Sunday, 26 April 2015

Great people depart, ordinary people depart

The sudden departure of professor Władysław Bartoszewski is not just a loss of an outstanding witness of twentieth century’s atrocious history and meritorious advocate of dialogue and forgiveness in international relations. It is, as many claim, another milestone towards the end of a certain era. The last representatives of WW2 survivors generation are slowly passing away, the same will happen soon to the last imprisoned in Stalinist times, in decades veterans of Solidarity will also grow less numerous. This is, inevitably, history in the making.

Media, not only Polish, are full of memoirs and obituaries of Mr Bartoszewski, since the professor was recognised and appreciated well beyond borders of Poland. For me Mr Bartoszewski symbolised the power of individualism and was awe-inspiring example of brilliant intellectual strength despite grand old age. As for the former, Mr Bartoszewski excelled at striking a balance between speaking out what he thought and not hurting anyone. As for the latter, he proved keeping up intellectual activity can help preserve mental fitness of a man in his 60s. Despite being 93, until his last days he was involved in public issues. He made his last appearance mere five days before the decease and was due to make another one tomorrow.

His lifeline, long and broad, was cut unexpectedly. In a TV interview given on his 80th birthday, he confessed he feared a day when he would be still physically alive, yet not understanding what was going on around. As he wished, this day has never come, senility has never taken over him. Maybe thus he met his destination, he lived on the run and passed away on the run, so may we remember him that way.

The departure of aunt Krysia, my maternal’s grandmother’s cousin and my mother’s godmother also struck as a bolt from the blue. Aunt was 85, yet despite that age still mentally and physically fit. I last saw her on 14 March, the day after her name-day and in the eve of my grandma’s death. I thought when my grandma was at her age she was also so full of energy. Even on the day she passed away nothing presage the oncoming tragedy. Just like Mr Bartoszewski a few days later, she fainted in her flat, was taken to a hospital where she died.

Not my immediate relative, yet a loss. Aunt Krysia and her sister Anna Sabina (who died in 2005) gave my maternal grandmother and her sister shelter when they were driven out from Warsaw by Germans after Warsaw Uprising. For my mother aunt was the last person who spent a lot of time with her mother with who she could recollect her mother. As a child, I used to spend around a month each summer in aunt Krysia and her sister’s flat in Piaseczno. They looked after my cousins and me when our mothers had to go to work.

On the professional front, a farewell to a 34-year-old talented manager working for one of the New Factory’s competitors. He died suddenly in a hotel during a business trip to one of Poland’s major cities. He was survived by a partner with who he had two small children. As it turns out, you will not know the date, nor the hour…

Hope we have run out of misery for a while and the blog will not resemble an obituary column at least in the coming months. Next week an overdue note on the imminent presidential election. What the campaign and candidates stand for is a crying shame, yet the issue is too serious to escape my notice.

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