My Polish is far from  perfect. Please do email me with comments, questions, and any corrections of my mistakes.  

For an English speaking audience I have always used the shortest and simplest spellings and pronunciation. Polish pronunciation is extremely tricky. Some of the names and places featured in the book are also different in different languages.

To add a final twist, Polish female names usually end in ‘a’, so Mrs Dabrowski, strictly speaking, would be Pani Dabrowska. As far as possible I have tried to steer clear of all these complexities. I suggest that the reader tackle the names of places and things much as they would in a fantasy novel or an Anglo-Saxon poem  - without worrying too much about them!


Having said all that, where Polish words and names are used in ‘Song of the Legions’ –


‘c’ is pronounced ‘ts’, so the villainous Felix Potocki’s name is pronounced ‘Pot-ots-ski’.

(Fortunately most people called him Felix.)

‘cz’ is pronounced ‘ch’ so a czapka is a ‘chapka’

‘rz’ is usually pronounced ‘sz’ ( a hard ‘z’ sound) so for our purposes ‘Rzewuski’ is ‘Zevuski’

‘sz’ is pronounced ‘sh’, so kontusz (a horseman’s coat) is ‘kont-ush’, Markuszem is ‘Markushem’, ‘szlachta’ is ‘shlachta’ and ‘uszka’ is ‘ooshka’.

‘w’ is pronounced ‘v’, so Dabrowski is ‘Dabrovski’, Krakow is ‘Krak-ov’ and Lwow is ‘Lvov’, Poniatowski is ‘Poniatovski’, Rzewuski is ‘Zevuski’ Sierawski is ‘Sieravski’, Twardowski is ‘Tvardovski’, and Wigilia (Christmas Eve) is ‘Vigilia’...

and so on.

‘i’ is usually pronounced ‘ee’.


So Targowica and Targowican are therefore ‘Targoveetsa’ and ‘Targoveetsan’.

Lastly, ‘Kosciuszko’ deserves a note all of its own. It is pronounced ‘Kosh-choo-shko’. There are numerous towns, villages, hills and mountains in Australia and the USA named after Tadeusz Kosciuszko, and one wonders how these are rendered in the local dialect!


As for the most notable and difficult names –




DABROWSKI is often spelled ‘Dombrowski’, especially in older texts, and can also appear as ‘Dąbrowski.’;

JABLONOWSKI in Polish is ‘yab-won-ov-ski’ (or near enough!); RZEWUSKI [ze-vuski];

STANISLAUS-AUGUST can also be spelled in numerous ways including ‘Stanislaw-August’;

WYBICKI is ‘Vy-bit-ski’; ZAYONCZEK this is properly spelled Zajączek’ but it is more or less pronounced as it is rendered in English, as ‘Zayonczek or rather ‘Zayonchek’.




KRAKOW [‘krakuf’] also ‘Cracow’; LWOW is often spelled as it is pronounced, ‘Lvov’;

WARSAW in Polish is Warsawa [‘Var-shava’]; WOLA [‘Vola’]; WROCLAW [‘vrot-swav’] in German is Breslau




VISTULA in Polish is Wisła [ˈviswa’]; VARTA (the river) presents no difficulties and even sounds a bit like ‘water’!




CZAPKA [‘chapka’] is most often a cavalryman’s cap (a square-sided shako) but can also mean just a normal cap;

KROLIK [‘krul-eek’] is a lovely word. ‘krol’ means king and ‘krolik’ means rabbit, so ‘krolik’, a petty king, is also a derogatory term, like warlord; MESZCZYZNA [‘men-s-chis-na’] a man, or a ‘mensch’ (in Yiddish);

MUSZKA [‘moo-sh-ka’] Little Fly, the name of Blumer’s horse;

PILAWA [pi’lava] the emblem of the Potocki clan;

SEJM [‘say-m’] the Polish Parliament, it still bears the same name today.


Guide: pronouncing Polish words and alternative spellings