Czesław Miłosz was born on 30th June 1911 in a small village named Szetejnie of the Russian empire. A poet, prose writer and translator of his native language, Milosz was the son of a civil engineer Aleksander Milosz and Weronika who was from a noble family. Although originally a Lithuanian, Czesław Miłosz was brought up as a Catholic. He graduated from Sigismund Augustus Gymnasium and studied law from Stefan Batory University.
His travels to Paris led him to be influenced by Oscar Milosz who was a cousin and Lithuanian poet. His first poetry work was published in 1934. There he landed a job at Radio Wilno as a commentator which was short lived due to his sympathy for Lithuania. All his work was written in the Polish language. He also translated the ‘Psalms’ in Polish. Milosz also witnessed the Second World War during which time he was in Warsaw. He attended lectures of Polish philosopher and historian Władysław Tatarkiewicz. After the war ended he worked in Pairs as a cultural representative of Poland. He had to obtain political asylum in France in 1951 as he broke off with the government.
Milosz was awarded with the ‘Prix Littéraire Européen’ which is the European Literary Prize. He became a US citizen in 1970. However before that he got the post of Professor of Polish Literature and Slavic languages at the University of California, Berkeley.
Czeslaw Milosz got married to Janina in 1944 and had two children with her; sons named Anthony and John Peter. After the death of his first wife in 1986 his second marriage was to an American born historian, Carol Thigpen who died in 2002.
The time he spent at University of California is mentioned in his poem ‘A Magic Mountain’. 1980 was a good year for Milosz as he received the Nobel Prize for Literature and in 1989 the U.S National Medal of Arts and an honorary doctorate from Harvard University. Due to some government restrictions, Milosz work was not published in Poland.
‘The Captive Mind’ was published in 1953. It was all about the behavior of scholars under an oppressive government. The book was translated into English by Jane Zielonko. Miłosz was given an award by the Polish P.E.N club in 1974. In 1976, he became the ‘Guggenheim Fellow’ of poetry and received another honorary degree from the Michigan University named the ‘Doctor of Letters’ in 1977. The next year he won the Neustadt International Prize for Literature and also got the ‘Berkeley Citation’. In 1979-1980 he was selected as nominee for ‘Research Lecturer’ by the Academic Senate.
Czesław Miłosz died at the age of 93 in 2004 having lived a successful life as an influential poet and contributor of literature. He was buried in Kraków’s Skałka Roman Catholic Church. The ‘Yad Vashem’ memorial to the Holocaust honored him by calling him one of the ‘Righteous among the Nation’. His work is translated in many languages by renowned translators. In 2011, Yale University held a conference with the topic of Milosz’s relations with the United States as the year was called ‘The Milosz Year’.