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Moments that define Dr Zbigniew Pelczynski OBE

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Fig 1. Chapter Three: A Life Remembered

For all the technology – I am writing on an iPad – the book I am reading (‘A Life Remembered’ is only available in print) is on a rather rusty, heavy-duty iron book stand. Out of shot I have a lamp on an upturned waste-paper bin – an eBook would be the light, the stand and the content. It allows me to take notes, picking out moments and ideas from mini PostIts.

In some respects I feel like a Talk Show Host preparing for an interview, though many of these stories and their significance to Zbigniew Pelczynski I have heard before – I’ll be in his company this weekend so can ask questions, record the interview highlights and post the results here.

What defines him as an academic, inspirational educator and Polish patriot? How might others have behaved given the extraordinary life choices he had to make as the Second World War came to a close?

What is it about Oxford University that held him in its spell and kept him from the opportunities and temptations of other universities in the UK and abroad?

How can the oath he made to God that defines his life come from someone with no faith in religion?

Is it not ironic that despite being alive and well and mentally alert and agile in his 86th year that publication of his life story isn’t the end at all, but another mile stone as he drives on to yet more commitments and projects later this year and next including a two-day conference on Rousseau, Hobbes and Machiavelli, the book launch at the Polish Embassy then Meetings at his School fo Leaders in Warsaw.

With Zbszyek it isn’t even a case of ‘what next?’ rather it is a case of what he plans to do still beyond that.

My Notes So far :

Learning in extremis

Three Reformers Jacques Maritain
– an exegesis of the works of Luther, Calvin and Rousseau.

Zbig studied while part of the Polish Resistance in Warsaw, developing early ideas and an interest in:

  • man
  • society
  • state

McAvoy (2012:19)

KEY MOMENTS: Events that make the person

Saying good-bye to his mother Irena in August 1944 age 18 and lying about what he was up to as he went off to join his company B1 of the Basta Regiment. He saw his mother again in December 1956. (p 24)

PERSONALITIES

Jerzy Kloczowski, known as Piotrus

HORROR

The German campaign of mass murder in Warsaw in response to the foolhardy uprising killing, between 5th and 7th August 1944 more than 50,000 men, women and children. Perhaps 200,000 killed over the next two months.

KEY MOMENT

The life defining oath Zbigniew made when rubble pinned the 19-year-old in a cellar after an attack by a Stuka.

He made a pack with God: if he got out alive, then somehow, someday, he would do something for Poland in return. McAvoy (2012:27)

DEFINING MOMENT – Traumatised

Appearance of political prisoners from Neuengamme concentration camp who fought over every scrap of food. McAvoy (2012:36)

HORROR – POLISH FARMHAND – what people will do to survive and for love.

Condemned for a ‘race crime’ with a German girl and put in a forced labour camp on starvation rations he joined the Offen Kommando whose job it was to collect and burn the bodies of dead inmates. McAvoy (2012:39) There they had witnessed systematic cannibalism.

(Though I suspect hours of cooking rather than 15 minutes would have been required).

DEFINING MOMENT

Two lessons: the story itself and from the way it was told. Cured of social snobbery for life. McAvoy (2012:39)

A very different war defined a quite different man – my grandfather, working class and a machine-gunner in the First War, humble, conscientious and hardworking, dedicated his life to his wife and child.

What is of greater significance?

Our genetic make-up or the events in our life? People respond very differently to events and circumstances, yet the decisions they take define them. We cannot all be the same.

What am I coming to understand about education and the motivation to learn?

What bearing does this have on the struggles and wars that continue around the world and the politics that are both the cause and cure of the mess in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond to Korea and elsewhere?

REFERENCE

McAvoy, D (2012) Zbigwniew Pelczynski: A life remembered. Grosvenor House Publishing.

Turning thoughts into action – the life of Z A Pelczynski remembered

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Read cover to cover yesterday, into the evening and small hours. I’m now onto the second read, with various notes to add, references to pursue and further research to undertake.

Yet to be published, I’ll give detials in due course of how to get your hands on a copy.

Why read ‘A Life Remembered’ ?

It’s a fascinating life story from surving the Warsaw Uprising as a teenager to achieving as an Academic and educator in England, Scotland then at various leading universities around the world while pursing various interests and causes with passion and dogged determination. A life lesson? I think so.

Getting the message across

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Getting the message across

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If the thought put in lessons such as this could be applied to the national curricullum would more be remembered? Walking around Newhaven Fort I’d like to see GCSE, A’ Level and even graduate’trails’ set to help lodge in a student’s minds some of the events and facts they require.

I’d like to seethe develoment of augmentedreality so that dead exhibits could come to life. I’d like to see a number of ker War movies played on a loop too.

Enemy at the gate: Stalingrad

There are many great war movies, ‘Enemy at the Gates’ is one.

WW2 The Assassination of Jean Jaures, Paris

Jean jaures

Jean jaures (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 56 year Jean Jaures, the Socialist leader in France, was an enthusiastic, educated and informed voice in 1914 Europe. He wanted to finding a peaceful settlement between European powers after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. His arguments however went counter to the mood of late July 1914 as Austria, Germany and Russia and the Serbs mobilised for war.

Jean Jaures was teaching philosophy at the University of Toulouse when in 1892 he had supported the miners of Carmaux when they went on strike over the dismissal of their leader, Jean Baptiste Calvignac. Jaurès’ campaigning forced the government to intervene and reinstate Calvignac’s. The following year Jaurès stood for election and became deputy of Carmaux in the Midi-Pyrenees, a seat he lost in 1898 largely as a consequence of his staunch support to overturn of the false accusations against Captain Alfred Dreyfus, who had been falsely accused of spying for Germany. During his time out of government Jaurés completed the mammoth ‘Socialist History of the French Revolution’.

As leader of the Socialist Party, Jean Jaures became a figure of hate of a radical and probably unhinged nationalist Raoul Villain, a 29 year old studying archaeology in Paris and a member of the League of Young Friends of Alsace-Lorraine.

Villain bought a revolver and stalked the socialist leader keeping tabs on his every movement in a pocket-book.

At around 9.40pm on Friday, July 31st Villain approached Le Cafe du Croissant at the corner of Rue Monmarte and Rue du Croissant in Paris. Jaures was discussing with colleagues how to make an appeal to the US President Woodrow Wilson when Villain saw him sitting in a bay window. Villain raised the revolver and shot Jaures twice in the head.

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