Paris “Kultura” logo 26 June 2017

KEY DATES

27 July 1906 Jerzy Giedroyc, the first of three sons, is born in Minsk to Ignacy and Franciszka Giedroyć (née Starzycka).
1909 Birth of Jerzy's brother Zygmunt.
1916 Jerzy is sent to a Polish boarding school in Moscow.
1917 Following the February Revolution and the early end of the school year, Jerzy returns to Minsk, where he continues his schooling at a Polish secondary school.
1918 (summer) Probable relocation of the Giedroyc family to Warsaw. Jerzy attends the Jan Zamoyski Secondary School.
1920 At the age of 14 Jerzy volunteers for the Polish army and becomes a telegraph operator in the Warsaw Military District HQ.
1922 Birth of Henryk, Jerzy's youngest brother.
1924 Jerzy begins law studies at Warsaw University. He joins Patria, a student fraternity, and is active in inter-fraternity student affairs.
1926 As a Patria member, he initially supports the Polish president and government during the so-called May events. He leaves Patria in 1929/1930.
1928 Jerzy joins the Myśl Mocarstwowa (Thought and Power) organization and edits Dzień Akademicki (University Day), a daily supplement to Dzień Polski (Polish Day). He takes up employment with the Cabinet Press Office.
1929 He graduates in law and begins a history degree, also at Warsaw University.
1930 Giedroyc is appointed aide to the Minister of Agriculture and Agricultural Reform. He continues his editorial activities, which include preparation of the first issue of a new quarterly journal, Wschód (The East).
1931 Giedroyc marries Tatiana Szewcow. The couple move to an apartment on Brzozowa Street. Dzień Polski is renamed Bunt Młodych (Youth in Revolt).
1932 Giedroyc begins the process of emancipating Bunt Młodych from the Myśl Mocarstwowa organization.
1933 He assumes membership of the Council of the Union of Conservative Political Organizations as the representative of Janusz Radzwiłł's National Party of the Right. Bunt Młodych now becomes an independent fortnightly journal.
1934 Deputy Minister Roger Raczyński  becomes Giedroyc's immediate superior at the Ministry of Agriculture
1935 Jerzy Giedroyc resigns from his post at the Ministry of Agriculture.
1936 He assumes a new post at the Ministry of Industry and Trade. Bunt Młodych is renamed Polityka (Politics). Jerzy and Tatiana separate.
1938 Polityka publishes its political programme entitled The Polish Imperial Idea.
1939 Giedroyc becomes a section head in the Minister of Industry and Trade’s office. He attends the World Fair in New York. Polityka is published as a weekly journal.
1939 (5 September) Giedroyc is evacuated from Warsaw. During his journey into Romania he edits a bulletin entitled Ostatnie Telegramy (Last Telegrams).
1939 (18 September) Jerzy, Tatiana and Henryk cross into Romania.
1939 (24 September) On arriving in Bucharest Giedroyc becomes an aide to the Polish ambassador, Roger Raczyński.
1940 Meeting with a messenger from the Abwehr. He is accused in the ‘case of Jerzy Giedroyc and others’, and subsequently cleared of all charges.
1940 (4 November) The Polish embassy is evacuated. Giedroyc stays in Bucharest as director of the Polish office in the Chilean embassy.
1941 Jerzy Giedroyc is evacuated to Istanbul with the British.
1941 (12 April) Jerzy and Henryk Giedroyc enlist into the Polish Independent Carpathian Rifle Brigade in Haifa. Both are seconded to the Transport Corps.
1941 (26 August) Both brothers are sent to Tobruk, which is under German siege. Jerzy is placed in charge of an army canteen (NAAFI). He also involves himself in the publication of a Polish army magazine Przy kierownicy w Tobruku (At the Steering Wheel in Tobruk).
1942 Stationed in Gazala near Tobruk in Cyrenaica (now eastern Libya) and Alexandria in Egypt, Giedroyc is subsequently sent to Mosul in Iraq.
1943 After meeting Józef Czapski, Giedroyc becomes part of General Anders' entourage and is seconded to work within the Department of Information and Education of the Polish Army in the East. He is put in charge of the Periodicals and Publications Section, in which he overhauls the Polish army weekly Orzeł Biały (White Eagle) and overseea the publication of an army daily newspaper Dziennik Żołnierza APW (Soldier’s Daily of the Polish Army in the East). At this time he also meets Zofia Hertz and Juliusz Mieroszewski. Appointed public relations officer (PRO).
1944 Giedroyc sails for Taranto in southern Italy. The Polish 2nd Corps has been fighting in the Italian campaign since December 1942. He is put under two weeks’ detention for allowing the publication of a contentious article entitled “Libya and Cassino” in Orzeł Biały and is relieved of his duties at the Periodicals and Publications Section.
1945 Giedroyc assumes the role of Education Officer at the Polish Armoured Warfare Training Centre in Gallipoli (Italy). He is ordered to London by General Anders.
1946 The Literary Institute is created in Rome. General Anders nominates Giedroyc director of the Institute.
1947 Under the joint editorship of Jerzy Giedroyc and Gustaw Herling-Grudziński, the first issue of Kultura is published. The Literary Institute moves to France.
1948 The staff of the Literary Institute are demobilized.
1950 Circulation of Kultura is banned in Poland.
1951 Czesław Miłosz seeks political asylum in France and stays at the Literary Institute for more than a year.
1952 Henryk Giedroyc joins the team at Maisons-Laffitte.
1954 Following a successful appeal to the readers of Kultura for funds to purchase new premises for the Literary Institute, the Institute moves to 91 Ave. de Poissy on the boundary between Maisons-Laffitte and Le Mesnil-le-Roi.
1961 Giedroyc travels to the USA.
1962 The Literary Institute publishes the first quarterly issue of the Zeszyty Historyczne (Historical Notebooks). By the year 2000 Giedroyc will have published 133 issues.
1966 Henryk Giedroyc marries Leda Pasquali.
1969 Witold Gombrowicz dies in Vence; two months later Jerzy Stempowski dies in Bern.
1973 Zygmunt Giedroyc dies in Warsaw.
1974 Jerzy Giedroyc meets Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in Zurich and it is agreed that the Gulag Archipelago will be published in the Kultura Library series. Giedroyc, Herling-Grudziński and Czapski are invited to join the editorial board of Kontinent, an émigré Russian-language journal founded by Vladimir Maximov.
1975 Giedroyc gives an interview to the émigré Polish language quarterly Aneks (in accordance with his wishes, its publication was withheld until 1986).
1976 Juliusz Mieroszewski, Kultura's closest political collaborator, dies in London.
1977 Giedroyc publishes his “Ukrainian Declaration”, signed at his request by prominent Czech, Hungarian, Polish and Russian émigrés.
1979 Zygmunt Hertz dies.
1980 Giedroyc gives an interview to Le Point about the Solidarity strike in Gdańsk.
1985 In the 459th issue of Kultura Giedroyc states: “ ... I have not been seeking a successor nor an assistant ... In spite of my undeniably advanced age it is not my intention to die at the present moment, because I believe I still have a great deal more to do”.
1986 On 8 October the Polish underground weekly Tygodnik Mazowsze (Mazovian Weekly) publishes a conversation with Jerzy Giedroyc to mark the Literary Institute’s 40th anniversary.
1988 Lech Wałęsa meets Giedroyc in Paris at the Centre du Dialogue.
1989 Giedroyc receives the Polish Pen Club Prize “for his outstanding contribution to Polish letters”.
1990 The Diploma for the Promotion of Polish Culture Abroad is offered to Giedroyc but declined by him.
1991 At a ceremony in the Polish Library in Paris Giedroyc receives an honorary doctorate from the Jagiellonian University, the first of many such titles.
1994 Giedroyc declines to accept Poland's highest honour, the Order of the White Eagle.
1995 A biography of Jerzy Giedroyc is published under the title Autobiografia na cztery ręce (Autobiography for Four Hands). His correspondence with Konstanty Jeleński is published by Czytelnik in its Kultura Archive series.
1996 Giedroyc is awarded the Legion d'Honneur. The president of Poland Aleksander Kwaśniewski visits Giedroyc in Maisons-Laffitte.
1997 The president of Lithuania Algirdas Brazauskas awards Giedroyc the honorary citizenship of Lithuania. Giedroyc's correspondence with Andrzej Bobkowski is published.
1998 The president of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma awards Giedroyc the Ukrainian Order of Merit. Giedroyc's correspondence with Jerzy Stempowski is published. He receives the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas.
1999 Giedroyc's correspondence with Juliusz Mieroszewski from 1949 to 1956 is published.
2000 Giedroyc undertakes a question and answer session on the online media portal Onet.pl. He dies in Maisons-Laffitte aged 94 and is buried in the cemetery at Le Mesnil-le-Roi. In November the last issue of Kultura (no. 10/637) is published posthumously.

Jerzy Giedroyc
Poland – A vision

If I take a birds-eye view of Polish history I am immediately struck by the considerable number of contradictions. Nation and statehood were forged of kindred tribes fused together by force under the rule of Poland's first rulers – Mieszko I and Bolesław the Brave. To begin with, it was quite disjointed and the divisions and regional differences lasted for some time. Over and above this, the state was torn between East and West, which can be illustrated by looking at the Piast dynasty (incongruously, a popular reference point for Polish nationalists). Piast monarchs alternatively married Germanic and Ruthenian princesses, who wielded substantial influence at court and in politics. To give one example, the Piast dynasty was saved and the crown secured for Casimir I the Restorer by his mother, Rycheza of Lotharingia – her role in Polish history is little known, yet her name is reviled. When West Germany offered to return her remains to Poland, this was opposed by the Primate, Cardinal Wyszyński.

During its history, Poland has displayed a remarkable degree of tolerance. Jews were invited to live within its borders and granted extensive privileges at a time when they were the subject of persecution elsewhere in Europe. During the height of the Counter-Reformation, Poland allowed Protestants, even anti-Trinitarians, to practise their beliefs, and it also placed the Orthodox Mohyla Academy in Kiev on an equal footing with Jesuit academies and subsequently granted it protection. But Poland has also shown evidence of severe intolerance, as in its hostility to the Hussites, forestalling the possibility of closer ties with the Czechs, and also later against other non-believers, to the point of persecution.

A characteristic of our foreign policy was Poland's ongoing dependence on external centres of power – such as the Vatican or the Hapsburgs. This was combined with an intense provincialism. We embroiled ourselves in an unnecessary war with the Ottomans. Raising the siege of Vienna was a superb military achievement but a political miscalculation. Later, throughout the 19th century, it was indeed the Ottoman Empire which became one of the important centres for activities promoting Polish independence.


Taking all this together, the attraction of Poland to outsiders was no less than remarkable. We were able to absorb German settlers, who formed the basis of a Polish urban middle-class. Sizeable numbers of the Jewish intelligentsia were assimilated. Ukrainian and Lithuanian elites became “polonized”. We are a country which shares heroes with its neighbours: Adam Mickiewicz, the great romantic poet, belongs to both Poland and Lithuania; Tadeusz Kościuszko and Romuald Traugutt belong to both Poles and Byelorussians. This list could be markedly extended. 

Within this strange jigsaw lie hidden our great opportunities. One such presents itself in the context of our Eastern policy. Without succumbing to national self-importance we should conduct an independent foreign policy, and avoid becoming a client state of the US or of any other power. Our prime aim should be the normalization of Polish-Russian and Polish-German relations, at the same time supporting the independence of the Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic States and acting in cooperation with them. We should recognize that the stronger our position in East-Central Europe, the stronger it will be in Western Europe.


The history of Poland betrays an old tendency to erode the power of the executive: the celebrated Pacta Conventa, the anarchic “golden freedom”, the liberum veto. First and foremost, the national mind-set needs to change comprehensively. Both the executive power and the control exercised over it by the Sejm should be re-inforced. The parliamentary system should be rebuilt to eliminate party political games and self-serving self-interest. The rule of law must be uniformly applied, and corruption in all its shapes and forms battled with tenaciously and resolutely. A free and responsible press is essential. Church and state should be separated. National minorities should be accorded respect – a pre-condition, it should be remembered, of good relations with our neighbours. Although acknowledging that Catholicism is the religion of most Poles, we must also extend our care to Jews, Mahometans and Protestants, as indeed also to the Orthodox, the religion of many Polish citizens and at once the religion of Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus.

 

In general terms this is my outline vision of the Poland for which I have laboured throughout my life.

Jerzy Giedroyc

from  Autobiography – A Duet, 1994

 

 

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