Andrzej Dobosz on Jerzy Giedroyc, "Tygodnik Powszechny" No 39, 24 September 2000.
"Tygodnik Powszechny" No 39,
Krakow, 24 September 2000"THINKING ABOUT THE EDITOR"
Andrzej Dobosz on Jerzy GiedroycJerzy Giedroyc
's last years were filled with bitterness. He disapproved of the developing situation in Poland. Clearly his standards were so high that even had the country's political customs been far better than they are today, they would hardly have fulfilled his hopes. He had been very critical in the past of inter-bellum Poland, saying many bitter things about General Sikorski.
Despite all this, Poland's foreign policy after the country regained its independence agreed, in its main points, with his concepts. What is more, "Kultura" had made it possible. Fifty years earlier any concept of independence entailed the restitution of Lviv and Vilnius to Poland. Decades of "Kultura's" editorializing fundamentally changed our thinking.
Publishing 636 issues of "Kultura" over 54 years and 506 volumes in the "Kultura" Library was a great achievement. Underlying it were thousands of acts and processes of varying weight and impact. His AUTOBIOGRAFIA NA CZTERY RECE / AUTOBIOGRAPHY FOR FOUR HANDS provides clues as to some of these: "Pure politics was not my only interest. I was always involved in some social campaign. I took on the issue of Kashubian fishermen accidentally. Not feeling well, one year in March I traveled to the Hel peninsula. I found lodgings in the house of a fisherman and spent a few days there. I saw how hard the living conditions were. Authorities treated these people with great suspicion. I had a friend in the State Maritime Office, so I assumed the challenge of promoting the consumption of sea fish, even financing the publication of a cookbook containing fish recipes and titled 'Pani Florentyna' ['Madame Florentina']."
Though never treating matters of this kind lightly, he typically took on more ambitious projects. He once concluded that Poland would benefit from General Sosnkowski's replacement of Rydz-Smigly as commander-in-chief. At the time, J.G. was secretary to deputy agriculture minister Roger Raczynski, who was Sosnkowski's friend. "Once when the three of us were alone, I mentioned the matter. 'And who are you?' asked Sosnkowski. I answered officially: 'I am secretary to the vice minister of agriculture, and so on.' He looked at me and said, 'I will not discuss these topics with you...' "
In no way discouraged, in the summer of 1939 J.G. devised the idea that Sosnkowski should be sent to the United States on a military and political mission. The general took long to consider the proposal before concluding that he would agree if Minister Beck made the offer. Giedroyc, a thirty-three-year-old secretary to the minister of industry and trade, did not know Beck personally and yet was able to get him to approve the scheme. Except that World War II broke out two days later.
The Editor's impact on Polish literature of his century was incomparably greater.
's DZIENNIK / DIARY: "Why don't you think about assembling your little journal and sketches like the one about Sienkiewicz into a book? It would be more than just an excellent book..." Herling
's DZIENNIK PISANY NOCA / DIARY WRITTEN AT NIGHT, Jerzy Stempowski
's DZIENNIK PODROZY / A TRAVEL JOURNAL and most of his essays would never have appeared if not for "Kultura". How much harder would things have been for Milosz
? Giedroyc's impact was not limited to these four individuals. "I get articles out of Wittlin, but I've calculated that getting one essay requires something like 89 letters and two years of effort. That time having passed, I get an essay on a different topic, but it's always excellent."
A very promising civil servant and at once the creator and editor of a magazine that was basically oppositional, manifesting both conservative and leftist tendencies, never aligning itself with any political group, he was prepared to maintain contact, talk with and influence everyone: civilized National Democrats, the heads of OZON [National Unity camp in pre-war Polish politics], Socialists, and finally, post-Communists. Though he can be seen as a leading democratic thinker, his views were never subject to political correctness... "When I excused unconstitutional acts or attempted to initiate or undertake them myself, I was thinking about repairing the state, improving it, making it more just, more logical. That is why, for instance, I saw Brzesc as justified. The Center Left was a real threat, planning a revolution in Poland... Under these circumstances, the internment of Center Left activists was a necessary defensive action; though it violated parliamentary immunity and was illegal, it was in line with state interests."
Poland's fate occupied him to the end, but he also thought of reprinting Waclaw Sieroszewski's early 20th century volume about Korea, and perhaps even publishing it in Korean.
© by "Tygodnik Powszechny"
"Tygodnik Powszechny" printed this text in its 24 September2000 issue following the death of Jerzy Giedroyc. It appears onwww.culture.pl - courtesy of the editors and publishers of "TygodnikPowszechny" - in connection with "The Year of Jerzy Giedroyc," celebrated in2006.
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