Józef Hen (until 1944: Józef Henryk Cukier) is a novelist, publicist and screenwriter. He was born on November 8, 1923 in Warsaw to a Jewish craftsman family, in a tenement house at 53 Nowolipie Street. He made his debut in 1932 in Janusz Korczak’s “Mały Przegląd”.
After the outbreak of World War II, Hen got through to the East, while his family stayed in Warsaw. As a 16-year-old, he crossed the green border on his own. He came to the vicinity of Lviv, where he enrolled in a Ukrainian pedagogical school. When the German army approached the city, he and other students were evacuated deep into Russia. He worked on the construction of the Lviv-Kiev road, then he ended up in Samarkand in Uzbekistan. In June 1941, he was drafted into the Red Army, then the Polish People’s Army. During the war he lost his father, brother Mojżesz and sister Mirka. Long after the war, in 1957, Hen’s mother, along with her sister Stella, her husband and daughter, left for Israel and lived in a kibbutz in Tel Aviv.
After the war and returning to Poland, Józef Hen was the editor of the weekly “Żołenierz Polski” (Polish Soldier). He assumed the pen name of “Hen”. Having graduated from the officers’ school, he achieved the rank of captain. He ended his service in 1952. His debut novel, published in 1947, “Kyiv, Tashkent, Berlin. The History of a Vagabond”, is a record of his war experiences. He wrote reportages, short stories, historical prose and novels for adults and teenagers. He never joined the Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR). For many years (until 1982) he was an activist of the Polish Writers’ Union. He is a member of the Polish Writers’ Association.
“He never joined the PZPR.”
He wrote many novels and collections of short stories (including: “Miracle with Bread”, 1956; “April”, 1961; “Nobody’s Calling”, written in 1957, published in 1990; “Dajan’s Eye”, published in France in the years 1969-1972 under the pseudonym Korab; “The Bokser and the Death”, 1975; “The Silence Between Us”, 1985; “Aphrodite’s Departure”, 1995; “Notebooks of Professor T.”, 2006; “A Ping pong Player”, 2008). He also published historical novels (“Crimen”, 1975; “Royal Dreams”, 1989), memoirs (“Nowolipie”, 1991; “The Best Years”, 1996), biographical novels (“I, Michel de Montaigne”, 1978; “The Clown – A Great husband” about Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński – recognized by ZAIKS as the best book of 1998; “My Friend the King: the Story about Stanisław August Poniatowski”, 2003) and volumes of journals (“I Have No Fear of Sleepless Nights”, 1987, 1992, 2001; “Diary for the New Age”, 2010; “Return to Sleepless Nights”, 2016; “Me, the Depravator”, 2018; and also “Without Fear. A Contemporary Journal”, 2020). Józef Hen is also the author of film scripts, including “Cross of Valor” and “Law and Fist”, and the series “The Life of Kamil Kurant Life” and “Royal dreams”.
Decorated with the Commander’s Cross with the Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta (1998), the Medal of Merit for Tolerance (2002), the Gold Medal for Merit to Culture Gloria Artis (2006), the Władysław Reymont literary award (2008), and the Literary Award of the Capital City of Warsaw in the category “Warsaw Creator” for lifetime achievement (2009). Laureate of the Polish PEN Club Award Jan Parandowski (2017). His works so far have been translated into twenty-one languages. He currently lives in Warsaw.