Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
Most of the people, that we mention among the greatest Poles, have passed away. It might be that only after we lose them, we realize how great and extraordinary they were. But there are for sure people that still live among us and can boast of great achievements and unique life.
One of such people - that I admire – is Wladyslaw Bartoszewski. Many would perceive his biography as impossible tale that differs so much from simple life that most of us lead. He has been a historian, journalist, politician, social activist, soldier, insurgent during Warsaw Uprising, Foreign Minister, prisoner of Auschwitz Concentration Camp… we may start thinking whether there is any function that Wladyslaw Bartoszewski would not be able to take!
Bartoszewski was born in 1922. He had just passed his final exams at secondary school when the Second World War broke down. Wladyslaw, however, continued his education – studying Polish language at secret department of Warsaw University. At the same time he was very active defender of country’s independence. Already in September of 1939 he took part in defending of the capital of Poland with other civilians. One year after he started working in administration of the Red Cross, however, his activity was ceased when he was captured in 1941 (during mass round-up) and imprisoned in Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Shortly after having been released from the camp, he joined AK – Home Army. He was also a member of ‘Zegota’ organization – Polish Council to Aid Jews. One of his tasks was to support participants of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (that happened in 1943). From the 1st of August 1944 he fought in Warsaw Uprising. In October 1944 he left Warsaw and headed to Krakow where he continued his conspiratorial activity.
After the end of World War II he was very active in evidencing Hitler’s crimes. He became also member of PSL (Polish People’s Party) as it was the main opposition of Communist government. As the member of opposition he was imprisoned and released, the imprisoned once again and released because of his health condition. In 1955 he was found not guilty of the previous charges.
In 1963 he was invited to Israel by Yad Vashem institute and gained recognition as Righteous among the Nations – a status that is granted to non-Jews who supported Jews during Holocaust (like for example Oscar Schindler and Irena Sendler). Afterwards he travelled to Austria where he got involved in activity of Radio Free Europe.
He was a member of ‘Solidarity’ movement and he was once again imprisoned during the Martial Law in Poland. Between 1990 and 1995 he was Ambassador of Poland in Austria. In 1995 he became Foreign Minister and then again in 2000. Between 1997 and 2001 he was a member of Senate of the Republic of Poland.
As you can see, the article above is full of facts from life of Wladyslaw Bartoszewski – and yet, it is only a small part of what this man did. He gave numerous speeches connected with Holocaust, Hitler’s crimes, connected with keeping the memory of battles and martyrdom. He has received numerous awards, prizes, orders and distinctions. He is also a person of great sense of humor – his speeches are, however, very often harsh and controversial. When listening to Bartoszewski one cannot believe that he went through that much. He is, just like his whole life, surely exceptional man.