‘Marzi’ shows child’s view of history

Nathan Carter


Before reading Marzi, I couldn’t tell you where Poland was on a map, much less care about it.

Now that I have read it, I feel like I should at least care. 

Marzi is a memoir written by Marzena Sowa through her eyes as a 10 year old growing up in Soviet controlled Poland. Several chapters give a very detailed account of her time growing up.

Sometimes the reader could not tell Marzi from a child in the United States. She lives in an apartment building where her only fun in the winter is to cause chaos in the halls by pushing every button on the elevators and playing ding dong ditch.

She runs around with a stuffed rabbit and a rag doll made by her family members with handmade clothes and envies her friends and school mates when they get something she likes better. She plays games with what she has and a lot of imagination, and in general is a typical 10 year old.

However, there are some things that seem relatively different.

From her writing, Soviet controled Poland seems like every day is Black Friday. There are several instances where Marzi talks about waiting in line at the market for half a day for meat, fruit and vegetables in the snow. For gas, she talks about her friends and neighbors waiting for days. 

She writes about everyday life, which is often her wishing for a better life and hoping she doesn’t have to grow up or that she can grow up quickly so she can understand things. There are some well known historical events in the story, such as Marzi and her families race to the hospital after Chernobyl in the chapter “Breathing Can Be Hazardous To Your Health,” and the strikes at the factories in several chapters.

The art style is simple, but the simpleness of the art style allows  her character a variety of emotions. Older characters have smaller eyes, and in one case Marzi notes, “My dad’s eyes are tired and wrinkled. Were they like mine once? Wide open? Did they want to see everything, understand everything, hold everything too? Does age affect the size of your eyes? The size of your curiosity?”

Historical facts and figures such as Lech Walesa is discussed during the strikes, along with little details of all the protests and how her personal life was affected. Overall, it’s the details of the stillness and anxiety of ridding themselves of Communism and the importance of family and community to a 10 year old that give Marzi its charm.