by Julia Ain-Krupa (IBA ‘11)
I received my Fulbright scholarship for the 2012-2013 academic year. The grant was specifically for creative writing, and my intention was to come to Poland–Krakow, specifically, where a new Jewish community is thriving–to write about inter-religious marriage in Poland, which was something that interested me, and which was also reflective of my own background.
My mother is Jewish, however, her grandparents left Poland at the turn of the century. My father, who is Polish, was raised Catholic in a region that was once considered Germany, and so his father was drafted into the Wehrmacht army as a teenage boy. This internal dissonance established by my ancestral heritage created many questions for me, and I felt compelled to move toward them. I had also lived in Poland as a small child, where my parents worked in the theater, though we left during Martial Law, when the Solidarity movement was rising, communism falling, and the bread lines were long.
My experiences at Goddard helped me to trust myself in the creative process, as my project changed dramatically over the course of my time in Poland. As they like to say at Goddard: “trust the process”. I did just that.
What emerged was a novel about post-war Poland. The book still addresses all of the questions that I initially intended to ask, and even pushes further than I could have hoped to go.
My time at Goddard helped me to shape myself as the individual and artist that I was meant to be, someone who may not always fit in with the rest of the stream, but who is able to work from a deep and genuine place (I hope). Of course, being surrounded by such amazing people at Goddard helped to give me the confidence and support to evolve in this way. I still miss them all.
As for the Fulbright, it bought me time, which is the greatest thing that any artist can wish for–time to focus on what you love, to learn, to meet new people, to dream. And I was lucky enough to be in an environment that was stimulating/challenging enough to enable me to do the work that I set out to do.
Now, I only wish to have the chance to write more books, and to create projects that feel meaningful to me and to others. I hope to continue to aim from the heart, which is always a challenge, but worthwhile to take the plunge and try.
Julia Ain-Krupa (IBA ‘11) is a writer and multi-disciplinary artist. She has contributed to Cinema Editor, and is the author of Roman Polanski: A Life in Exile (Praeger, 2010). Her short films have been screened at the IFP festival, the Jung Society in New York, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her most recent work, Dancing With Brando, was presented in conjunction with Paris fashion week. She lives in New York City.
The Upright Heart chronicles the return from Brooklyn of a Jewish man, Wolf, to his native Poland soon after World War II. He is haunted by the memory of his Catholic lover, Olga, whom he abandoned to marry a woman of his own faith and start a new life in America, and who perished sheltering the parents and younger sister he left behind. Harassed on the streets of postwar Poland, Wolf is watched over by the spirits of those who died during and after the war but have yet to let go. His story is woven together with those of others, living and dead, Catholic and Jew, including the deceased students of a school for girls, a battalion of fallen German soldiers, and an orphan boy who wanders the streets of Krakow, believing in a magic pill he has conjured up as a way to survive.
Set amid the ruins of the Holocaust and the Nazis’ total war, this haunting novel is at once a page-turning drama and a meditation on what it means to be human, part of a community, alive. The Upright Heart’s dreamlike qualities and fluent lyricism draw the reader toward a consecrated realm, while its narrative force guides the story into the present, where survivors and their children, beset by the devastations of the past, struggle alongside the dead to perceive and appreciate the beauty of that which remains and that which might yet be.