This year Poland celebrates the life and works of Henryk Goldszmit, better known by his pseudonym Janusz Korczak. He is remembered today primarily for his contributions to education as a great authority when it came to custodial pedagogy, yet he was an accomplished writer as well, taking on a range of literary forms to pursue varied social topics, from medicine and pedagogy to hygiene, politics and interpersonal relationships. The Korczak Year ushers in a series of events and publications in honour of his contribution to literature and science.
Korczak (born 1878 or 1879) debuted in 1896 in the satirical weekly Kolce with the humorous sketch “The Gordian Knot” and most likely entered the final entries in his “Diary” on the 4th of August 1942 in the Warsaw ghetto. Between these two dates he created many unique works that are not known well enough today to be given the credit they deserve. His body of work was addressed both to adults and children, consisting of literary works (dzieła literackie), social journalism (dziennikarstwo społeczne), pedagogical essays (pedagogiczne eseje), theatrical plays (przedstawienia teatralne) and personal document literature, such as letters to friends, notes, documentation of his educational practice, private documents and his diary from the last months of his life. Altogether this amounts to over twenty books (novels, stories, poetic prose and essays) over 1400 various texts printed in magazines (journalism, small literary forms, interviews) and over 300 positions preserved in the form of manuscripts or typescripts. Because Korczak’s field of activity was so diverse and prolific, there is a relatively large collection of his writings remaining in spite of the damage done by the war.
At present the publication of a sixteen volume edition of Korczak’s collected works is being finalised by the KORCZAKIANUM Centre for Documentation and Research – a department of the Historical Museum of Warsaw. It’s the first comprehensive research-editorial project presenting Korczak’s known and preserved writing legacy. The first volumes appeared in 1992 and the completion of the series – the publishing of pedagogical writings from the interwar period and texts created in the years 1939-1942 – is planned for the year 2012, the official Korczak Year.
This year Poland commemorates two separate dates in Janusz Korczak’s life, the 70th anniversary of his death at the Treblinka camp during the war and the 100th anniversary of his founding the House of Orphans in Krochmalna street in Warsaw (currently Jaktorowska street). In September the Parliament passed a resolution declaring the year 2012 the Janusz Korczak Year at the initiative of Marek Michalak, the Ombudsman for Children in Poland.
A number of initiatives in tribute of Korczak, a man who contributed tremendously to the welfare of children of all walks of life, are planned for the upcoming year. Michalak spoke of his plans to organise 16 conferences across Poland for experts and scientists, as well as children and youth. Michalak also plans to publish Korczak’s “How to Love a Child” and “The Child’s Right to Respect”, which aren’t currently in print.
Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)