Bohdan Osadczuk on Jerzy Giedroyc, "Tygodnik Powszechny" No 39, 24 September 2000.
"Tygodnik Powszechny" No 39,
Krakow, 24 September 2000"THE GREAT CHANCELLOR OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF FOUR NATIONS"
Bohdan Osadczuk on Jerzy Giedroyc
Some events surpass our imagination. News of Jerzy Giedroyc's
death fell like a bolt from the blue on those who knew him, met with him, corresponded with him, spoke with him when visiting or phoning Maisons-Laffitte. It is hard to believe he will no longer gaze at us with his wise and mostly sad eyes in which mischief appeared only occasionally, that he will say no more in the quiet voice he never raised.
Over the years we came to accept that while tragedies happened around the world, ideologies and empires collapsed, presidents and governments were voted into and out of office and fashions changed, at a certain desk in a house at avenue de Poissy 91 in the Paris suburb of Maisons-Laffitte (known to the French for its horse racing), a Lithuanian-Polish aristocrat, Mr. Jerzy Giedroyc, sat at an old-style typewriter day after day, typing letters to collaborators, politicians and poets, letters in which he requested articles and conveyed suggestions, reprimands and - less often - praise.
In a world marked by chaos and disorder, Mr. Jerzy was a diligent squire, caring for order on an estate that had no limits and extended all over the world, to wherever the squire's collaborators, supporters or opponents lived. Giedroyc simply was and persisted - for many as a symbol of continuous political thought, for others as a mysterious prophet, and for all as an indestructible rock. We became so attached to his permanence that we stopped counting the years, thought little of the political filth flung from East and West at his nerves and his heart, filth that the lofty Lithuanian-Polish aristocrat/democrat seemingly endured with stoic calm but that burrowed subcutaneous ruts of revulsion and disgust. In this sense and not only, especially in his last three years, he reminded me of Pilsudski, whom Giedroyc saw as a hero and role model. Except that Pilsudski displayed his feelings while Giedroyc reined them in. The accrued bile would surface only sometimes in his "Notes from the Editor."
Extending this comparison, we could say that to Jerzy Giedroyc Maisons-Laffitte was a kind of Sulejowek from which, openly or in secret, depending on the situation and needs, he governed the Commonwealth of Four Nations: Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine and Belarus. He sought to make up for his predecessors' errors, remove wrongs committed on neighboring provinces. I perceived him as the great chancellor of that symbolic, unrealized Commonwealth; intellectually and as a political visionary he exceeded all politicians of the three parliamentary terms of independent Poland as re-established in 1918 with the possible exception of Marshall Jozef Pilsudski. He was suited to be Poland's president like no one else, though it may be better that he never was, for quarreling with dense bureaucrats would have quickly shattered his creativity and vision.
His work was only possible on the path he chose: he completely relinquished a personal life and personal happiness and devoted himself to politics in near-monastic solitude unusual in our era. To me as a Ukrainian collaborator of "Kultura," Giedroyc's greatest and truly historic achievement was his decision to define a new Polish foreign policy toward the east entailing abandonment of territorial claims to Lviv, Vilnius and Hrodna. Only those in exile at the time knew the mood of the Polish diaspora in London, the United States and Canada and among those resettled from Poland's former eastern lands, and only they can mentally fathom, through memory, the civil courage and vision Giedroyc needed to take this step that many considered suicidal.
His eastern policy vision emerged from his experience as a youthful Pilsudskiite who, after early hopes of a change of course, was ultimately disappointed by state policy toward national minorities. He abandoned his civil service career and chose early his path through life and politics, a choice reflected in the title of the first periodical he founded in Warsaw: "Bunt Mlodych" [Youth Revolt]. The publication's youthful but maturing staff later renamed it "Polityka [Politics]. As Mr. Jerzy told me, it was due to become a weekly in 1940, a popular periodical opposing the post-Pilsudski right - the National Democrats, the National-Radical Camp, and especially the line pursued by General Kasprzycki, one of the greatest foes of achieving understanding with the Ukrainians.
Hitler's attack on Poland and the two dictators' pact at the expense of Poland and Ukraine thwarted the ambitious young reformer's plans. Europe was divided as agreed at Yalta by Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt, and there was a sense that ideals of liberty had been betrayed as the Red Army's "liberating" role was glorified. All this caused the forty-year-old former officer of Anders's army to dare to establish "Kultura," a periodical titled so as not to seem suspicious to the "Yaltans."
Giedroyc, seconded by Czapski
, Mieroszewski, Hostowiec
and Lobodowski, played a trick on the "Yaltans" and turned "Kultura" into the first Polish and at once international periodical against Yalta and its consequences. While opportunists cheered the wise policies of the "father and sun of nations," that bloody tyrant Stalin, and rightist reactionaries and nationalists of all colors bet on the outbreak of a "third world war" (a memorable motto: "one atom bomb and we'll be back in Lviv"), the editorial team of "Kultura" began its slow and systematic drilling of the rock of Stalinism and the post-Yalta order in the name of social evolution.
Their program called for a peaceful revision of Europe's division. It was founded on recognizing the territorial and border changes both in the west and east of Poland. "Kultura," through Mieroszewski's writing, began efforts aimed at a Polish-German reconciliation based on recognition of the border on the Oder River. Acknowledging the status quo in the east was a greater challenge. Giedroyc accepted it and ultimately turned this challenge into a triumph. Never before in history had political exiles succeeded in pushing their concepts through on their former home turf. Herzen of Russia lost this struggle, as did Mazzini in Italy. Jerzy Giedroyc's concept of revising Poland's eastern policy was accepted by the "Solidarity" movement and later, in the post-Communist era, became part of Poland's foreign policy, and this was unique in world history.
This concept also generated a positive response from part of the Ukrainian emigration, namely, those who did not believe in the idea of a new war for "liberation." Most of our countrymen were counting on a war between the USA and USSR, whereas our group emphasized gradual transition under the Communist system and ideological struggle against the Soviet Empire. We were derisively referred to as "realitytnyks." Apart from myself, the group included Borys Levycky, Ivan Lysiak-Rudnytsky, Ivan Koshelivets, Yuri Sherekh-Shevelov and Yuri Lavrinenko. We were indirectly supported by older luminaries: Giedroyc's collaborators from his Warsaw period, Ivan Kedryn and professor Kubijovych, as well as Demkovich-Dobransky, Bohdan Kordiuk and several others. Yaroslav Pelensky, Omeljan Pritsak and Roman Szporluk joined us later.
Giedroyc published an anthology of works by persecuted Ukrainian writers and we saw this as a great thing for us and for Ukraine. Edited by Lavrinenko, it was titled "Rozstriliane Vidrodzhennia" (Executed Renaissance) and was a very wise step that rehabilitated writers and poets Giedroyc had met officially. Clearly, with their backward view of Ukrainian issues (not of their own fault), the masses, Ukrainian and even more so Polish, failed to appreciate properly this achievement of Giedroyc.
The "Great Chancellor" monitored the development of Poland's eastern policy. He was disappointed by Walesa's grandiose words and by all of Poland's foreign ministers except Bronislaw Geremek, whose convictions came closest to his own. Of Poland's ambassadors in Kiev he duly esteemed Jerzy Bahr's achievements and views. He failed in his efforts to revive, or more simply, to institute cooperation between the countries' two Churches. His initial support for Bishop Tokarczuk in Przemysl proved a fiasco. He then supported the efforts of Sejm deputy Stepan Skrypnyk, a relation of Petlura and later Patriarch Mstyslav of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. He also backed the Malicki Summer School at Warsaw University for Eastern European students.
One more issue: the eminent writer Wlodzimierz Odojewski
once gave a completely irresponsible interview about the Ukrainian nationalism theoretician Dontsov, ascribing qualities worse than those of Hitler and Himmler to him. When I showed Giedroyc the text and he was alarmed. "Where did he get this nonsense? You always told me that that he can't read Ukrainian, and Dontsov was never translated into Polish." We concluded that Viktor Polishchuk [of Ukrainian descent, formerly a public prosecutor in the Polish People's Republic, recently authored a controversial book about the Polish-Ukrainian conflict during World War II - ed.] must have influenced Odojewski. Jerzy Giedroyc's attitude to Dontsov requires explanation. They knew each other before the war and even corresponded, and though they understood each other based on a shared anti-Communism, they were never collaborators. Giedroyc asked some trusted Petlura supporters to analyze Dontsov's official publication, "Vistnyk," in terms anti-Polish or racist accents. They responded that it contained none. In fact, Dontsov never published a word against Poland. He was also no anti-Semite when compared to Poland's National Democrats. This may be why in 1940 Giedroyc helped Dontsov, extending the validity of his Polish passport at the consulate in Bucharest. After the war, Dontsov criticized Giedroyc for publishing the works of Ukrainian communists (in the anthology "Rozstriliane Vidrodzhennia"). I believe Giedroyc ignored these statements and I think he was right to do so.
We failed to realize several joint projects. Giedroyc immediately backed my idea for a Polish-Ukrainian European university, and that is a project that may still take shape. We failed entirely on two issues: the restoration of Kamieniec Podolski and opening the Hutsul region to tourism.
I wrote for the Swiss daily "Neue Zürcher Zeitung" for years, but my link to it was purely professional, the people there were merely colleagues. My relations with "Kultura" and Jerzy Giedroyc were of another sort, of the highest sort, I would say. That does not mean there were no conflicts, which usually centered on Russia. I believed Giedroyc was going too far in courting Solzhenitsyn or Maximov. Giedroyc would answer that I did not understand Russian reformers. Later, we stopped arguing about Russia. We had a glass of wine together one evening and agreed he was no Russophile, I was no Russophobe, and we both really wanted Poland and Ukraine to enjoy good relations with a democratic Russia. Yet neither of us knew how to achieve this.
© by "Tygodnik Powszechny"
The author, a columnist, activist of the Ukrainian political emigration and a professor of the Free University of Berlin, was a long-time collaborator of "Kultura."
"Tygodnik Powszechny" printed this text in its 24 September 2000 issue following the death of Jerzy Giedroyc. It appears on www.culture.pl - courtesy of the editors and publishers of "Tygodnik Powszechny" - in connection with "The Year of Jerzy Giedroyc," celebrated in 2006.