Biography Joanna Helander

JOANNA HELANDER, nee Koszyk, was born in Ruda Slaska in 1948. While studying Roman languages and literature at Jagiellonian University in Cracow in 1968, she was arrested for protesting against the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the countries of the Warsaw Pact.

After emigrating to Sweden in 1971, Joanna Helander finished her schooling in Gothenburg with a degree in photography. Her talents in the medium were soon recognized and when, in Sweden in 1978, she published her first book of photographs, Kobieta (Woman), inspired by her return visits to Poland, she also revealed her gifts as a writer. In 1983, she received the Swedish "Photographer of the Year" award.

Joanna Helander's early contacts with artists and intellectuals of Poland's democratic opposition were instrumental in bringing about the great festival of independent Polish culture which she directed in Sweden in 1981. At that time, she edited "The Gag and the Word", which included her translations into Swedish of poems by Stanislaw Baranczak and Ryszard Krynicki.

Together with Bo Persson, she translated a larger selection of Krynicki's poems, and these, accompanied by her photographs, appeared under the title "The Planet Phantasmagoria" in 1996.

"Gerard K-Letters from Poland", the story of her Silesian family, was a great popular success in Sweden when it was published in 1986 and it was subsequently broadcasted as a radio play.

Photography also took Joanna Helander into filmmaking. On the basis of her own photographs she made the short films "Babcia, Who is a Good Father?", "Tales of Gerard K" and "Long Live Poland!". In collaboration with Bo Persson, she directed and co-produced the full-length film, "Eighth Day Theatre" , which won several awards, as well as the films "Returning", devoted to the fate of her Silesian-Jewish family, and The Twins from Cracow.

Joanna Helander is also well known in Poland where her work has appeared in a number of newspapers, journals, on bookcovers, etc. Her photographs were featured in the books Powroty-Returning, published by A5, and in Anna Bikont and Joanna Szczesny's Memory's Rubbish, Friends and Dreams, dedicated to Wislawa Szymborska and published by Proszynski i S-ka. A fragment in Polish from her book Gerard K - Letters from Poland, as well as an interview with the author appeared in the cultural journal 'Na Glos', 15/16.

A feature about Joanna Helander, titled "The Silesian Woman from Göteborg" was made for Polish Television by Joanna Illg. The Polish film director Kazimierz Kutz dedicated a program to her in in his television series Happy, if Sad.

In addition to her artistic work in Sweden and Poland, Joanna Helander writes for and publishes her photographs in newspapers and journals in several other countries, including Germany and the U.S.A.