13 Stradomska Street

A Memoir of Exile and Return by Andrew Potok (USA)

When Andrew Potok was eight he fled with his family from Warsaw, leaving home and business to escape the invading Nazis. The family made it to American, but Andrew’s memories of violence, Jew hatred, and betrayal--including that of his father--erupted into nightmares and eventually formed the backdrop of his rich, though at times turbulent, life as an artist and writer.

When, late in Andrew's life, a Polish lawyer offers to help him reclaim property in Krakow that was wrongfully inherited by a relative, he and his wife revisit Poland, with its still-virulent anti-Semitism. The visit awakens long-dormant memories and provokes deep reflections on the nature of evil. The ongoing lawsuit becomes emblematic of the book’s central theme: There can be no closure for survivors of the Holocaust--no justice for either victims or perpetrators, no compensation, and no forgiveness.

Andrew Potok was a successful visual artist until he went blind in his forties. He then turned to writing and published "Ordinary Daylight, Portrait of An Artist Going Blind," "My Life With Goya," and "A Matter of Dignity." He lives in Vermont.

A blind artist returns to claim his family’s Kraków property, recalling earlier trauma and betrayal and encountering virulent Polish anti-Semitism

Praise for 13 Stradomska Street

“I was deeply stirred and instructed by 13 Stradomska Street. Rare enough to find a book that reads wholly, convincingly honest, a memoir that doesn’t try to tunnel away from unwelcome truth via exit routes of bad faith. But Andrew Potok's book is more than a fine memoir. It's also a profound meditation on human evils, on the Poland in the heart, on the persistence of the unforgivable, and on the intelligent human labor to live rightly nevertheless. I cannot recommend it too highly.” Todd Gitlin, Columbia University professor of journalism and sociology and chair of the Ph. D. program in Communications, is the author of sixteen books, including The Twilight of Common Dreams: Why America Is Wracked by Culture Wars; The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage; Inside Prime Time; The Whole World Is Watching: Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the New Left; and Occupy Nation: The Roots, the Spirit, and the Promise of Occupy Wall Street

"A terrific book! I could not put it down. The book turns back and forth between the author’s childhood memories and his blind journey back to Poland, weaving between the personal and the political.” Roger Porter, author of The Voice Within: Reading and Writing Autobiography and Bureau of Missing Persons: Writing the Secret Lives of Fathers

“This is a remarkable and memorable book in which horror is leavened by humor, and betrayal and venality by the riches of discoveries that come with time . . . and always, with a thoughtful, probing of the ways the past both imprisons us and sets us free. Potok is blind but he makes us see, as never before, not only the pre-World War Two landscape from which he and his family fled, but of how and why and at what price, despite all, they survived." Jay Neugeboren, author of award-winning novels such as The Stolen Jew and 1940 and of nonfiction, Imagining Robert, and Transforming Madness

“A civilized man in an uncivilized world, painter Andrew Potok examines the long reach of both his family's 1939 escape from Poland and his own encroaching blindness in this powerful and elegant memoir.” Elinor Langer, a member of The Nation editorial board and author of Josephine Herbst and A Hundred Little Hitlers