Karol ‘Parno’ Gierliński was born in 1938 in Poznań, Poland into a Sinti family and died in Nowe Miasto nad Pilicą (Poland) in 2015. His father died in 1945 as a Polish army officer and his mother was murdered in Auschwitz. Karol survived after being saved from a transport by Alfreda Markowska (‘Noncia’), a young Polish Romni who managed to escape together with a group of minor Romnja and Jews. The group survived the Holocaust by hiding in the woods and towns. After the war Gierliński joined Noncia’s travelling group, which traversed Poland, and worked as a coppersmith.

Multi-talented, he excelled as a sculptor, painter, poet and activist. On completing secondary school for chemistry in Poznań, he studied at the University of Fine Arts between 1957 and 1963 and thereafter became a professional sculptor. His works were displayed at numerous exhibitions in Poland and elsewhere and can now be found in many museums and private collections. As an activisit, he took part in the Solidarność (Solidarity) movement and the workers’ protests in Poznań in 1956.

Gierliński created numerous sacral sculptures. Following is poetic debut with ‘Deszcz [Rain] in 1968, he published two collections of poetry (2001, 2012) and one prose work (2007). His literary oeuvre focuses on the forced settlement of Roma after the Second World War. As an expert on the Romani language, culture and customs he headed the ‘Roma’ ensemble (founded in 1948).

In addition, Gierliński wrote the first primer for Romani children in Poland, Miri szkoła. Romano elementaro (2008), which was published in two Romani-language variants – the dialects of the Polska Roma and the Bergitka Roma. Gierliński was a deputy of the Parliament of the International Romani Union. In 2001 he was awarded the Gloria Artis Medal for Merit to Culture and in 2011 the Golden Cross of Merit (Poland).

(Translation Anna Mirga-Kruszelnicka)


Gierliński, Karol Parno. 2001. Xaratuno thuv/Odległy dym. Bydgoszcz: Nice.

Gierliński, Karol Parno. 2007. Meteory. Śiłałe ćerhenia. Illustriert von Krystyna Jóźwiak-Gierlińska. Szczecinek: Związek Romów Polskich.

Gierliński, Karol Parno. 2008. Miri szkoła. Romano elementaro. Gorzów Wielkopolski: Urząd Miasta Gorzowa Wielkopolskiego.

Gierliński, Karol Parno. 2012. Róża pustyni. Tarnów: Muzeum Okręgowe.