Bohdan Paczowski on Jerzy Giedroyc, "Tygodnik Powszechny" No 39, 24 September 2000.
"Tygodnik Powszechny" No 39,
Krakow, 24 September 2000"A UNITY OF CONTRADICTIONS"
Bohdan Paczowski on Jerzy GiedroycJerzy Giedroyc
was one of Poland's greatest statesmen of the 20th century, which is taking its treasures with it, as someone said, and which became a century of greatness in Polish culture through Giedroyc and others. His death marks the end of an age, and it is hard to believe he is no longer with us, for he seemed indestructible with his incessant concern for Poland, his unrelenting diligence - and all in spite of reaching increasingly pessimistic conclusions. He was something of the timeless homesteader who resists the elements and tries again and again independent of disasters or triumphs.
We will never again have an afternoon discussion at his table strewn with magazines and books on his light-saturated veranda. I would barely have closed the iron garden gate and emerged onto empty Avenue de Poissy before thinking of what, besides gratitude, I was carrying away with me. Each meeting with Giedroyc was a pledge. Even though our conclusions were sometimes gloomy, the meetings were inspiring, encouraged me to seek self-perfection. He knew how to listen; shy and reticent, he was seen by some as insolent; he would own up to his errors and uneasily change the subject when anyone mentioned his merits. He remained modest despite his inner strength, greatness of vision and accomplishments.
He taught the art of uniting contradictions, which has nothing to do with easy compromises. In conversation, all that related to Poland was of paramount importance, no matter if the subject was the Sejm, the opening of a small town library, or bribery, wastefulness, political feuds and minor abuses. He lived for Poland, fought for its independence all his life, wanted to see it become greater, enlightened, well governed, to see it living in harmony with its neighbors. Precisely because of this, he was merciless in pointing out its flaws. This demonstrated fidelity to his own line, standing by what one had chosen, yet he simultaneously taught us to analyze soberly and critically. He combined the romantic flame with the looking glass of wisdom, proving through his entire person that ethical tension and political effectiveness are not always irreconcilable. His blend of delicacy, modesty and tolerance with firmness granted him authority akin to that of Jerzy Turowicz, although they differed in so many ways. They responded similarly to totalitarian elevation of culture to the role of a political propaganda prop, countering enslavement with free political thought enlivened by independent culture.
His AUTOBIOGRAFIA NA CZTERY RECE / AUTOBIOGRAPHY FOR FOUR HANDS, which we owe to Krzysztof Pomian, suggests the qualities Jerzy Giedroyc valued most in people. They included tolerance, loyalty, political ambition coupled with restraint in personal ambition, loyalty in friendship, discretion, generosity, the ability to make friends, endurance in battling to the end, even when the cause is lost, a general liking for lost causes, the ability to preserve one's principles while changing one's views, political imagination, the negation of absolute political and moral measures in evaluating literary works, the ability to organize people, a talent for resolving conflicts, financial prudence, quick decision-making, a propensity for surrounding oneself with people more intelligent than oneself, succinctness and spareness in the expression of thoughts, courage and contrariety, charm and imagination.
© by "Tygodnik Powszechny"
The author is an architect and was a friend of people of the "Kultura" circle (including Gombrowicz and Herling); his photographs appear in this issue of "TP".
"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.
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