Od lewej stoją: Henryk Giedroyc, Jerzy Giedroyc, sekretarki: Maria Łamzaki, Agnieszka Szypulska, archiwiści i bibliotekarze: Leszek Czarnecki i Jacek Krawczyk. Siedzą: Zofia Hertz, Gustaw Herling-Grudziński oraz pies Black. Ogród domu Instytutu Literackiego, pod oknem gabinetu Redaktora. Maisons-Laffitte, 1986 r. / Sygn. FIL00423

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The “Kultura” Team


Within the history of “Kultura”, the three most momentous events in my private history were the illnesses and deaths of Juliusz Mieroszewski, Zygmunt Hertz and Józef Czapski. 

Mieroszewski’s illness was terrifying. He had cancer of the throat and suffered greatly: he had cheek burns after the radiotherapy and a tube had been inserted into his larynx. It all lasted several months. We tried to offer him some diversions. He had dreamt of owning a Zakopane sheepskin coat which we were able to procure a few months before his death. It gave him much pleasure. 

Mieroszewski was my most important partner in discourse. A singular collaborator with whom I was completely open. Not only because I knew he understood me, but also because I could rely on his unswerving loyalty. He was irreplaceable. In a certain sense, once he parted this world I was on my own.

And then came Zygmunt’s unexpected illness which took its toll on us. To begin with, he hoped he would somehow extract himself from his condition; towards the end he was aware that this was not to be. Throughout his illness, however, he retained an extraordinary serenity, his only anxiety being what would happen with his Zosia, once he died. Theirs had truly been an exceptional marriage. 

Józio Czapski had begun to limit his participation in the affairs of“Kultura” a number of years before his death, wanting to concentrate entirely on his painting, for it was then, very belatedly, that he had begun to enjoy his first artistic successes. Consequently he became consumed with the preparation of exhibitions of his work and also restricted his rich seam of other interests, including conversations with his circle of companions, whom he essentially reduced – apart from family members – to Adam Zagajewski and Wojciech Karpiński. My own meetings with him in the latter years of his life also became rarer – his time was devoted to his painting, mine to an increasing work load. There was a time when we spoke to each other every day. In his last years, this became every few days, and our exchanges became increasingly random. But they did continue. His death closed an important chapter in my life. 


It is Zosia and Zygmunt Hertz who played a pivotal role in the history of the Literary Institute and of “Kultura”. They were privy to everything which went on, including those matters which required utmost discretion. This was especially true of Zosia, who became our unsung heroine not only due to her energy, but also through her utmost commitment to our cause whatever the cost. 

Zygmunt’s contribution was enormous, but what he did, he did for his wife. Before the war he was a senior executive in the Belgian chemicals company Solvay. On demobilisation he could easily have found a well-paid and prestigious occupation in the West, and his former company made him many attractive offers, whereas he could also have made use of his father’s extensive network of connections in international commerce. He sacrificed everything for Zosia.

When we were still in Italy Zygmunt’s activities showed flashes of genius – we would not have survived without him. It was he who created the “nuts and bolts” of the workings of the Institute. He decided to continue serving “Kultura” and brought on board a capability for hard work and his resourcefulness. His every day activities were often arduous and monotonous – but without them we could not have functioned. He was interested in people and his ability in making contacts was irreplaceable. If Józio Czapski and Kot Jeleński were our foreign ministers, then Zygmunt was the minister for Polish affairs. He secured invitations for our compatriots in Poland and procured grants for them. He socialised a great deal, maintaining a large circle of acquaintances. In my relationship with Czesław Miłosz, which had its ups and downs, he very often acted as a lightning conductor. He put a protective arm around Marek Hłasko, Roman Polański and many others who passed though our house. Our friendship with Fr. Sadzik and the Pallottines was very much his doing. When they first arrived in Paris to establish their presence, they paid us a visit. It was very congenial but that would have been it, were it not for the warm relations established between Zygmunt and Fr. Sadzik.

From the outset the whole administrative side of “Kultura” rested on Zosia’s shoulders. Her influence on “Kultura’s” political standpoint as also on me was considerable. She has a great deal of healthy common-sense, and many were the times when she held me back from over-reaching, from taking on some new or hazardous ventures. Her interventions were not always successful but at several junctures they did shield “Kultura” from making stupid mistakes. She was able to get many things done through her knack of getting on with people. She clearly illustrates my theory that in Poland primacy is held by women.

The value of the role played by Zosia and Zygmunt cannot be overstated. I doubt whether “Kultura” could have come into being and continued to exist without them. 


We worked together in the propaganda unit of the Polish army, and at that time Józio was one of my closest friends - we seemed to agree on everything. Our first serious clash was over the issue of moving the Literary Institute from Rome to Paris – Józio was very opposed to it. But later, as I have often said before, he served “Kultura” as its de facto foreign minister. Józio’s contribution was, however, far greater than that: he bore with him a particular aura of friendship and selflessness, which he carried through into all our work. He breathed affability towards others. One sensed in him some spiritual dimension, and it was this I think which struck such disparate personalities as Kot Jeleński and Jeanne Hersch, and drew them to him.

Józio’s religious convictions were deep rooted and his faith also found practical expression in his long association with Antoni Marylski of the Laski Institution for the Blind near Warsaw, as well as his attachment to such authors as Berdyaev, Peguy and Jacob. It is through Józio that I got to know these work of these writers, with Peguy making a greater impression on me than Berdyaev – perhaps because the former’s interests were not exclusively religious or philosophical. Similarly, it was due to Józio that I deepened my knowledge of Russian literature, in which I had always retained an interest. This was true, among others, of Dostoevsky. Previously, I had particularly thought well of the Brothers Karamazov while remaining indifferent towards his other works, or had simply not read them. Józio was particularly interested in the works Dostoevsky and drew me into reading them, and so changed my perception of them. 

He was immensely helpful with the editing of “Kultura”, and here I owe him very much. Because of his disinterestedness, our conversations were relaxing, although at the same time fruitful and often gave rise to fresh ideas. We might begin by discussing a book or some author and a tangible editorial concept would come to mind. I am not particularly interested in painting, but attended several exhibitions with Józio which gave me many new insights. I had been, for example, very negatively disposed to Picasso’s art – Józio helped me come to terms with it. I  cannot say that he converted me to his work, but I gained something of an understanding of it. I accompanied him, several times in fact, to a very interesting Waliszewski and Pirosmani exhibition. We also went together to the Petit Palais to see a display of Polish art – we were very struck by how second hand the works were in their ideas, and here there was no disagreement. 

We never discussed “Kultura’s” political line. The discussions we did have, at times very lively, would invariably be about disconnected subjects: various books, various authors. I well remember our lengthy exchanges on Abellio, who fascinated us both. Any disagreements concerning people derived chiefly from Józio’s sense of loyalty towards others. If, for instance, there was a sharp difference of opinion about gen. Anders, he would not try to argue against my position, but sought to smooth over our differences.

Our most pronounced clash had to do with the Congress for Cultural Freedom and Kot Jeleński. When Mieroszewski – and I don’t remember in what context – wrote that the Congress was a “circus”, Kot was indignant. Again I can’t remember the details, but from “Kultura’s” point of view we did have serious reservations about the organisation and I naturally took Mieroszewski’s side. Józio, however, decidedly supported Kot’s position to the point that he was willing to move out of the house. I was very perturbed. I had believed that in our relations, the Congress was a second order, if not a third order, issue. And yet Kot and the Congress seemed to stand higher than our own friendship and collaboration. With the passage of time, however, everything settled down again. 

Józio’s return to painting had happened many years previously, but for a considerable time, it had had no impact on the rich seam of his other interests. Later, transitioning from “Kultura” to art became increasingly arduous – as if each return to painting seemed like a new beginning. He would describe getting down to work on painting after a pause as “scraping along, practising the fiddle”. This period gave rise to intricate still-lifes, with which he warmed up artistically. 

After Józio’s death I arranged for the casting of death masks and for a cast of his hand. It was important for me to preserve his likeness. And not only for ourselves. One mask was given to the Polish Library in Paris, another was purchased by Janusz Przewłoch, a relative of Józio’s. Józio Czapski was immensely important to Kultura” and to me personally. But beyond that, I believe his contribution to Polish culture in general was considerable. He rose above the provincial with his very wide spectrum of pan-European interests, which is quite rare in Polish culture. He was a polymath, preoccupied with art, literature, contacts with his fellow human beings, and religious life. A most exceptional figure. 


I knew Mieroszewski only fleetingly in the army. We got to know each other better in London after the war. Before he succumbed to eccentricities and drew away from people I would meet him at Auberon Herbert’s or Józio Zielicki’s. I believe our first London meeting occurred at Auberon’s home. As a rule, I would visit London twice a year and met Mieroszewski every time. Later on, I would travel up to London solely to see him.

The beginnings of our acquaintance were most congenial, but there was nothing to suggest any further development. I can’t recall exactly when our relationship transformed into a closer professional collaboration. It no doubt began with the so-called “London chronicle” he submitted to “Kultura”, from which his journalistic output developed. A watershed moment in our relations was the matter of Czesław Miłosz, when he adopted the same stance as “Kultura”, together with our closest friends such as Kot Jeleński. Among all its various aspects, one significant element of the Miłosz affair was the necessity of assuming a position vis-à-vis the refugee poet, which on the one hand had the effect of bonding our group together, while on the other hand it severed other bonds – such as my friendship with Niezbrzycki, with whom I had been very close for very many years. 

I would imagine that before the war Mieroszewski was a gregarious individual. He remained so in Cairo but took to heavy drinking. I am not teetotal myself but he was crossing all limits. Zosia and I noticed a change in him in Italy when “Parada”, the periodical he worked for, had ceased to come out and things were up in the air – he would shut himself in his room alone and drink. The immediate cause was the breakdown of his marriage. As luck would have it, he and Inka, whom he had known before, fell in love, and it was she who pulled him out of his heavy drinking. In London, at least to begin with, he remained in touch with Wierzyński and with Auberon, whom he would often visit. 

Later, he began to close up. He lived in a small, two-family house, with the ground floor occupied by Inka’s sister and her husband. He and Inka lived on the first floor – they had two rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. They were both very tidy, but there were books and newspapers everywhere, even though Mieroszewski was no hoarder, kept no personal archive, and probably gave away all the books he had read. In the midst of this, Puzio the dachshund lorded over it all. He was very attached to his owner and could read his mind. Mieroszewski had his eccentricities. He took snuff and was enthusiastic about oil lamps – he maintained that they give the best light, and was absolutely delighted when we once brought him one as a present.

Mieroszewski was devotedly attached to his wife Inka; his wife, books, the little dog and his house formed an immediate landscape out of which he became reluctant to venture. There was no lack of enticing propositions, such as being invited to work for German television, which paid very well. He had even accepted this invitation, but blew it at the last moment. He could never be induced to travel out of England, and his social life became minimal – the Wierzyńskis who were close friends, Paweł Zaremba and Zdzisław Broncel. And that was about it.

Broncel was an oddity. He had a splendid career behind him. Starting as a small-scale newspaper seller in Warsaw, he worked his way up to become the editor of the “ABC” literary supplement which he ran superbly well. In Palestine, Broncel was put in charge of “W drodze” (On the Way) which he made into a very good periodical. In London he began to lose direction. To begin with he decided he needed to secure his financial future so he bought a small house which was to be let out. The house was very well-appointed and his tenants were punctual with the rent. He then decided he must buy a second house, after which he considered he must begin writing in English. And thus he went to waste. He lived quite near the Mieroszewskis, and yet would only ever meet them when I was in town. 

It is difficult for me to speak about Mieroszewski’s writing as I was so bound up with it and thus lack the necessary perspective. It will be easier to recount our areas of disagreement. I found it rather amusing, and then irritating that he would keep emphasizing that he was a socialist. I could not see it at all, it seemed to be a pose picked up from his English-language reading. If I were to describe his views I’d sooner say he was a liberal than a socialist, though obviously not in any economic sense – he took scant interest in economics. As regards his overall cast of thought, he came closest to Raymond Aron – cool headed analysis and little concern for the ideological. 

Undeniably Mieroszewski had an influence on me. He opened up to me vistas into the Western world of which I always knew less than about Eastern Europe, whereas in turn he knew little about Eastern Europe, it was alien landscape to him. Political literature in the English language was inaccessible to me unless the relevant material were available in French or Polish, whereas Mieroszewski was assiduous in his English-language reading. Contrary to appearances, however, he was not my source of information on “Polish London” and did not influence my views on the subject. Although when starting out in London he was in touch with a host of people and actively participated in émigré life he eventually rather bowed out. Mieroszewski’s knowledge of Polish community life in London derived from the “Polish Daily” and other Polish newspapers. However, regarding the realities of “Polish London”, our views from the outset were similar and altogether unfavourable. 

I cannot call to mind any serious disagreements with Mieroszewski. There may well have been animated exchanges of views, but nothing to compare with the outright clashes I had with Kot Jeleński or even Józio Czapski. Perhaps we were more in tune politically. Admittedly, I don’t consider my political views as socialist, although they do undeniably lean towards the left.

Mieroszewski’s greatest contribution to “Kultura” was his political writing. In no mean measure “Kultura” was a political journal because of him. Not only were his political ideas innovative but the way he expressed them was singular. I valued his style highly, its concision and lucidity, bereft of all those embellishments so characteristic of much Polish writing – and not just of Polish writing. His was a rare talent. I regard the ULB idea as the single most important component of his output. His other work concerned the changing day-to-day political scene and thus often soon became out of date. The ULB idea, however, has permanence. I feel sure that, if only for this particular contribution, Mieroszewski will occupy an important place in the annals of Polish political thought after the Second World War. 


For almost ten years there had been no contact between Gustaw Herling-Grudziński and myself. He did not offer me Inny Świat (A World Apart) for publication. After this long break he then sent his first article for “Kultura” by post with a covering letter. We began to talk again when I visited Rome. Indeed I stayed in the apartment which he then had in Rome, and later sold. There was nothing of substance about our conversation in Rome. It began as if nothing had ever come between us. We talked about Silone and about various memoirs, especially the recollections of Egidio Reale, the Italian ambassador in Warsaw just after the war. Gustaw knew him and put me in contact with him. Although we did not touch on private matters, this conversation did initiate a sort of rapprochement between us. But we had been closest at the time he had been an officer cadet. What irritates me now is that Gustaw is positioning himself as a consultant or simply as a collaborator without adopting any responsibility for “Kultura” editorial policy.

In our division of labour Gustaw oversees literary matters, both prose and poetry. In great measure he decides our policy on literary matters, and I entirely rely on his opinions and evaluations. This primarily applies to the literary content of “Kultura”, and less to the books we publish. Differences of opinion did sometimes occur over various pieces as personal animosity played a large role in Gustaw’s choices. A case in point was Miłosz, he found it difficult to hide his intense dislike of him. He is very negatively disposed to Kazimierz Brandys. Żukrowski counts as nothing to him, both as a man and as an author – despite having produced three or four respectable books. In such cases Gustaw applies extreme criteria which are not always to my liking. 

I have always maintained that if you apply very harsh political and moral criteria to Polish writers, Polish literature would cease to exist. I believe that we should disassociate a work of literature from its author, and judge the two separately. Otherwise we shall be ceaselessly locked into the Brzozowski syndrome. I myself take a view of what someone has written without getting into what he is, or has been. Gustaw’s approach is excessively puritanical. And this is not solely bound up with the natural differences of approach between a writer who has a right to choose partiality in his literary creations and the publisher who should be more comprehensive and eclectic in his choices. This is my general approach. I give primacy to the work rather than the author.

But Gustaw was for me also a partner in political discussion although our exchanges were different from those with Mieroszewski. Mieroszewski and I saw eye to eye, while Gustaw just has a different point of view. Gustaw is not a cool analyst, but a man of passion, not a political animal, rather a moralist. And so perhaps that is why our political discussions were so important for me, and by extension for “Kultura”.

Recognition as a writer came to Gustaw too late – both in Poland and in the émigré world. As for me, in spite of the differences and misunderstandings between us, I believed him to be a most outstanding writer. Inny Świat (A World Apart) made a huge impression on me. As for his other works, Wieża (The Tower) for example, my reaction is cooler. I acknowledge the virtuosity of the prose, but I see it as being too crafted. I would say this only of his early stories (long-short stories or perhaps novellas). His later ones, with occasional exceptions, I rate very highly. However, I regard the Dziennik pisany nocą (A Diary written by Night) as his greatest achievement. It was Gustaw who suggested writing it for us, but perhaps, in some measure the idea was inspired by our conversations about diaries as a literary form, the importance of the genre for “Kultura”, and how difficult it was to replace Gombrowicz’s Diary. Of course I know that my own predilection for the diary form comes from the fact that it lends itself to journalism. But though a diary may encapsulate journalistic content it does not end there, it weaves the pieces into a variegated whole, putting off ennui and attracting an ever greater readership. In his Diary, Gustaw manipulates the contrasts between journalism and critique, the essay form and fiction, like a true master. 


I first met Kot Jeleński through Józio Czapski in Paris before we had made the move to Maisons-Laffitte. Our relations grew closer when we later met in Rome, where we were able to get to know each other better. Later, Józio as good as coerced Nabokov into admitting Kot to the Congress for Cultural Freedom, where he charmed everyone and became irreplaceable. His systematic collaboration with “Kultura” dates from this time. Without doubt he was the most accomplished literary critic in the Polish émigré world. In cultural matters, we saw eye to eye. Here, we only ever diverged once, not that the matter was at all important. It concerned Andrej Bobkowski, whom Kot looked upon as quite alien to him, both as a man and as a writer. It is to Kot that I owe my bearings in world literature, of which I know relatively little, and also, much more generally, in all of Western Culture, from poetry to art. He was a remarkable polymath. 

My never-ending gripe about Kot was that he took on too many obligations, and never had time for anything. For a while, he was engaged in doing a survey of the cultural output of French and Italian publishers, but he couldn’t cope and had to stop. I kept asking him, many times, to write an evaluation of the oeuvre of Jurgis Baltrusaitis, whom he knew and thought highly of; he never got round to it.

Kot was intensely loyal, but his first loyalty was to the Congress for Cultural Freedom. Our greatest disagreement, of which I have already written, concerned this. We also differed in our views on people from communist Poland. Kot was guided by his personal likes and dislikes and by his evaluation of artistic or literary merit, with scant regard to their political or moral stance. Take for instance his adulation of Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz – it was not just admiration of the writer and the poet, there was also a soft spot for the man himself. It was clear that Kot was giving Iwaszkiewicz a free pass. He tried to make a case for an outrageous socialist-realist story written by the man. I saw Iwaszkiewicz in a two-fold way, as a human being and communist activist, whom I deplored, and as a writer, the author of many valuable works of literature which would pass the test of time. Kot never made the distinction. 

To my mind Kot was also too detached from Polish realities. I sensed, (and Józio too – I remember taking to him about it), that Kot-Jeleński’s Polish roots had rather withered . He was excessively cosmopolitan. Not that I believed that a conversation about elephants had to be connected with “the elephant and the Polish question”. Nevertheless Polish issues are paramount for me, not so with Kot. Perhaps because he felt equally at ease in France or Italy, and he was of course not a political émigré while we all were. Poland was under our skin, far less with him. I do not question his patriotism during the war and after, when he undertook translations of Polish poetry and spread the word about Polish literature. Here his merits are indisputable. Though he was a great friend off Józio’s and very attached to him, he felt more at ease among the writers and painters from Leonor Fini’s milieu than in Polish company. That world meant more to him. He used to say, and not only to me, that if he were to stop writing for “Kultura” he would cease writing in Polish.

Kot-Jeleński was very obliging. He engineered contacts and undertook various assignments for us, even those he found tedious. In this he helped me considerably. At the same time he had profound reservations about my policy on Poland. He accused me of putting people in danger, and was convinced that the smuggling of books and their miniature versions was a harmful exercise. However, he avoided direct conversations with me on the subject. He would present his criticisms to Zygmunt Hertz, and he also sought to influence me through Józio Czapski, whose opinions in these matters tended significantly closer to his. We also differed in our attitudes towards the Polish political émigrés in London. He sympathised with that world and was indulgent towards it. He was also very close to Mieczysław Grydzewski and the circle associated with the journal “Wiadomości” (News). 


Jerzy Stempowski was an important figure for me. We had corresponded for years and I felt a bond with him. He would travel to visit us about every three months. I regarded his essay writing highly but felt reservations about his literary opinions which often lacked impartiality, as for example with the writing of women, towards whom he was particularly indulgent. From time to time I would send him copy for assessment but eventually stopped sending him anything written by women: if he had nothing substantial to say, he would respond that the writing flows as smoothly as machine stitching. He also had his several paranoias. 

Before the war Stempowski had been journalist with the PAT press agency in Paris, which was probably a sinecure. Later he became the cabinet secretary under prime minister Kazimierz Bartel. This was also something of a sinecure but very useful for Bartel as Stempowski had contacts with the opposition. Attempts at achieving parliamentary consensus were essentially directed through him. Immediately before the war Stempowski worked as a librarian at the Bank Rolny, a position he owed to Ludkiewicz given their Masonic connections. This was now a complete sinecure. Freemasonry in pre-war Poland was probably principally engaged in the arrangement of sinecures, it played no serious role in politics. The only freemason at all active in politics was Henryk Kołodziejski, the director of the Sejm Library. All in all, the situation of freemasonry in Poland was very different to that in the French Third Republic, which has been so brilliantly described by Jules Romains in two books of his epic novel sequence Les hommes de bonne volonté (Men of Good Will). 

I have never been able to find out what the standpoint of Polish freemasonry was towards Piłsudski and his coup in May 1926. Stempowski arrived in Warsaw several days prior to the coup, and immediately took up a position in the Warsaw military headquarters. How he got to be there, and what he was doing there, I never got to know. He never responded to any of my questions on the subject. Anyway, he was then a supporter of a democratic Piłsudski in the Bartel vein, and later became very antagonistic towards the marshal – this led to serious disputes, even rows, between us. 

At the time when Stempowski was working as librarian in the Bank Rolny, there was a sugar industry conference. Ludkiewicz fell upon the devilish idea of asking Stempowski to give a talk on the history of sugar. The room was full of awful looking capitalists who could be accused of many things but not of any particularly intellectual pursuits. Stempowski had spoken for two hours and had only just reached the cultivation of sugar cane in ancient Egypt. I surveyed these people with stupefaction. I had thought that rowdy protestations would break out at in the audience any moment. Not so – they sat riveted. But nobody, ever again, approached Stempowski to give such a talk. 

It was the nature of his letters to me which prompted me to suggest to him the formula for his presence in “Kultura” – Notatki niespiesznego przechodnia (Jottings from a Leisurely Passerby). The gestation of his various ideas started in the letters he wrote, and not just to me. The subject matter overlapped in his correspondence with Józio and Gustaw. One can see from them, that Stempowski was drilling down into ideas, that his letters were rough notes, drafts, that allowed him to hone and expand the subject matter of subsequent essays. He found writing difficult. Perhaps because he was phenomenally well read and had an equally phenomenal memory.

As a conversationalist, Stempowski was very interesting but he had a tendency towards monologues. We were once discussing plagiarism. Before the war there had been a notorious scandal uncovered by the right-wing weekly “Prosto z Mostu” (Straight from the Bridge): One Wincenty Rzymowski had written an article, in great part composed of quotations from Bertrand Russell. Stempowski was hugely irritated when reminded of the incident, and in his fervour began to expound at length why there was no such thing as plagiarism. We were still on Ave Corneille, I remember that I had had enough of the discussion and made my way upstairs. Stempowski’s piping voice pursued me from downstairs still trying to prove that “plagiarism does not exist”.

Fantasy overtook him when it came to political matters. He might recount that in the Oaza restaurant in pre-war Warsaw, Sanacja operatives would poison the public with nicotine canapés, and when I insisted he tell me who had been doing this and who had been poisoned, he became agitated but offered no further explanation. One of his sources was apparently an enigmatic Turkish acquaintance who was an authority on secret intelligence and behind-the-scenes political manoeuvrings. Courage was not his hallmark – he once called round in the evening on the day the Algerian crisis began hotting up in France, and announced that he would be leaving the next day. When the Algerian war began, he sent me a letter explaining that the situation would become so dire that censorship of correspondence would certainly be introduced, and that we should create a secret code in order to communicate with each other. There then followed something of such complexity that it defied comprehension.

He could be stubborn and contrary. On one occasion Malaparte was giving a lecture in some literary bookshop in Paris. We had received an invitation, and three of us, Józio, Stempowski and I attended. The audience was clearly on the far left, and the lecture concerned censorship. Stempowski got up to speak and offered us all a disquisition on how liberal Tsarist censorship had been. He was right in much of what he said, but a veritable onslaught from the audience followed. He had known this would happen, but nevertheless had decided to take the floor. 

Those, then, were his foibles but, leaving them aside, he was a man of great erudition with an extraordinary array of interests. Many of his projects came to nothing, as with his research for a book on Ovid, which was to show the poet as the world’s first political émigré. While once in Vienna, he came across writers from Austrian Galicia, among them Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. After reading their books, he had many very interesting observations, which were to be written up. But this also never came to fruition.


There is an opinion abroad that I am a despot and that the “Kultura team” never existed unless one accepts that the team always comprised only one individual, that is, me. On the contrary – I am open to criticism and suggestions, and I often happen to change my mind after discussions with others. As for the “Kultura” team, it most definitely existed and continues to exist. I value and take on board the opinions of its members. The business of editing “Kultura” was a journey among them in which I had to evaluate and arbitrate on their views, often varying, and on occasion incompatible. 

But though the “Kultura” team represented a tangible realty for me, the team did not exist as far as its members were concerned. Not only because no meetings were ever convened, but first and foremost because each member was a personality in his or her own right, and could only co-exist with each other at a distance. Stempowski could not stand Mieroszewski. He never told me so himself, but told others who did. There was essentially no contact at all between Józio and Mieroszewski. It was the same between Mieroszewski and Kot-Jeleński. Gustaw had a warm relationship with Józio and Kot, a civilised one with Mieroszewski and a somewhat stilted one with Stempowski. No one other than me had a close relationship with Mieroszewski, he was a recluse. But good relations were maintained with all by Zosia and Zygmunt. And by me. 

If I have a talent, it is that of a regisseur: with the ability of matching the right subjects to the right people. This engenders within me an attitude of teamwork, and also means that if I am suitably convinced, I change my mind. Stefan Kisielewski criticises me for, as he says, making 180 degree turns. I change my tactics because politics is not a sacrament; to engage in politics you have to adhere to reality, which constantly changes. One has to know how to retain one’s principles while adapting one’s views. 

I was always very loyal towards my collaborators. It could lead to friction when there was disharmony among them and I was forced to take sides. I was also very loyal towards those I served under. I believe gen. Anders made a grave mistake in not engaging with me – I would have certainly been his loyal collaborator. I place a high premium on loyalty. And thus any allegations of disloyalty, or even suspicions of disloyalty, weigh most heavily on me. 

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