victim is not just inaccurate, it's distasteful.

One last thing. I must protest Glaukopis' insistence on spelling my name incorrectly. This may seem like a small point – heck, it is a small point. But there's something bigger behind it.

When conspiracy theorists intentionally misspell your name, they are attempting to state that they know who you are better than you do. They are saying, "She's hiding behind this false name, but we know her real name." They are attempting to destroy your real identity and reconstruct a new one for you, one that fits their conspiracy.

For the record, I'd like to state that Glaukopis' implausible conspiracy theory got this fact wrong. I am not, and have never been, Danusia Gośka. I'm not Polish. I'm a Polish American. "Danusia" makes no sense over here. "Danusha" does.

Further, my family's name has not ever been "Gośka," on either side of the Atlantic. Glaukopis, your misspelling of my proud Polish father's perfectly good Polish-American name does not reflect well on your adherence to accuracy, your respect of your fellow Polonians, or your ability to serve your readers.


  1. What an excellent post, Danusha. There are parallels in Lithuanian culture as well. The cultural rift between the homeland and the diaspora widens when people publish articles like the one you talk about. My book memoir was recently critiqued in a Lithuanian paper. The reviewer highlighted my opinion that Lithuanians can be racist and anti-Semitic, not contextualizing this at all. He also said I should have written more about my trip to
    Lithuania and less about my mother. Ha!
    Daiva Markelis

  2. Danusha, I've met Marek Jan Chodakiewicz and corresponded with him briefly over the years. He's always struck me as a professional. I can't believe that he would be in any way involved in this conspiracy talk.

    I would love to read the article.

    @Daiva--I just finished reading your book White Field, Black Sheep. I couldn't put it down. It's the best thing I've ever read about growing up as a child of DPs.

  3. Daiva, I'm honored by your contribution to my blog. I look forward to new posts by you, and to checking out "White Field, Black Sheep."

    John, I just sent you the article via emial.

    John, you say that Marek Jan Chodakiewicz is not involved in this. I have no idea one way or the other. I mention, above, the name of the author of the article, and it is not Marek Jan Chodakiewicz.

    If Prof. Chodakiewicz does not concur with the content of the article in question, he can certainly say so publicly.

    If you like, please share with him the link to this blog, and he can comment if he likes.

    I'm not in touch with him, have never been, and would not feel comfortable contacting him myself.

  4. Does anyone know why Poles feel compelled to add an "h" to my last name?

    I know that Goshka is a nickname for Malgorzata, but why assume that my last name is a nickname for Malgorzata?

  5. Hello Danusha,
    I would like to respond to the last questions.

    As Danusha is not “typical American” name, it sounds as modified Polish name of Danusia. American Polish add “h” where Polish “si” is difficult to pronounce. This is why it might be assumed your first name has been modified.

    As Goska is not the “typical Polish” or “typical American” surname, it may be assumed Goska is your nickname, while it clearly refers (for Poles) to diminutive of Polish name Malgorzata.
    Gośka comes from Malgorzata in the following way: Malgorzata -> Malgosia - > Gosia - > Gośka. However saying Goska does not always sound neutral (used rather when being angry at Gosia). My name is Malgorzata and I am called Gosha (and spelled this way) by my American, Canadian and German friends.

    The word Goshka looks completely strange to me. The possible reason of adding h could be to replace Polish letter ś in the way that it may be pronounced by Americans like Polish ś. But in fact “sh” sounds like “sz” rather, but the difference between “sz” and “ś” is very difficult to pick up by non-native speakers.

    Of course, the above explanation does not justify modifying your names in the official publications. I did not mean to offend you calling your name “not typical” American or Polish. I was only attempting to find the source of this misspelling. I hope you will understand.


Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
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