THE BOOK: HENRY: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America
PUBLISHED IN: November 1, 2017, USA
THE AUTHOR: Katrina Shawver
THE EDITOR: Staff at Köehler Books
THE PUBLISHER: Köehler Books, Virginia Beach, VA, USA
SUMMARY: When journalist Katrina Shawver met the eighty-five-year-old Henry Zguda, he possessed an exceptional memory, original documents and photos, and a knack for meeting the right people at the right time. Told in an interview format, Henry relates a life as a champion swimmer and coach, interrupted by three years imprisoned in Auschwitz and Buchenwald as a Catholic Polish political prisoner. This bridge to history is told with a pragmatic gallows humor and is supported by extensive research, original documents, and rare photos. Ultimately, HENRY is the story of a resilient young man who survives by his wits, humor, friends, and luck.
THE BACK STORY: I met Henry Zguda by a random referral when I wrote for the newspaper. My only goal was enough information to craft an interesting 600-word newspaper column. However, from the very first interview I sensed a much greater compelling, and unusual story risk of being lost forever. Henry had no relatives to hand his story to. Conversely, he had already told me “nobody is interested my stories. I’ve told Nancy [his wife] to throw everything out when I’m gone.”
I still can’t explain why I impulsively called him up and suggested we work together to write his story. He was already eighty-five years old, so I knew the stories had to be captured right away. From the very beginning, the story came to me unexpectedly, has stayed with me for reasons I can’t explain. I’ve set it aside more than once as the size of the task overwhelmed me. But it kept calling to me, the right people kept coming into my life at the right time, so it was meant to be. I’ve followed a higher power in finishing this book.
This book has been fifteen years in the making. I met Henry in 2002, and the book was published in 2017. If alive, he would be a hundred years old. I have become a huge student of Poland, WWII and the Holocaust and have a huge respect for Poles.
WHY THIS TITLE: HENRY is a thoroughly researched, historically accurate, and incredible true story with a character you will fall in love with. Readers will definitely have their “aha” moments in reading many parts of the history, because of Henry’s keen “insider” perspective of someone who was well connected. I definitely recommend the book for any college-level courses on the Holocaust, World War II, or Poland, and adults interested in history. Due to some scenes in a concentration camp, I do recommend it for adults.
The book makes an ideal addition for book groups and reader discussions. A list of Topics for Discussion is included in the back to help spark additional thought and lively talks.
WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: HENRY is an intelligent read for discerning adults, especially those interested in European history, World War II, and the Holocaust. A reader’s discussion guide is included for book groups. It is also ideal for college-level courses on WWII or the Holocaust. I have received a lot of support from the Polish community, and definitely anyone of Polish heritage or connections will appreciate it. The book includes more than 80 original documents and photos not printed elsewhere. By copyright with museums, these will only appear in the print format, which means readers must get the book. I consider the book an intelligent read for the discerning adult.
REVIEW COMMENTS: See attached document of praise and reviews from professors, esteemed authors, and book reviewers received to date.
AUTHOR PROFILE: Katrina Shawver is an experienced writer, blogger, speaker, and the author of HENRY – A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America, an adult nonfiction biography released in 2017 to high praise. She holds a BA from the University of Arizona in English/Political Science, and began her writing career more than twenty years ago by writing hundreds of newspaper columns for The Arizona Republic in Phoenix, Arizona which she calls home. Her favorite quote is ”What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” She lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband Rick.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: I have always been drawn to nonfiction since I was a young girl, especially those stories that combine biographies and history. After writing for the newspaper, I became passionate about the power of the written word, not only to transport us to imaginary worlds, but to influence opinion, provoke discussion and inform the community about interesting people and organizations who deserve credit. I like books that make me think. As to history, I found a quote by A Whitney Brown that I included in the front of my book: ”The past actually happened, but history is only what someone wrote down.” If my writing influences how we think about history, that’s the power of the written word.
SAMPLE CHAPTER: The listing on Amazon includes a “Look Inside.” To find HENRY on Amazon, follow this link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1633935205
WHERE TO BUY IT: Henry is available for purchase in hardback, paperback and eBook formats on most online book sites worldwide.
PRICE: SOFTCOVER, $19.95, 978-1-63393-520-4
HARDCOVER, $29.95, 978-1-63393-523-5
EBOOK, $9.99, 978-1-63393-521-1
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: For more information on Katrina and HENRY: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship from Auschwitz to America, visit her website katrinashawver.com where she blogs regularly. She can also be found on
Facebook at Read Katrina Shawver and on Twitter at KatrinaShaw