Project “I, European”

More and more children are brought up in multicultural and multilingual families. For them, being a European means: school and home in Germany, and holidays in Poland. Dad from Paris and Mom from Rome. Joint holidays, with a mix of traditions, dishes and stories. Children navigate between cultures with amazing ease, drawing the best from each of them, and finding similarities. Štěpán Zavřel’s books are just like that – universal, fully inspired by many cultures and timeless.


Grandfather Thomas

Grandfather Thomas is full of imagination. The children are delighted in his company and no one is ever bored . But only for the time being…
One day the mayor declares says that, for the sake of safety and wellbeing of all grandmas and grandpas, they will be transported to a place called „The Happy House”. „Grandpa-catchers” are dispatched, and Grandfather Thomas is caught during a roller-skating race. Under the cover of darkness buses take grandmas and grandpas away to „The Happy House”.
Children are sad and ask questions about their relatives, and after a long time they finally see them on television. „The Happy House” really is beautiful, with all the best equipment.  But alas! The kids also immediately notice that their grandparents are not happy at all. So the children invent a plan to free them from captivity.
Will their plan succeed? Read and find out!

The book was translated from Italian into Polish by Ewa Nicewicz.

Read excerpt in Polish

Dream in Venice

One foggy winter morning, Marco and his friends went to school. Marco lives in Venice, a marvelous city built on many islands, with the Adriatic Sea constantly lapping it with its waves.
At school, the teacher tell the kids about the history of Venice, about its beauty and its inevitable future – one day Venice will sink completely under water. This vision of the future Venice is the subject of their art lesson. The teacher asks the children to grab pens, brushes and every tool they can use, and show how they imagine that underwater city of the future.
At night, Marco thinks about his illustration, in which he drew a little mermaid in the front with the drowned city in the background.. Suddenly someone knocks on the window. It’s the little mermaid from his drawing, who thanks him for including her in the illustration and invites him to see the real underwater city!

The book was translated from Italian into Polish by Monika Motkowicz.

Read excerpt in Polish

The sun calls it quits

Once upon a time people lived in wooden huts in the woods. Every evening they lit a fire on top of the mountain. In this way, they worshiped the sun and showed it exactly where it should rise the next morning. Years later, they lived in houses built of stone and brick. They gradually forgot about the sun, and about the surrounding nature … Until one day the sun disappeared behind clouds of smog and smoke.
This highly timely story was written and illustrated by Štěpán Zavřel in 1973. Now it has been translated for the first time in Poland by Natalia Mętrak-Ruda.

Read excerpt in Polish

The last tree

Trees: beautiful, majestic, their crowns reach the sky, and they give us the air we breathe. Could you imagine a world without trees? 
Nadir and Selina, two children who loved nature, witnessed a terrible thing. The residents of their town were so obsessed with gold and jewels that they gradually cut down all the surrounding trees. The once vibrant area became a desert. Literally. Until one day all that remained of the lush forest was one lone cedar tree, surrounded by sun-scorched grass. Only then the townspeople realized what their greed had cost them. Did Selina and Nadir save their town? Find out in the beautiful story “The Last Tree”.

You will find a QR code in the book. Let yourself be carried away by the stories performed by Agnieszka Ayşen Kaim, a storytelling artist.

The book was translated from Italian into Polish by Monika Motkowicz.

Read excerpt in Polish

The magic fish

“In the museum there was – and still is – a certain painting, which all the children loved. The picture was of a goldfish painted on a dark blue background. Every time the children visited
the museum, they would stop in front of the painting and gaze at it with unending admiration.”

“The Magic Fish” is a book about a painting, the one and only painting that all children love! Every museum probably has such a painting, in front of which fascinated children stop and stare with their eyes and mouths wide open. And on this painting is a goldfish.

One day the guard put the painting near a fountain, and the carp living in the fountain woke up the goldfish from the painting. Then they all swam to the sea together and had many adventures there. The children now stand, saddened, in front of the empty painting. Will the goldfish ever return to the museum? You will find out when you reach for this beautiful story with magical illustrations.

The story is inspired by Paul Klee’s painting “The Goldfish”. Mafra Gagliardi wrote the story and Štěpán Zavřel illustrated this book about art and its influence on the youngest viewers. Children love beauty, they are sensitive, and they can see things that we, adults, often no longer notice. We invite you to read the book!

In the book you will find a QR code with the audiobook (read by Monika Pikuła).

The book was translated from Italian into Polish by Ewa Nicewicz.

Read excerpt in Polish

The Color Thief

The hero of this story is a boy named Pinin. Pinin is very fond of walking. ‘I wonder what’s over there beyond the hills,’ he wonders. One day he decides to find out. He walks and walks and finally comes to a beautiful garden, the biggest and prettiest he has ever seen. It is full of brilliantly colored trees and flowers. There are no people, but animals walk freely in the tall, emerald grass.

One day, a strange man arrives in the beautiful garden as gray as an evening shadow. He brushes the plants and animals with his magic sponge and steals their colors. Will anyone manage to lift the spell?

“When I am sad, everything loses its color and becomes gray. Mom, who is stealing the colors?” This little girl’s question inspired writer Mafra Gagliardi to write this unique book about emotions.

QR code in creation process 🙂 Will be added soon!

The book was translated from Italian into Polish by Natalia Mętrak-Rudy.

Read excerpt in Polish


Štěpán Zavřel (1932–1999)

Štěpán Zavřel’was born in Prague. He spent his childhood and youth in Czechoslovakia, where he studied at the Cinematography Department and dealt with animation.
In 1959, Zavřel left Czechoslovakia. After a dramatic escape, he ended up in a refugee camp in Trieste, later travelling to Rome to study painting at the Academy of Fine Arts (Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma). Soon he moved to Germany, where he continued his studies at the Kunstakademie in Munich at the Department of Scenography and Costume Design. From 1965 to 1968 he lived in London, where he directed animated films at the Richard Williams Studio.

Štěpán Zavřel traveled across Europe, finally settling in Rugolo (Sàrmede) in 1968, a small village in the Veneto region of Italy. He bought an abandoned house, which over time became the center of artistic life for many artists from Europe and beyond. Today, this little village near Treviso is a true fairy-tale land. Štěpán Zavřel, together with artists from different countries, decorated many buildings, including public ones, with frescoes. About 80 works by Zavřel can be seen in a special permanent exhibition in a local museum dedicated to the artist.

Zavřel has presented his work in many museums and galleries around the world, including Norway, Switzerland, South Africa, the United States, Central America and Spain. In 1982, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York presented his works at the exhibition “Venice of Tomorrow”.

In 1983 he initiated the “International Exhibition of Children’s Book Illustrations”, which is now known as “Le Immagini della Fantasia”. In 1988, he founded the International School of Illustration, which is still active today. Its lecturers are famous authors of children’s literature, including the Polish illustrators Joanna Concejo and Józef Wilkoń.

Mafra Gagliardi (ur. 1935)

was born in Motta di Livenza, a city in the northeast of Veneto. She lived there until the age of eighteen, and then she moved to Padua, where she studied at the university.

She worked as a teacher, theater animator, and university researcher. However, the definition with which she best identifies is “child culture researcher”: she is fascinated by the world of childhood. Children amaze her with the richness of their inner world, which is often underestimated or even ignored by adults. Perhaps this is why Mafra writes for children – to establish a relationship with them and to rediscover universal truths. She creates to share a view of the world that is open to primal emotions and intense perception. She is also aware that the author-reader relationship is mutual: children who listen to her stories develop their own imagination and emotions.

Mafra found the same kind of free fantasy in Štěpán Zavřel. Her sister met him while visiting the Uffizi, and a friendship was born from this chance meeting. One evening, they were sitting in an old brewery in the historic city center and talking about their projects. They both dreamed of creating a book for children. However, it was to be a project different from those available on the market, a book – as Štěpán used to say – “made of art”. The inspiration for its creation was supposed to be a painting of a great artist. And thus the “Magic Fish” was born, inspired by Paul Klee’s “Goldfish”, with Mafra writing the text and Štěpán illustrating. This illustrated book was published in 1966 by Annette Betz of Munich and reprinted in 2010 by Bohem Press in Italy.


Ewa Nicewicz

Italianist, literary scholar, and Italian-to-Polish translator.
Ewa holds a PhD in the humanities from the University of Warsaw and University of Padua, is currently an assistant professor at the Institute of Literary Studies of the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw, has won multiple scholarships from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and is currently a member of the Leopold Staff Award Committee. Her translations include the works of Gianni Rodari, Roberto Piumini, Beatrice Alemagna, and Davide Morosinotto, among others. She spends her free time reading, hiking in the woods, and doing DIY. She loves mountains, good coffee, peony flowers, and her two children, Irenka and Antoś. She lives in Warsaw.

Natalia Mętrak-Ruda

Cultural expert, literary translator, and food writer.
From Italian Natalia has translated books by Dario Fo and Sandro Veronesi, young adult series by Moony Witcher and picture books by Gabriele Clima, among others. Among her translations from English are Adam Nicolson’s A Seabird’s Cry, Marie Benedict’s The Other Einstein and Paul Shapiro’s Clean Meat. She writes about Polish food in English for and runs her own website about culinary history “ Przeszłość od kuchni”. She lives in Warsaw.

Monika Motkowicz

Passionate multilingual translator from Italian, French, and English to Polish.
Monika graduated in French Philology at Jagiellonian University and in Literature at the Faculty of Humanities and Human Sciences at Paris XII University. In addition, she holds a Postgraduate Degree in Sworn Translation (French-Polish) from the UNESCO Chair for Translation Studies and Intercultural Communication. She takes great pride in having successfully translated over 20 books, including novels by Elisa Puricelli Guerra and Francesco Gungui, as well as several feature and documentary films for film festivals.  Monika especially enjoys translating children’s literature, and she remains deeply in love with the books from her own childhood. She is addicted to TV series about secret agents, travel off the beaten track and tiramisu. She lives in Cracow.

About the project

The European continent covers over 10 million square kilometers, and is inhabited by 746 million citizens of 46 countries. Europe is a cauldron of many nationalities, which mix and enrich each other, in many languages and over a variety of landscapes. From snowy Norway to steamy Greece, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains, the European identity is a mosaic of cultures, openness and kindness.
When we think about European culture we envision ancient Greek amphitheaters and temples, the Roman Forum, gothic cathedrals, literature and music from all ages, and the paintings of old Flemish Masters. This is our heritage, which inspires us to our hearts content.
More and more people migrate, they settle in new places, to study, work, and sometimes start a new life. In doing do, Europeans experience a multicultural and multilingual environment, setlling down in places far from where they were born.
This was also the experience of the Czech creator and the core figure of our project –  Štěpán Zavřel, who migrated from the country where he was born.
Fortunately, in Europe today, we can freely travel, work and start a family.  This mobility highlights the importance to both focus on what unites us, what we have in common, without forgetting those parts of our identity and culture that differentiate us and define us as individuals.
Europe is a continent of many languages, which is why translation and interpretation are so important in promulgating its culture. For many years translators and interpreters were underestimated, yet their work brings us closer to the greatest works of literature, introduce us to Europe’s many rich cultures, and thanks to their efforts we can visit other countries without leaving home.
The „I, European” project is focused on supporting and promoting the variety of cultures and languages, and thanks to our translators we can glimpse the fairy-tale lands of Štěpán Zavřel’s books.