Joanna Olczak was born in Warsaw to a prominent Polish-Jewish family. Her parents were writer Hanna Mortkowicz-Olczakowa and her husband Tadeusz Olczak. Her maternal grandmother Janina Mortkowicz also was a writer. Joanna has written numerous plays and screenplays, including Ja-Napoleon, produced by the Teatr Dramatyczny in Warsaw in 1968. She won the 2002 Nike Award and the 2011 Premio Acerbi Prize for her bestselling memoir of her remarkable family, W ogrodzie pamięci (In the Garden of Memory, 2001). Following in the footsteps of her mother, she wrote a biography of Janusz Korczak, pen name of Henryk Goldszmit, the Polish Jewish educator, physician, and children's author killed in the Holocaust. She also wrote a biography of poet Peter Skrzynecki. Joanna married Ludwig Zimmerer, a German journalist, with whom she had a daughter, Katarzyna Zimmerer, also a writer. Her second husband is Michał Ronikier, a Polish translator.