GREENPOINT — When celebrated actress Dagmara Dominczyk visits Greenpoint this week to release her first novel, she'll not only return to her favorite New York neighborhood, where she moved after starring in "The Count of Monte Cristo" in her early 20s.
She'll be revisiting a deeper, more distant past, starting with her family's flight from Poland when she was only 7 years old.
"The novel is about three Polish girls, one loosely based on me and my experiences coming here," said Dominczyk, 36, of her book "The Lullaby of Polish Girls," debuting at WORD Brooklyn Tuesday night. "My family came here in 1983 as political dissidents."
The narrative — which starts in the protagonist's apartment by McCarren Park overlooking Manhattan's "peaks and pinnacles shining like man-made constellations" — exposes the struggle of a young woman with dual identities in Poland and New York, including scenes set in both the Big Apple and of her childhood living in and visiting Europe.
Though the work is fiction, the main character's internal tensions — and the story's initial crisis — mirror those of the writer's past, explained Dominczyk, who now lives with her husband, the actor Patrick Wilson, and her two children in New Jersey.
"I found out about a tragedy that happened to one of my old friends in Poland," Dominczyk said of the news she learned at age 24 living on Lorimer Street, after years had past since her frequent childhood visits back to Europe.
"I thought of how my life had veered off in a different direction from [my friends' lives] there, and I was full of emotion and wonderment...I just started writing a story. I wrote about 50 pages and then put it away."
Then years later, when Dominczyk was pregnant with her second child, she returned to complete the novel.
"Writing is really freeing...You don't have to wear makeup or dress up, nobody's commenting on your weight," said Dominczyk, who keeps a regular blog and has written for the Huffington Post about misconceptions of women's beauty. "For me writing was a way to learn English, since I arrived here not knowing any...I have journals from my entire life, since I was 10."
Dominczyk, who lived in Greenpoint until a few years ago and was neighbors and best friends with WORD bookstore's owner Christine Onorati, said she'd always connect with the area, both for its Polish culture and its place in her personal past.
"When my parents were living in the Upper West Side and I was living with them, my sister and I would always go to Greenpoint to go to Club Europa to get our dance on. We loved the Polish stores, the meat stores, the bookstores," Dominczyk said of her decision to move to the neighborhood in her early 20s.
"Greenpoint is the homeplace for Polish immigrants, and it's where my heart is to this day."
Dagmara Dominczyk's launch party for "The Lullaby of Polish Girls" is at 8 p.m. Tuesday at WORD Brooklyn. More details are on the bookstore's website.