The legacy of Karin Wolff
Karin Wolff (?-2018) - "It's not the well-trodden paths that are her thing, but the undiscovered or forgotten." Christa Ebert on Karin Wolff in the justification for the award of the Translator Prize of the NRW Cultural Foundation (unpublished typescript from 24.11.2010).
"I am an individualist and I have always loved freedom. [...] I'm just more of a cat than a dog." Karin Wolff in conversation with Robert Żurek, in: Żurek, Robert (ed.): Polen - mein Weg zur Freiheit: Wie Polen die DDR-Bürgerrechtler inspirierte, Osnabrück, 2015
Karin Wolff was born and grew up in Frankfurt (Oder). After graduating from high school, she was not admitted to university - because of her middle-class background and Christian worldview - but was sent to "prove herself in the socialist work process" in a furniture factory. Despite being delegated to study Indology in Leipzig, she was refused. In the end she studied Protestant theology at the Berlin Sprachenkonvikt. During a 14-week stay at the clinic, she taught herself Polish independently and later took the language exam at the Polish Culture and Information Centre in East Berlin. At the same time, she began translating Polish literature. Her first publication was a children's book: "Die Abenteuer eines Knetemännleins" (The Adventures of a Knead Man) by Maria Kownacka, published in 1970 by the Groszer publishing house in Old Berlin. For many years Karin Wolff worked as a proofreader, later as an editor at the Evangelische Verlagsanstalt in Berlin and as a freelancer on the editorial staff of the monthly magazine "Polen (West)" in Warsaw. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, she has lived in Frankfurt (Oder) as a freelance translator and author.
She translated over 90 books by Polish authors from different eras and different literary directions, including works by Jerzy Bieńkowski, Roman Brandstaetter, Jerzy Ficowski, Manuela Gretkowska, Maria Kuncewiczowa, Karolina Lanckorońska, Antoni Libera, Helena Mniszkówna, Maria Nurowska, Henryk Sienkiewicz, Andrzej Szczypiorski, Władysław Szpielman and Gabriela Zapolska. She was a tireless ambassador of Polish literature and culture, which she presented to the wide audience of her hometown in various events.
She received several awards for her translations and her commitment, including the Translators' Prize of the Polish PEN Club, the Translators' Prize of the Polish Association of Authors and Composers (ZAiKS), the Medal of Merit of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Officer's Cross of the Republic of Poland and the Gratitude Medal of the European Centre of Solidarność in Gdansk.
She passed away on 29 July 2018 in Frankfurt (Oder).