Leonard Cohen in Poland May 2014

I'm your Man the Life of Leonard Cohen
I’m your Man the Life of Leonard Cohen

I’ve just returned from a trip to Poland where I was working on a documentary film about a young couple getting married. He is a Fijian Indian Hindu and she a Polish Catholic.

It was a relief for me to be working in Poland about a theme unrelated to the decimated Polish Jewish community and its culture that had been my focus on previous trips.

In Sydney over the summer, I had bumped into my friend Rita who worked in Martin Smith’s bookshop in Bondi years ago. Rita is also from a Polish, Jewish background and had recently visited her hometown. She was working in Oscar and Friends bookshop in Double Bay when I went in to pick up the book I had ordered.

I had ordered Murray Bails’ book “The Voyage”. Bail’s is a book about an Australian who goes to Vienna to sell his revolutionary new concert grand piano. The story is loosely based on the Stuart Concert Grand Piano from Australia. It was a good read and I empathised a lot with the central character who like me didn’t speak German and had problems being taken seriously in the old establishment of Vienna, a major centre of music, art and culture.

During our long conversation, interrupted many times by people buying books I kept going back to the shelves and picked out a biography of Leonard Cohen, by Sylvie Simmons.  I wasn’t sure about the choice but Rita said she’d heard it was a good one and I took her word.

Last year in the late summer I had been in Poland and had wanted to see Leonard Cohen perform in Lodz but it never materialized.

Lodz is the town of my paternal grandmother’s family and once had a very large Jewish community.

I had seen his Sydney concert a few years ago and I knew his music and a bit of trivia about him but I took this biography with me on the long train journey from Vienna to Katowice and then to Lubliniec and was making very good progress and enjoying finding out more about the life and career of this great artist and poet.

The sister in law of the bride turned out to be a big Leonard Cohen fan and had been to the concert I hadn’t been to but it surprised me that Leonard Cohen could be so popular in Poland.

It turns out that there is a Polish comedian, writer and radio personality called Maciej Zembaty who had translated and performed over 60 Leonard Cohen songs since the 1970’s.  Zembaty had been imprisoned by the regime in 1981 for organising a festival of songs on the regime’s banned list.

Zembaty’s Polish version of Cohen’s Partisan Song had become the unofficial anthem of the Solidarity movement.

I’ve included some links to Leonard Cohen documentaries online.



Paul Green +43 676 942 2558



A Week, Tuesday to Tuesday in Lubliniec Poland.

It’s springtime. I’m in a rural area of Silesia about 60km from Katowice. This is one place where English doesn’t work but people do try to speak to me in German once they realise I can’t speak Polish. You can see more of my work at www.paulgreenphotovideoart.com


I’m here making a documentary about a young couple who met and now live together in Sydney. Karina and Sachin are getting married on Saturday in Karina’s nearby home town called Kalety. The doco is about the joining of a Fijian, Indian, Hindu family and a Polish Catholic family.

The project was dreamed up and is being produced and directed by my friend Chris Cole who has an architecture practice in Fiji and who knows Sachin’s family.

Chris worked as a cameraman back in the pre digital days of film. It has been a great experience working with him and learning a different approach from someone who has ducked the digital revolution and hasn’t worked in the industry for many years.

This week has been very important for Polish people. Their beloved Pope, Karol Józef Wojtyła, or Pope John Paul II was canonized by the Vatican as a saint by Pope Francis.


Pope John Paul II is recognised as helping to end Communism in his native Poland and eventually all of Europe. John Paul II significantly improved the Catholic Church’s relations with Judaism, Islam, the Anglican community and the  Eastern Orthodox Church.

Another Polish saint who is celebrated in Lubliniec and who was canonized by Pope John Paul II is Edyta Stein. Also known as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Edyta Stein was a German Jewish philosopher who converted to the Roman Catholic Church and became a Discalced Carmelite nun. She is a martyr and saint of the Catholic Church and one of the six patron saints of Europe.

In 1938 she and her sister Rosa, were sent to a Carmelite monastery in the Netherlands for their safety. They were arrested by the Nazis on 2 August 1942 and sent to Auschwitz where they were gassed on 9 August 1942.

Although Edyta was born in Breslau (now Wroclaw) in 1891 she spent much of her childhood in Lubliniec as it was the hometown of her grandparents.

I visited the Lubliniec Jewish cemetery yesterday. Originally the cemetery was divided into three plots: for men, women, and children. In all, 1,117 people were buried there.


The Nazis devastated the cemetery during World War II and used the gravestones to pave the road from Lubliniec to Żuków. In 1958 the Polish national authorities took over the cemetery and  opened a driver training centre on the site. Fragments of gravestones were piled up in a few heaps.

Among those buried in the cemetery are the grandparents of Edyta Stein: Adelajda Courant and Salomon Courant  as well as Edyta’s elder brothers: Emst and Richard.