Copernicus Avenue is Toronto's Roncesvalles Avenue reimagined. Borkowski writes what he knows and so brings us deep into the heart of Toronto's diverse and storied Polish community. Copernicus Avenue speaks with a voice that rings true across the generations; to those forced to leave a life behind, to those who live under the shadow of the past, and those unsure of their place in the future. The clarity and economy of Borkowski's language conjures every familiar smell and streetscape in the Roncesvalles neighbourhood. This collection of subtly interwoven short stories reaches into the soul of all who have struggled through adversity and continued to persevere.
Set primarily in the neighbourhood of fictional Copernicus Avenue, Andrew Borkowski’s debut collection of short stories is a daring, modern take on life in Toronto’s Polish community in the years following World War II. Featuring a cast of young and old, artists and soldiers, visionaries and madmen, the forgotten and the unforgettable, Copernicus Avenue captures, with bold and striking prose, the spirit of a people who have travelled to a new land, not to escape old grudges and atrocities, but to conquer them.
Andrew J. Borkowski
Andrew J. Borkowski was born and raised in Toronto’s Roncesvalles Village. He studied Journalism and English Literature at Carleton University. As a freelance journalist, he has published articles in the Globe and Mail, the Canadian Forum, Quill & Quire, TV Guide, and the Los Angeles Times. His short fiction has appeared in Grain, The New Quarterly, and in Storyteller magazine. His short story “Twelve Versions of Lech,” which appears in Copernicus Avenue, was nominated for the 2007 Writer’s Trust/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize and published in Journey Prize Stories 19.
Excerpt from Copernicus Avenue
The bench is exactly where he wanted it, on the ridge above Grenadier Pond and the formal gardens. Thadeus dusts the snow from the seat and uses his keys to scrape ice from the brass plaque that reads, “In Memory of Marlene Mienkiewicz, who loves this place.” Today, the view is a child’s pencil sketch, half-erased in the fog, rock gardens, stands on yew and boxwood reduced to smudges and linked by helixes of snow fence.
They courted here in the summer of ’51, Sunnyside amusement park still whirling and clattering down by the lake and survivor’s euphoria running like amphetamine in his veins. He turned aside the Polish girls the community had urged toward him and chose a Canadian woman. They were both in their thirties—old, in those days, to be starting at anything. But the world he had known in Polesie had been swept away. His children would be Canadians. Marlene and the boys where his new beginning and, in the beginning, Thadeus thought that was all his new patron saint could expect of him.
It wasn’t easy. He studied accounting at night and worked at the Eaton’s warehouse by day. He and Marlene bought the house on Galway, rented out rooms to pay the mortgage. Eventually, he thought, he would move their new family to Mississauga, buy a station wagon, maybe even learn to like hockey.
But his patron saint hadn’t finished with him. The army of Free Poland had a new beachhead, on the shore of Lake Ontario. Instead of guns and planes, they needed capital to start businesses and buy homes. No Canadian bank would lend to them, so Father Kuron set up the Parish Trust and asked Thadeus to head the loan committee. He took the job, at half the salary he’s finally been offered byu the Dominion Life Assurance Company after he finished his course.