Dr. Bogdan Kotnis’ historical drama ‘Kaz: War, Love, and Betrayal‘ is full of suspense and action. General Kazimierz Pulaski forfeits his family’s wealth and steadfast love to battle the Russian and British troops during the 18th-century wars. His courageous actions won him the distinction of Father of the American Cavalry and the eighth honorary US citizenship during the same period when the United States was founded and Poland fell. In addition, his tale aids in our understanding of the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine.
In the era when the armed conflicts spanning two continents impacted the world’s future as we know it now, Kaz presents 100 historical characters from both sides of the Atlantic. Their behavior makes us think of notable people from today. For example, when accused of having a relationship with the Russian Tsarina Catherine the Great, the Polish King Stan responds, “I didn’t have sex with that woman, Catherine.” This scene is reminiscent of President Clinton’s response to the Monika Lewinsky scandal. Likewise, the “little green men” nickname given to the Russian soldiers who are murdering, raping, and robbing in Poland is a reference to the special operations forces President Putin of Russia employed to take Crimea from Ukraine.
Bogdan Kotnis, Pd. D. is a writer, journalist, educator, and film director with degrees in both the United States and Poland. His knowledge of English, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, German, and Danish helped describe the complex ties between several European nations with clarity.
A reading list for American kids and the military should include Kaz. Anyone attempting to comprehend the geopolitical issues in our world should have it in their library. Anyone looking for exciting literature with suspense and dramatic climactic reversals will find it in this fast-paced historical thriller.
Review of Kaz: War, Love, and Betrayal
by Eugene Sokolowski, Ph.D.
In this well-researched historical novel, Bogdan Kotnis chronicles the young life of Pulaski, who offered his services to George Washington and emerged as a brave soldier, demanding commander, and brilliant leader. These qualities earned him the title of “The Father of the American Cavalry” and a congressional appointment as Brigadier General and commander of his cavalry regiment. Readers will see that Kaz made America’s Congress and military leadership understand the critical importance of cavalry units and the need for establishing the first actual legion of warriors on horseback to act independently of the immediate needs of the infantry. Few foreign figures in early American events are as widely decorated in civilian society as is this Polish cavalry officer who was wrongly driven into exile from Poland’s fight for independence. Kaz believed that the American need to resist and fight against Britain was an inseparable principle from his native Poland’s lengthy struggle against Russian domination. As a result, he became one of the Revolutionary War’s most influential figures.
The 106 characters are a broad array of diverse individuals from both sides of the Atlantic, making this historical novel a colorful and genuinely exciting narrative. Listing the years associated with the title of each chapter is extremely useful for the reader. The characters are well developed and historically accurate, which brings a better understanding of the history of both Poland and our fledgling republic at the time. Although historical fiction is a blend of fact and fantasy, Kotnis presents a perfect balance of the two and artfully weaves them together into a fascinating account. Kaz takes a little patience to read but is well worth it. When the reader is finished, they will have a much more realistic and accurate view of Poland’s continuous fight against Russian aggression.
The number of pages in Kaz seems to be a lot to read; however, the typical American reader will learn and retain essential facts about Polish history and culture that are absent in the curricula of our public schools. As with any historical novel, illustrations help the reader connect with each chapter’s subject matter, which was done well, particularly in Section 1. As a result, the typical American reader will find the new and foreign historical and cultural aspects of the Polish szlachta, i.e., nobility, quite fascinating.
The average American will likely find the intermixing of royal families less exciting, but it provides necessary factual context, which empowers the reader with an overall understanding of the subject. However, the reader will undoubtedly find the political intrigue and deception carried out by royal actors, particularly Empress Catherine, fascinating. There is also Voltaire, the French Enlightenment writer, and philosopher who is employed to write a defamatory fabrication about Kaz in which he is accused as the ringleader of a group intent on assassinating King Poniatowski, known as Stan to readers. Stan’s pathetic weakness is also fully exposed, explaining why Kaz was a vital member of the oppositional Bar Confederation. The reader needs to know that the Bar Confederation was established to defend the liberties of the Polish szlachta and the independence of Poland from Russian encroachment. We further learn of the secret pact for the first partition of Poland, which will soon be followed by two more partitions and the disappearance of Poland from Europe’s map for the next 123 years.
Part II presents new facts about Kaz and his essential role in the Revolutionary War. In Chapter 9, we learn that Kaz saved George Washington’s life at Brandywine. We are also introduced to fellow countryman Tadeusz Kościuszko, who was key to the victory at Saratoga, and his adjutant Agrippa Hull, an African free man. It should be remembered that the victory at Saratoga convinced the hesitant French to join the Americans in fighting the British, which enabled us to achieve our independence. Despite several obstacles, Kaz established his Pulaski Legion, one of the reasons why Kaz is called the Father of the American Cavalry. Chapter 10, Winter at Valley Forge, is an inspiring account of the harsh living conditions that everyone endured but were nevertheless able to continue training and become an effective cavalry force.
The reader will find Chapter 11, Haudenosaunee Territories, exciting. He will learn a lot about the six Iroquois tribes and why Kaz knew it was important to ally with them against the British. The reader also will learn about the Sullivan expedition and its appalling destruction of the Onaquaga Indian town. Chapter 14 is an exciting conclusion to Kotnis’ historical drama. The reader again learns that despite a failed charge against General Prevost at Charleston, Kaz most likely saved Washington’s life.
The book’s ending point is notably powerful. At Savannah, Sergeant Major James Curry betrays Kaz and the American cause by informing the British about the main points of the attack and its timing. The reader will learn and surely remember that Kaz was a courageous Pole who boldly fought for the American cause but died because of an American’s betrayal. Kaz is a vital addition to a reading list for American students and the military. Polish Americans should feature Kaz: War, Love, and Betrayal in their home libraries.
Colonel Eugene Sokolowski, Ph. D. is a retired career Air Force officer with various NATO and national command assignments throughout the United States, Pacific, and Europe. Gene also worked as a Systems Analyst at Northop Grumman developing global combat search & rescue communications systems.
Review of Kaz: War, Love, and Betrayal. Published July 1 in AmPol Eagle Newspaper
by David Franczyk
I first met Dr. Bogdan Kotnis about 30 years ago when we were in the company of a mutual friend, James Konicki, a proud Polish American who moved to the Albany area from Western New York to work for the New York State Labor Department. Jim is deeply involved with his Polish culture, so it was no surprise he was close to Bogdan.
I got to know Bogdan better by sitting and talking with him at Jim Konicki’s beautiful wedding ceremony and reception near Cooperstown, NY. Jim was proud of his lovely wife Renee’s Lithuanian American background and her enthusiasm for his interest in Polonia and their mutual deep religious faith. Jim was ordained a priest in the Polish National Catholic Church a few years ago.
Now, back to Bogdan: I was quickly impressed by his many engaging interests and erudite discussion about these interests. By his accent, it was clear Bogdan was from Poland, and as he likes to say, he spent “half of his life in Poland and half in America.”
Fluent in numerous languages other than his native Polish and English, Bogdan early on developed an interest in American history and culture. His master’s degree is from the prestigious Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, and his thesis was about Native American Literature. His novel “Kaz,” has a chapter focusing on the Haudenosaunee Confederation (including the Seneca tribe) and their role in the American Revolution. Kotnis later earned a Ph.D. in Educational Management from the University of Buffalo which led to a top administrative post in the Buffalo Public Schools.
Novel “KAZ” Captures Spirit of Polish American Hero
Bogdan is prodigiously involved in many activities benefiting Polonia, including serving as CEO of the internationally recognized Polonia Global Fund, but his latest project is writing an exciting, popular biography of Kazimierz Pulaski, founder of the American Cavalry and hero of the American Revolution, felled by British gunfire at the Battle of Savannah in 1779. The title of Dr. Kotnis’ book is Kaz: War Love and Betrayal and is eminently accessible to readers of all ages seeking familiarity with Polish and American history.
The novel is based on accurately meticulous historical research but is surely not meant only for scholars. Quite the contrary: the book’s prose isn’t esoteric, but is clear, sparkling, and easy to read, especially for young people who may not ordinarily be interested, or know much, about American history, let alone any other country’s history. Although exciting and fast-moving the story doesn’t “dumb down” or give “short shrift” to the critical events leading to America’s independence against a determined foe through the activities of “Kaz” Pulaski. It is an action, adventure story that one reviewer noted “would make a great movie.”
Kotnis’ novel is a fast-paced narrative focusing on the key moments in Pulaski’s eventful life: his idyllic youth on the Polish steppes with family, friends, and colleagues; wider tragic political events swirling around the unfortunate King of Poland, Stanislaw August Poniatowski and his abject fealty to the domineering Czarina Katherine the Great, formerly a minor German princess who ascended to absolute power in Russia through marriage to the deposed Czar, Peter III.
Kotnis’ interplay between Kaz and the Polish king underscores the ramifications of Poniatowski’s duplicity. “You have had enough courtesans,” Kaz charges. “Take more if you need to but stop treating Catherine as your lover.” “This is outrageous!” exclaimed King Stan, “I never had sex with that woman, Catherine.” (Historic fact: although King “Stan” sounds like Bill Clinton (“I did not have sex with that woman”), the Polish king was, in fact, one of Catherine’s many paramours; this made little difference when she dismembered Poland.)
Kotnis writes of Pulaski’s burning passion to protect Polish independence against Muscovite oppression, culminating in Pulaski’s involvement in the anti-Russian Confederation of Bar. Despite leading Polish cavalry against the Russian hordes, the enemy was too powerful, and Pulaski was forced to flee to Paris. Despondent, he contemplated suicide until Benjamin Franklin stationed in Paris met Pulaski, and wrote George Washington that the young Polish officer was “famous throughout Europe for defending liberty against tyranny,” and should be recruited to fight for the patriot cause.
The novel delves into the interaction between George Washington and the young cavalry officer, emphasizing the pair’s critical partnership assuring eventual victory for the young democracy. Interestingly, both Kaz and Washington had many enemies conspiring against them. An American military cabal tried to overthrow and replace Washington as Commander of the Patriot Armies, and in addition to his enemies in Poland, the novel relates how Kaz was ultimately betrayed in Savannah by Major James Curry, leading to his death.
Readers of all ages will soon have the opportunity to get their hands on this exciting, action-packed true adventure story in novel form through Amazon this coming September. In the meantime, they can read reviews of the book and other information about the author of Kaz by visiting www.kazpulaski.com.
David Franczyk is a politician and faculty member at the History Department of the State University of New York College at Buffalo. He was the former President of the Buffalo Common Council and a long-term Councilman. He was the Democratic Party runner-up for the United States House of Representatives race for New York’s 30th congressional district in 1994.
Interview by Edward Dusza (Publisher of Gwiazda Polarna In Wisconsin)
This year, a valuable book will appear on the American publishing market, which vividly describes the life of Kazimierz Pułaski on two continents. Historical fiction titled Kaz: War, Love, and Betrayal weave over a hundred historical characters into a riveting story worth screening. There has never been a book before that today could be confidently recommended to an American reader looking for a Polish perspective on the events of the late eighteenth century, a time when Polish statehood was dying and the United States was being born. Who is the author Dr. Bogdan Kotnis, and what was his goal in writing Kaz?
Dusza: I know that you have obtained an M.A. in American Literature from Jagiellonian University and a Ph. D. at Buffalo State University, New York.
Kotnis: Yes, I defended my M.A. thesis in North American Indian literature and my Ph.D. in education systems management. I spent half my life in Poland and half in the United States.
Dusza: What prompted you to write Kaz?
Kotnis: I missed a book that would present in an accessible and attractive way the complicated history of the collapse of Polish statehood from our Polish perspective, without the narrative dictated by the invaders. It hurt me that the person of Kazimierz Pułaski did not get its rightful place in American literature. I decided to patch this hole to the best of my modest ability.
Dusza: I understand that Kaz is intended for the American reader.
Kotnis: Yes, I tried to introduce Kazimierz so that the average American could find himself in his adventures. I hope the Polish reader will like the hero as well.
Dusza: This is historical fiction. How much is truth, and how much fiction is in it?
Kotnis: I present the narrative from the election of King Stanisław August in 1764 to the death of General Casimir Pułaski at Savannah, Georgia, in 1779. The level of research on Pułaski’s life is modest. Apart from historical facts, their synthetic interpretation is also critical. I introduced certain characters and events to present the motivations, emotions, and historical facts as I see them. Understanding the Polish perspective without the manipulations perpetrated by the invaders is essential for us, Poles, but also the world. After the final partition of Poland in 1795, the war continues, with some breaks, until today in the same place. This area of the world may be called Poland, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Russia, the Soviet Union, the German Reich, or Ukraine. Regardless of the name, people die.
Dusza: How much interest do the Americans have in these remote areas?
Kotnis: Even though it’s a long way off, the United States invests considerable resources in this part of the world. If we don’t understand what’s happening there and why the war is continuing, nothing will stop it. Americans are surprised by Russia’s actions every generation. Their brutal behavior is blamed on the unbalanced leaders who persecute the oppressed Russian people. The American analysis lacks the Polish perspective that would be considered equal to the Russian, German, French, or English perspectives. We need to develop such a reliable Polish perspective. It’s good to start such work somewhere. Pułaski’s story is a good start.
Dusza: You do not leave a thread on King Staś, who many consider a tragic figure.
Kotnis: I’m not a historian. I am a specialist in the development of management systems. I work with American charities and businesses as an analyst for the strategic development of institutions. From this angle, I see Kazimierz Pułaski as the unmistakable hero of a Hollywood bestseller format. The challenge is how to reach that level.
Dusza: I understand that you propose that American students and soldiers read Kaz.
Kotnis: It is a story about an American-Polish brotherhood in arms. Several US soldiers who read Kaz told me they could not put their reading to the last page. They thanked me for the book, saying that they had no idea about Pułaski and felt that, in a sense, by serving in Poland, they were paying a debt of gratitude by fighting for our freedom and yours.
When I was writing my MA thesis on the novel House Made of Dawn by Navarro Scott Momeday, an Indian of the Kiowa and Navaho tribes, I read all the books in Polish libraries on North American Indian literature. Today, American students know less about Poland and Kazimierz Pułaski than I did about the Natives. I want to change that and broaden their knowledge. I encourage academic and high school teachers to introduce Kaz as reading material for their students.
Dusza: You worked as the principal of a Native American magnet school in Buffalo, New York. I now understand why there is a chapter in the book on Pułaski’s adventures in the country of the Iroquois.
Kotnis: This is one of the themes that belong to historical fiction. I wanted to present some facts about Pułaski’s life and the situation of the Natives during the War of Independence. The country of the Iroquois, recognized by England and France, existed for over 200 years and ceased its political life during the American Revolutionary War. General Sullivan’s expedition destroyed over 40 Native towns on Washington’s orders. The survivors fled to Canada. Pułaski refused to participate in this expedition.
Dusza: How did Pułaski’s meeting with Kościuszko come about?
Kotnis: This is another fictional thread that I introduced to show our Polish attitude towards slavery. Kościuszko visits Pułaski on Christmas Eve at the US Army Camp in Valley Forge. He comes with his free man, African aide, Agrippa Hull.
Dusza: Kaz’s adventures remind me of the heroes of the Sienkiewicz trilogy. Is Kaz an attempt to comfort our hearts?
Kotnis: We are reluctant to connect about 40 million Poles in Poland with over 20 million in the international diaspora. Kazimierz Pułaski and Tadeusz Kościuszko are jewels buried in the ruins of post-partition Poland. As in Jerzy Andrzejewski’s novel Ashes and Diamonds, we must adequately use their value.
Dusza: When can we expect Kaz in the bookstores?
Kotnis: I plan to make Kaz available on Amazon in book and electronic form in September 2022. If a book starts selling well in its first week, it would be the first step to reaching the American reader. I hope that the Polonia community will help Kaz become an Amazon bestseller.