Kornel Makuszyński – the writer who influenced the lives of most of the Polish children

It is likely you have read more than one of his books!

nile (CC0), Pixabay

He was born in 1884 in Stryj in the Austrian Partition of Poland. His homeland now belongs to Ukraine, but in times of Makuszyński, it was ethnically dominated by Polish. He attended the school in Lviv and there he found out his talent for writing poetry. The first poems by him were published when he was only 14 years old. His talent became his greatest weapon in the dark times of two world wars that took place during his lifetime.

Kornelstudied language and literature and the University of Lviv and later in Paris. In 1915 he had to leave to Kiev, where he ran the Polish Theatre. There his career writer started to flourish. He became the chairman of the Polish writers and journalist community, but three years later he moved to Warsaw.


After the World War I, Makuszyński decided to follow his passion. He wrote several children books, famous and popular until now.

The adventures of Matołek the Billy-Goat


The most famous of them is Matołek the Billy-Goat. A classic of polish comics created in 1933 based on the story written by Kornel Makuszyński.The anthropomorphic goat named Matołek tries to find Pacanów, a town where it is rumored they make shoes for goats. His adventures are interesting, but the main character is a bit naive and clumsy, sometimes laughable. Even children laugh at his not too bright mind. Matołek has many similarities to Winnie the Pooh, Tintin, Rupert Bear, etc. The Billy-Goat travels through the entire world, the most exotic parts on the Earth. He visits Africa, Wild West, and the other far away countries. However, the stories about Matołek are full of patriotic aspects.
The story by Makuszyński with drawings by Marian Walntynowicz became one of the most important in the history of Polish children’s literature. It affected not only the imagination of children but entire pop culture.

Satan from the 7th grade

Once Matołek the Billy-Goat was dedicated to children, Satan from the 7th grade is more a young adult book. The „7th grade” relates the grade of education in Polish system of the time of writing.It means young people around 17 years old. The book is considered a classic in Poland and remained in print for decades. The main character is Adam Cisowski, a “satan” of the title. He is a precocious and “devilishly clever” high school pupil who spends a summer holiday at the country house. The place is presided over by “The Professor”, an eccentric historian with aristocratic bloodline. Due to the discovery that an officer of Napoleon’s Grand Army may have left the hidden treasure in this area the treasure hunting is launched. The story is connected with the ancestors of the Professor, who took care of the officer when he was injured.
The book has a few movie adaptations, and it is one of the most loved stories by many generations of Polish. Moreover, similarly to Matołek, it has been translated into many foreign languages.


The good uncle of all the Polish children

The other books like for example the Argument about Basia or The Two Who Stole the Moon, also became a huge success. He also tried to write books for adults, but these didn’t meet the bigger interest among the readers. His books for children were translated into many foreign languages. They were especially very popular in Israel and the other places where Polish community moved after the World War II. The books by Kornel Makuszyński were temporarily blacklisted right after the war, in the 1940s. Since 1945 he lived in Zakopane, in the Tatra Mountains. He died there in 1953. Currently, the city hosts a museum dedicated to him and originally launched by his wife Janina.

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