Anna Maria Cienciala was born in the Free City of Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland), and attended middle and high school in England. She was one of a group of Polish historians who remained in exile after World War II and pursued their careers in the West. After completing her undergraduate education at Liverpool University, she earned an M.A. from McGill University in Montreal and a Ph.D. from Indiana University at Bloomington in 1962.
She taught Eastern European history at the University of Ottawa and the University of Toronto for a few years before beginning a long-term career at the University of Kansas in 1965. Prof. Cienciala specialized in modern Polish and Russian history, particularly foreign policy. She wrote two books, co-wrote or edited four books, and published some 40 scholarly articles in various American, German, and Polish historical journals. Among these was A Crime without Punishment (2010) on the Katyn massacre.
She was a member of numerous professional associations in Poland, the UK, and USA, and received many awards for her work. She was a member of the Board of Directors of the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America, and received the Polish Cross of Merit.