I wear many hats, including these of a psychotherapist, a historian, and a teacher, but also of a writer, and a promoter of arts. Growing up in communist Poland in a family impacted by the World War II, experiencing in my adolescence the political upheaval and the economic collapse, and in my youth—the systemic political, social, and economic transformation, I have always been receptive to the impact of politics on lives of individual people and families, and that receptiveness informed my professional choices and personal values. It taught me that though history matters, life is happening in the present.
In 1990s, I graduated with an MA in history from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland. At that time, I also worked various jobs, including in advertisement and construction businesses, trying to figure out which path to take. My experience as a young woman trying to find her way through the jungle of early capitalism led me to discovering feminism and inspired me to pursue women’s history and gender studies, eventually leading me to a graduate program in history at Adam Mickiewicz University. As a student, I particularly appreciated studying abroad at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands where I expanded my knowledge in women’s history and made lifetime friends with the international students. As a masters and doctoral student, I participated in national and international conferences, my works received awards by Polish Association of History Students, and I published scholarly and popular articles on the subject of women’s and queer history. I take particular pride in the fact that some of my early articles have been included into academic curricula on women’s and gender history. More so, I cherish my academic teaching experiences.
The close encounter with the U.S. academic community, which was made possible thanks to the Polish-American Research Fellowship at the University of Notre Dame, inspired me to leave my comfort zone to pursue the doctoral studies in the U.S. I was happy to be accepted to the graduate program at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where I continued studying history with emphasis on gender, masculinity, and cultural studies, and where I also taught undergraduate courses as a Graduate Student Instructor. After obtaining my Ph.D., I taught modern East European history at the University of Notre Dame, continuing my research, publishing, presenting, serving as a mentor to students, and investing time in plans to develop Polish Studies at UND. I published in Polish, English, German, and Russian, mainly on history, contemporary arts, and philosophy. Since then, I have been serving as a member of the editorial board of scholarly periodicals, and as a board member of the TRES Foundation in Poland. At that time, I also become a mom, and this is by far my greatest accomplishment.
All those experiences made me appreciate the systematic studies and research, the direct engagement in education, as well as made me realize the importance of staying grounded and connected with a community in which one lives. These findings led me to shift my life course to explore new ways of growth. This shift was sustained thanks to the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice at the University of Chicago where I completed AM (MSW) in clinical social work. I am grateful to many of my teachers, mentors, and friends through my time in Chicago and beyond who guided me on the journey to social services. Through volunteering at Emmanuel House in Detroit, I got to know the experiences of homeless veterans living with substance use disorders. As a resource counselor at the Chicago Center for HIV Elimination, I learned about challenges faced by Black trans women, bisexual, MSM, and gay men from the South Side of Chicago. Together with a Chicago-based performing and visual artist Marvin Tate I co-facilitated art therapy group for teenagers from the Chicago Public School system who were exposed to gun violence, through the Wellness Recovery Art Program organized by the University of Chicago Medicine and Logan Center for the Arts. I received an excellent clinical training, working with military veterans at Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Chicago from my supervisor and other mental health professionals. Working with Black youth as a community-based therapist at Lawrence Hall in Chicago gave me precious clinical experience, humility through appreciation of my clients’ life struggles, as well as an insight into the works of a social service agency. Now, I serve as a psychotherapist to the residents of rural and post-industrial parts of Indiana through LPA Counseling in Valparaiso and Michigan City. Recently, I left my comfort zone yet again, to venture into creative writing.
In 2021, together with James W. Williams, we had a chance to teach a course on traumatizing and healing aspects of public history at the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences (“Shaninka”), with no idea how relevant this topic would soon become. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, I offered many talks and consultations on trauma-informed care to various institutions and organizations in Poland. Since March 2022, together with James, we have been leading a weekly virtual introvision / supervision group for Ukrainian psychotherapists living and working both in war-torn Ukraine and abroad as refugees. James and I are humbled and honored to be able to support our heroic Ukrainian colleagues, and this experience prompted us, together with Jessica Maria Montalvo, to found Numa, Inc. as a non-for-profit organization assisting people in a humanitarian crisis.