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Alfred Emeryk Poninski (1896–1968)

by Bogumila Zongollowicz

This article was published:

Alfred Emeryk Poninski (1896-1968), diplomat and journalist, was born on 18 June 1896 at Koscielisko, Posen (Poznan) province, Poland, son of Count Adolf Poninski, landowner, and his wife Countess Zofia, née Hutten-Czapska. Alfred attended a gymnasium at Bromberg (Bydgoszcz), read law at the University of Berlin, and continued his historical and archival studies at Posen, and in Berlin, Brussels, Paris and Bucharest. In 1914 he began work as a journalist.

Count Alfred Poninski was appointed a press attaché at the Polish Legation in Berlin in October 1918 and spent 1919-20 in Warsaw as an assistant in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Exempted from military service because of an injury to his leg, he completed a course on diplomatic and consular practice. In 1921 in Warsaw he married Janina Nowodworska; they were to remain childless. From 1921 to 1933 he served in diplomatic posts successively in Brussels, Paris and Moscow. He published an article, 'Les Traditions de la Diplomatie Polonaise', in the Revue d'Histoire Diplomatique (1925), and a book, La Question Polonaise Depuis 1830 Jusqu'à la Grande Guerre (Paris, 1926).

Councillor (from 1935) of the Polish Legation (Embassy from 1938) in Bucharest, Poninski endeavoured to popularize Polish history and culture. Following the declaration of World War II, he witnessed the Polish government's escape to Romanian territory. He was minister plenipotentiary until the Romanian authorities closed the Polish consulates and embassy in November 1940. Based at the Polish Embassy in Ankara in 1941, he served as consul general at Istanbul, Turkey, next year. While Polish ambassador to China (1942-45), he was stationed at Chungking. He was appointed to the Légion d'honneur, the Order of the Star of the People's Republic of Romania and the Ordre de Leopold II.

After a short stay in India, Poninski and his wife reached Australia on 12 December 1946 in the Massula. He settled at Potts Point, Sydney, and became active in political and public affairs. President (1947-50) of the Polish Democratic Society, Sydney, he was a founding president (1950-51) of the Federal Council of Polish Associations in Australia. He was also involved in organizations designed to forge links with European immigrants: he was vice-president of the United Council of Migrants and of the New Australians' Cultural Association, and a council-member of the State division of the New Settlers' League of Australia, the Australian Council for International Social Service, and the Australian Institute of International Affairs which he assisted with translations and analyses of Russian-language documents. At the time of the (Petrov) royal commission into espionage (1954) he offered his services to the Federal government to translate Russian. He was naturalized on 14 July 1959.

In 1953 Poninski began to contribute regularly to Tygodnik Katolicki (Tygodnik Polski from 1965), Melbourne; from 1963 he was its chief commentator on world affairs. For many years he wrote a column dealing with world political events for Wiadomo sci Polskie, Sydney, in which he published (1967-68) a series of articles, 'Poland in the Second War'. He was also associated with the Catholic press in Sydney, including the Catholic Weekly and the monthly, Vision. Adam Nasielski, a colleague, found him 'brilliant, intelligent, unpretentious, forgiving and tactful, but not always patient'; Brunon Grzebyta criticized Poninski, but still admired 'his greatness and his perseverance in working for the Polish community'.

Survived by his wife, Poninski died on 25 March 1968 in Sydney and was buried with Catholic rites in Rookwood cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • S. Loza, Czy Wiesz, kto to Jest? (Warsaw, 1938)
  • T. G. Jackowski, W Walce o Polskość (Krakow, Poland, 1972)
  • J. Drohojowski, Wspomnienia Dyplomatyczne (Krakow, 1972)
  • S. Schimitzek, Drogi i Bezdroza Minionej Epoki (Warsaw, 1976)
  • Polski Slownik Biograficzny, 27 (Warsaw, 1983)
  • J. Szembek, Diariusz Wrzesien-Grudzień, 1939 (Warsaw, 1989)
  • Tygodnik Polski, no 19, 1968, p 2
  • ASIO file, A6119, item 349 (National Archives of Australia).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Bogumila Zongollowicz, 'Poninski, Alfred Emeryk (1896–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 23 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Count Poninski
  • Poninski, Count

18 June, 1896
Poznan, Poland


25 March, 1968 (aged 71)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.