Needle in the Bone is the latest books in the works in my life — the story of a Polish resistance fighter and a Holocaust survivor who not only beat the odds, but created a new life for themselves in Kansas, where the found each other and a life-long friendship. Lou Frydman survived hiding in various places around Poland with his parents and brother before witnessing the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising from a bunker in the ghetto. He then made it through six concentration camps and three death marches before coming to America, where he met his future wife. Jarek Piekalkewicz founded his own underground army at age 16 before being discovered by his family, most of whom were deeply involved in the underground (including his uncle Jan, who served as the underground’s leader). He went on to command 1,000 men by the time he was 18, and fight in the Warsaw Uprising before being captured as POW and going on the Sagan March. After about a decade in Germany, Italy, Scotland, England and Ireland, he and his new wife made their way to America. Both men found teaching jobs at the University of Kansas, and consequently, each other.

I’m the poet laureate of Kansas, and the author of ten books, including a recent memoir, The Sky Begin at Your Feet, and a fourth collection of poetry, Landed. I teach at Goddard College, where I founded and now coordinate Transformative Language Arts, a master’s level program on using writing, storytelling, performance and more for community building, personal growth, and social change. Please visit my website, and my other blog, which features reflections on finding meaning, joy and connection in life and especially in the writing life (there are also columns and podcasts on writing from your life).

Photos: Top — Jarek Piekalkewicz in one of his uniforms; middle — Lou Frydman  at the Aglasterhausen UNRRA Center in spring of 1946, about a year after he was liberated.