“I hope Dana can work with me on my next book of poetry. I know poetry is tough, but I started in Guam waiting for my ship 50 years ago.”
Gene Olson grew up in Bothell, Washington, a suburb of Seattle. In 1964, when the war in Vietnam was escalating, he was drafted but released to the Navy, where he spent two years on the USS Tioga County (LST-1158) as a yeoman/personnelman. After his return to the States, he was improperly diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia: six years later he was finally properly diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has been on lithium for 48 years. He married Jolanta Szewczyk, a beautiful Polish woman and doctor of internal medicine, and the couple has two sons. The Olsons currently live in Vancouver, Washington, and enjoy traveling throughout Europe. Gene is also the author of a memoir, The Boy From Bothell (Bipolar Vietnam Veteran) and a children’s book, Noah and the Little Camel Boy.
Gene Olson’s mother was a Norwegian and his father a Swede. He was born in Seattle. Both Jolanta Olson’s parents were Polish from Lublin, a town in southeast Poland. She was born in Poland. Olson’s newest memoir, My Mom’s from Lublin; My Dad’s from Seattle, documents his parents’ vastly different childhoods. “In Communist Poland, chocolate was very scarce. You would be lucky to get a little piece at Christmastime. One day, playing outside as a little girl, my mother saw a small pebble. She had been thinking about chocolate all morning, so she put the stone in her mouth, hoping it was a piece of chocolate. Of course it wasn’t. My father, on the other hand, could have a Hersey Bar anytime he wanted. His hands and face would be covered with so much chocolate, he’d have to take a bath.” This nostalgic and loving tribute is filled with photos and childhood memories. Jolanta Olson writes, “I’m glad my mom and dad found each other, because without them, I’d be nothing. My mom’s from Poland, my dad’s from Seattle, and that makes me half Polish and half Seattle-ish!”