Ewa Berberyusz on Jerzy Giedroyc, "Tygodnik Powszechny" no 39, 24 September 2000.
"Tygodnik Powszechny" No 39,
Krakow, 24 September 2000"I DON'T BELIEVE HE IS DEAD"
Ewa Berberyusz on Jerzy Giedroyc
I don't believe it, because we badly need a man like him today.
The last letter I got from Maisons-Laffitte is dated 8 September 2000. The Editor confirms receipt of "Kartki ze skazonej strefy" ["Pages from a Tainted Zone"], my monthly report for "Kultura", thanks me for it (he always thanked me, despite his stylistic brevity), regrets that they've once again postponed my cataract operation, and concludes: "Nothing new here – just the normal problems..." In a letter from 8 August of this year he wrote:
"I'm very curious of your book (ALE SIE PORABALO / MY, IT'S GOTTEN MESSY) and regret that you forgot to send it to me, because I would gladly have looked at it... Zosia has recovered from the bites (from our favorite spaniel, Fax - EB) and we wonder who will be next..."
Fax will not bite him; I will not receive his critique of my book nor any more letters (he answered the most trivial immediately, a now forgotten element of etiquette).
I met Jerzy Giedroyc
in 1991 when I interviewed him about Wladyslaw Anders, who I was researching for a book. I used Anders as a way of getting into Maisons-Laffitte, of which I was in pious awe.
During our first exchange my shyness faded for I discovered the Editor, opposite me, to be a man who detested fawning - contrary to popular opinion, which held him to be unapproachable and haughty. Conversely, he treated those he spoke with as equals, yet not in the "decent chap" way; secretive and inwardly armored, he related on a familiar basis with almost no one (I don't know how Adam Michnik accomplished this). He wrote me frankly:
"...I live in girdles and I will crumble when they are loosened..."
A very sensitive man, I think this was his way of protecting himself from getting hurt. Despite being defensive, he exuded a bizarre "aura of trust". This may be why years ago, the dying Andrzej Stawar, a Marxist and man of a different "parish", traveled to Maisons-Laffitte to die there and entrust his manuscripts to Giedroyc. Sitting opposite him in his glass office, Fax nibbling at my ankles, I too saw him as a man I could entrust with everything, one I could open up to, tell the most terrible things.
Naturally, we mainly spoke about Poland. What else could I talk to Giedroyc about? In the briefest terms: he "taught me Polishness". This man refused to overuse words like "fatherland, nation, patriotism" or even "right of state", he preferred to say he handled Polish matters, and he emanated the indescribable authority of a Pole. Many will say he grumbled, exaggerated the evils of today's Poland; in my view he spoke the truth and nothing but the truth. Who besides him will tell it us so openly?
I can't imagine I will hear him no more, receive no more letters, small presents (he gave me a "Judas's coin", cast in 1863 for traitors of the Insurrection, and a small clock that stands on my night stand and keeps the most precise time). I can't imagine I will never sense that wonderful directness in exchanging views with a person of such caliber. Jerzy Turowicz, my former boss, was similar; yet despite his being of a much gentler disposition than Giedroyc, I never dared to relate to him so freely.
I began writing for "Kultura" for good once its uniqueness had disappeared. Droves of independent periodicals appeared on the free market. Yet "Kultura" had something other reputable papers did not: Giedroyc acknowledged no form of "political correctness", no option, no lobby, no favorites. What counted was the text. He did not treat authors with fid gloves. Briefly and curtly, if not ruthlessly, he rejected many disquisitions, as is clear from the "Editors' Answers" section. Some "Kultura" readers started with this section for its cruel humor. Yet he was incredibly gentle in revising, almost asking permission to change the placement of a comma. I gave him free rein to cut or add whatever he liked, he could turn my text upside down of he wished. He did so sparingly, though he once confessed that before the war, at "Bunt Mlodych" ["Youth Revolt"] and later "Polityka" ["Politics"], he had dumped many articles by exceptional authors (e.g. Adolf Bochenski) in the waste bin.
In today's Poland, he bet on "small homelands", on the Provinces with a capital P. He believed something good, some remedy for Poland, would emerge from there. It was in the provinces that he had his most loyal subscribers. The small town intelligentsia is truly mourning his death.
He was a very well informed Pole, though he never came to the country after the war. Many blamed him for not doing so. I did not. I can't imagine pompous airport ceremonies, him being driven around, laudations and medals (which he never accepted). He would not have stood it, not to mention that for years he had had difficulty moving around.
In my "Pages" in the September (last!) issue of "Kultura," I wrote "they're dropping like pears", remembering the deaths of Herling-Grudzinski
, fathers Tischner and Zuberbier, Jan Karski. Not for an instant did it cross my mind that the eldest, Jerzy Giedroyc, might join them. When I heard the news last Friday as I walked down a sunny Warsaw street, I regretted that though our discussions might continue in my mind, I would have to set the telephone calls and correspondence aside until later. How very practical are Father Twardowski's words: "Let's hurry to love people..."
The author is a journalist, "Kultura" collaborator,
and among others wrote the book "Ksiaze z Maisons-Laffitte" ["The Prince of Maisons-Laffitte"].
© 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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