Jan Nowak-Jezioranski on Jerzy Giedroyc, "Tygodnik Powszechny" No 39, 24 September 2000.
"Tygodnik Powszechny" No 39,
Krakow, 24 September 2000"PARALLEL PATHS"
Jan Nowak-Jezioranski on Jerzy Giedroyc
In a letter he faxed to me six days before his death, Jerzy Giedroyc
agreed to the publication by Ossolineum of more than seven hundred letters we exchanged over fifty years. His last words to me became a kind of testament in which "Kultura's" editor transferred to me our joint, often strange legacy.
Our relations are probably best described as a "love-hate relationship." Countless times I gritted my teeth while reading attacks on Radio Free Europe in "Kultura." At Maisons-Laffitte, Stefan Kisielewski fought Homeric battles defending Jan Nowak against Mr. Jerzy, who saw Nowak as wasting the immensely powerful tool that was the Polish Section of RFE. Yet our incessant disputes never grew into mutual antagonism. We would exchange views and often help each other. When I traveled to Paris, we met at Mr. Jerzy's favorite bistro opposite the Gare Saint Lazare or at Maisons-Laffitte. In the 1950s, Giedroyc visited me several times in Munich. There was one time when we did level accusations at each other, at the Sabbat residence in London. I would send him our reviews of the Polish domestic press and other materials we received from Poland, he facilitated my confidential meetings with people from Poland. In fact, I owe him my acquaintances with Stefan Kisielewski, Stanislaw Stomma, Andrzej Bobkowski
and many others. Once a month, Radio Free Europe would broadcast a review and excerpts from the most recent issue of "Kultura." When I told him I was leaving the radio station, I remember how concerned he became, showing great kindness and support.
Giedroyc was a demon for work, a real volcano endlessly spewing new ideas and projects that were often controversial and sometimes, in my view, rather impractical. He resented me for refusing to follow his advice, but at base our paths were parallel, running in the same direction. Without agreeing on it or mutually influencing each other, we pursued the same doctrine, which "Kultura" called evolutionism and we called gradualism. It was based on the assumption that mobilizing social pressure against those in power would lead to liberties being gradually broadened without engendering violence. The difference was that I had a jet plane with a crew of over one hundred, while Giedroyc's flying machine was an ultra-light for three to four people, an ultra-light in which he beat all distance and elevation records.
I rarely saw Mr. Jerzy smile or joke. The down-turned corners of his mouth and his grave face expressed constant concern. Giedroyc was disappointed with, and unhappy about, not only Radio Free Europe and its Polish director, but also Polish London, oppositionists in Poland, Primate Wyszynski, the bishops and the Church, "Tygodnik Powszechny / Popular Weekly" and the Pope, and above all the United States and its policies. He was intellectually contrary and knew only how to swim upstream. "Kultura" violated all established schemes; it shocked, elicited protest and stirred up the hornet's nest time and again. This may have been one of Mr. Jerzy's greatest achievements, for "Kultura" saved political thought from congealing into a solid state and assuming generally accepted, stereotypical forms.
I believe Giedroyc, despite appearances, reciprocated the respect and recognition I had for him. He did not express this cordially or warmly. His letters usually began with "Dear Sir" and ended on "Best regards." Then suddenly, in late 1998, I received a letter that differed in its tone from any I had gotten before:
"My Dear Mr. Jan,
please accept my sincere congratulations on your honorary doctorate from Wroclaw University. It constitutes recognition for your struggle for Poland's independence and for the inclusion of the Western Lands into the country.
In spite of all the friction between us, this has been a joint struggle, one in which my work has benefited from an abundance of kindness and assistance from you.
Our struggle is, however, hardly finished. It continues today as we try to shape the Third Republic into the Poland we have fought for. I am certain that in this struggle we concur more than at any time in the past, all the more so given its greater complexity.
Deeply moved, I responded as follows:
"My Dear Mr. Jerzy,
your letter of November 14th was a most pleasant surprise. You congratulate me on the honorary doctorate I received from Wroclaw University, but your kind words mean so much more than many of the honors, titles and medals now so generously being bestowed on me.
I have always seen the manner in which Maisons-Laffitte radiates on Poland as very important and I have invariably been impressed with you, Mr. Jerzy, for this radiance has been the achievement of but one individual assisted by a mere handful of limitlessly devoted people...
I sincerely thank you once more for your letter, a beautiful chord that concludes the symphony of our disputes. What remains is mutual respect and an awareness that while we traveled different paths, our destination remained the same.
My kindest regards,
In his letter, written six days before his death, Giedroyc also invited me to Maisons-Laffitte: "I very much look forward to our meeting; we must discuss a series of issues relating to the situation in Poland, which looks downright catastrophic to me, but I don't know that we wouldn't differ on some matters."
With great sorrow I realize I will never again enjoy any disputes with Jerzy Giedroyc.
Twelve years ago I wrote an essay about Giedroyc, expressing my belief that he was one of the most commendable émigrés of the postwar era. Not much would have remained of our soldierly exile if not for the 634 issues of "Kultura," over 400 prose, poetry, essayistic and historical volumes, and 132 issues of the "Historical Notebooks," an invaluable source for future historians. If Giedroyc had not given up the intractability that characterized the Polish community in London in the initial years after the war, one of Poland's two greatest postwar poets, Czeslaw Milosz
, would have remained unknown, lacking a forum in which to publish his poetry. Formerly the cultural attaché at the Embassy of the Polish People's Republic in Paris, he was ostracized by émigré publishers and the émigré press. Without Giedroyc, no Pole would have won the Nobel Prize ("O 'Kulturze'. Wspomnienia i opinie" ["On 'Kultura' - Reminiscences and Opinions"], Puls Publication, London, 1987). Today, I will add that history will remember Jerzy Giedroyc as one of Poland's leading figures of the past century. He will be the subject of many papers, articles and monographs. Although he has died, he will live on in national memory.
© by "Tygodnik Powszechny"
"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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