Bogdan Kotnis, Ph. D., born in Kraków, Poland, lived approximately thirty years in Poland, thirty years in the United States, and two years as a legal resident of Denmark.
A writer, educator, film director, journalist, windsurfing coach, Reiki Master, entrepreneur, business owner, Polonia activist, and a retired educational administrator in the NY State Public School System.
He holds a master’s degree in American literature from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland and a Ph.D. degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo in educational bureaucracy and institutional development.
CEO of Polonia Global Fund and the owner of Polonia Perspectives. Currently, Dr. Kotnis serves as Institutional Development Strategist for corporate and not-for-profit clients.
Dr. Kotnis has traveled the world extensively. He speaks Polish, English, Danish, Russian, Ukrainian, German, and some Spanish. His hobbies include windsurfing, sailing, skiing, tennis, scuba diving, climbing, chess, and bridge.
He is married with two children and two grandchildren.
This year, a valuable book will appear on the American publishing market, which vividly describes the life of Kazimierz Pułaski on two continents. Historical drama titled Kaz: War, Love, and Betrayal weave over a hundred historical characters into a riveting story worth screening.
There has never been a book before that today could be confidently recommended to an American reader looking for a Polish perspective on the events of the late eighteenth century, a time when Polish statehood was dying, and the United States was being born. Who is the author Dr. Bogdan Kotnis, and what was his goal in writing Kaz?
Edward Dusza: I know that you have obtained an M.A. in American Literature from the Jagiellonian University and a Ph. D. at Buffalo State University, New York.
Kotnis: Yes, I defended my M.A. thesis in North American Indian literature and my Ph.D. in education systems management. I spent half my life in Poland and half in the United States.
Dusza: What prompted you to write Kaz?
Kotnis: I missed a book that would present in an accessible and attractive way the complicated history of the collapse of Polish statehood from our Polish perspective, without the narrative dictated by the invaders. It hurt me that the person of Kazimierz Pułaski did not get its rightful place in American literature. I decided to patch this hole to the best of my modest ability.
Dusza: I understand that Kaz is intended for the American reader.
Kotnis: Yes, I tried to introduce Kazimierz so that the average American could find himself in his adventures. I hope the Polish reader will like the hero as well.
Dusza: This is historical fiction. How much is truth, and how much fiction in it?
Kotnis: I present the narrative from the election of King Stanisław August in 1764 to the death of General Casimir Pułaski at Savannah, Georgia, in 1779. The level of research on Pułaski's life is modest. I introduced certain characters and events to present the motivations, emotions, and historical facts as I see them. Apart from historical facts, their synthetic interpretation is also critical. Understanding the Polish perspective without the manipulations perpetrated by the invaders is essential for us, Poles, and the world. After the final partition of Poland in 1795, the war continues, with some breaks, until today in the same place. This area of the world may be called Poland, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Russia, the Soviet Union, the German Reich, or Ukraine. Regardless of the name, people die.
Dusza: How much interest do the Americans have in these remote areas?
Kotnis: Even though it's a long way off, the United States invests considerable resources in this part of the world. If we don't understand what's happening there and why the war continues, nothing will stop it. Americans are surprised by Russia's actions every generation. Their brutal behavior is blamed on the unbalanced leaders who persecute the oppressed Russian people. The American analysis lacks the Polish perspective that would be considered equal to the Russian, German, French, or English perspectives. We need to develop such a reliable Polish perspective. It's good to start such work somewhere. Pułaski's story is a good start.
Dusza: You do not leave a thread on King Staś, who many consider a tragic figure.
Kotnis: I'm not a historian. I am a specialist in the development of management systems. I work with American charities and businesses as an analyst for the strategic development of institutions. From this angle, I see Kazimierz Pułaski as the unmistakable hero of a Hollywood bestseller format. The challenge is how to reach that level.
Dusza: I understand that you propose that American students and soldiers read Kaz.
Kotnis: It is a story about an American-Polish brotherhood in arms. Several U.S. soldiers who read Kaz told me they could not put their reading to the last page. They thanked me for the book, saying that they had no idea about Pułaski and felt that, in a sense, by serving in Poland, they were paying a debt of gratitude by fighting for our freedom and yours.
When I was writing my M.A. thesis on the novel House Made of Dawn by Navarre Scott Momaday, an Indian of the Kiowa and Cherokee tribes, I read all the books in Polish libraries on North American Indian literature. Today, American students know less about Poland and Kazimierz Pułaski than I did about the Natives. I want to change that and broaden their knowledge. I encourage academic and high school teachers to introduce Kaz as reading material for their students.
Dusza: You worked as the principal of a Native American magnet school in Buffalo, New York. I now understand why there is a chapter in the book on Pułaski's adventures in the country of the Iroquois.
Kotnis: This is one of the themes that belong to historical fiction. I wanted to present some facts about Pułaski's life and the situation of the Natives during the War of Independence. The country of the Iroquois, recognized by England and France, existed for over 200 years and ceased its political life during the American Revolutionary War. General Sullivan's expedition destroyed over 40 Native towns on Washington's orders. The survivors fled to Canada. Pułaski refused to participate in this expedition.
Dusza: How did Pułaski's meeting with Kościuszko come about?
Kotnis: This is another fictional thread that I introduced to show our Polish attitude towards slavery. Kościuszko visits Pułaski on Christmas Eve at the U.S. Army Camp in Valley Forge. He comes with his free man, African aide, Agrippa Hull.
Dusza: Kaz's adventures remind me of the heroes of the Sienkiewicz trilogy. Is Kaz an attempt to comfort our hearts?
Kotnis: We are reluctant to connect about 40 million Poles in Poland with over 20 million in the international diaspora. Kazimierz Pułaski and Tadeusz Kościuszko are jewels buried in the ruins of post-partition Poland. As in Jerzy Andrzejewski's novel Ashes and Diamonds, we must adequately use their value.
Dusza: When can we expect Kaz in the bookstores?
Kotnis: I plan to make Kaz available on Amazon in book and electronic form in October 2022. If a book starts selling well in its first week, it would be the first step to reaching the American reader. I hope that the Polonia community will help Kaz become an Amazon bestseller.
The nestor of Polish journalism in the United States, political emigrant poet, prose writer, literary critic, journalist, and publisher, called the last bard of Polish independence and military emigration. He received the Silver and Gold Cross of Merit from the Presidents of the Republic of Poland in Exile, the distinction of the Association of Polish Writers Abroad, the Aleksander Janta Literary Award, the Polar Star Centennial Literary Award, the Paderewski Medal, and the Officer's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta.