Wilkanowicz & Białek Receive Irena Sendler Award 2017
Polish journalist Stefan Wilkanowicz and psychologist Bogdan Białek honoured with the Irena Sendler Award for their work in strengthening Polish-Jewish relations.
The Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture awards the distinction to Polish citizens committed to supporting Polish-Jewish heritage and the memory of the Holocaust. This year the prize was awarded to Stefan Wilkanowicz, a Catholic intellectual and journalist at Tygodnik Powszechny and Znak, and Bogdan Białek, a psychologist and the organizer of the Kielce March of Remembrance and Prayer. The award is named for the Righteous Among the Nations Irena Sendler, a Polish social worker who saved hundreds of Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II.
Of this year’s laureates, Tad Taube, Chairman of Taube Philanthropies and Honorary Consul for the Republic of Poland in San Francisco, notes:
Both of these men, with their messages of understanding and reconciliation, have promoted tolerance and dialogue in the face of conflict, and have engendered openness and humanity in response to controversy and distrust.
Stefan Wilkanowicz is a journalist, editor, educator, and Catholic leader. He wrote for Poland’s longest running independent journal since World War II, the Catholic weekly Tygodnik Powszechny, and served as editor-in-chief of the monthly Znak. He also was a prominent member of the Znak association of lay Catholics. During the anti-Semitic and anti-intellectual campaigns in March 1968, Znak was the only political organization to protest the human rights violations in the Polish Sejm. Under Wilkanowicz’s leadership, Znak was the first monthly to publish, in the 1980s, an entire issue dedicated to Polish-Jewish relations.
When the second of this year’s awardees, Bogdan Białek, first came to Kielce in 1978, the story of the1946 pogrom had been supressed and denied, both by the town’s residents and the communist regime. After 1989, Białek began planning a public event that would serve as an educational platform and foster healing and acceptance. To sustain the atmosphere of acknowledgment and remembrance brought about by 16 years of the Kielce March, Białek established the Jan Karski Society and Institute for Culture, Meetings and Dialogue. The Society is housed at Planty 7, formerly a house where anti-Jewish violence took place in 1946.
Wilkanowicz and Białek will collect their awards at a ceremony during the Jewish Culture Festival in Kraków. The ceremony will take place 30th June 2017 at 6:00 PM, at the Temple Synagogue. It precedes the annual Concert of Remembrance for Jan Kulczyk, who received the Irena Sendler Award posthumously in 2015.
Sources: press materials, compiled by AGA, 14 Jun 2017