A giant of our time

Published 30 April 2015 in:

Photo: Catarina Axelsson/MFA

Last Wednesday evening April 22nd I attended the National Day Reception of Israel. Listened to the speeches of Ambassador Anna Azari as well as Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz. And was happy to see former Foreign Minister, Professor Władysław Bartoszewski also being asked to join them at the podium, which he did.

Only two days later he passed away at the age of 93.

He will be missed immensely.

I have just read an excellent article about him in Polityka by Janina Paradowska with the headline: “Miał być na zawsze.” Something like – he should have lived forever. That is a message very much in line with my feelings these days as well. He was needed. He is still needed – by us all: Poles. Swedes. Europeans. All of us believing in the values he stood up for persistently and courageously throughout decades.

For those not being familiar with his unimaginable CV: Political prisoner of Auschwitz. Help to Jews through the organisation Żegota. Participated in the Warsaw uprising. Political prisoner of the communists. Eventually Foreign Minister twice in a democratic Poland. Key personality behind the friendship firmly established now between Germany and Poland. And until his last day still Active as State Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office.

I visited that office yesterday to convey the following message in the Book of Condolences:

Our deepest condolences to the Polish Government and the people of Poland upon the passing of Professor Władysław Bartoszewski . His dedication to freedom, tolerance and reconciliation was exceptional and should be an example for us all. He was a great Pole and a great Citizen of the global Community. Together with all Poles we mourn a giant of our time.

I wrote in Polish – this is what is now in the Book:

“Składamy najgłębsze kondolencje narodowi i rządowi polskiemu w związku ze śmiercią Profesora Władysława Bartoszewskiego. Jego wyjątkowe oddanie idei wolności, tolerancji i pojednania powinno stanowić przykład dla nas wszystkich. Był wielkim Polakiem i wielkim obywatelem wspólnoty międzynarodowej. Łączymy się z Polakami w żałobie po śmierci giganta naszych czasów. Staffan Herrström, Ambasador Szwecji.”

On Monday I will participate in his funeral in Warsaw.

I am writing this blog during the last hours of April – and the last working hours before the long weekend ahead of us.

When summing up the month of April I happily remember not only the inspiring visit by our young diplomats, that I wrote about recently but also my participation in the Swedish Language Days at the Jagellonian University in Kraków last Thursday. This time four cities were represented: apart from the hosts also Poznań, Warsaw and Gdańsk.

My deputy Ulrik Tideström said something important in Szczecin about these language studies a couple of weeks ago:

“…the importance of cultural competence in building even stronger Polish-Scandinavian relations. Studies of each other’s languages are of course important, but also a deeper understanding of the country and culture across our common Baltic Sea. So Scandinavian studies in Poland, and vice versa, clearly has an added value in bringing us closer, not least when doing business together. And I am impressed by the quality of Scandinavian studies in Poland. Your students are attractive for employment by Swedish companies in Poland, and indeed also in our Embassy.”

So true. And what I heard in Kraków just once again confirmed that impression.

Finally. I like to look back at the Orlen Warsaw Marathon four days ago. I was a slow but very happy finisher (5,44:07) in a run that benefitted from good organisation and suitable weather (that is not too cold, not too hot and not too rainy).  Did I feel bad afterwards? No. Did I suffer during the run? No, but of course the legs start complaining at some point. Was I desperate at any time? Only when all the bananas were gone, when I arrived at the first station where they were supposed to be served. But at the following they were available, luckily…

Jogging in Warsaw is great. My long weekend will primarily be used for the European Picnic in the Łazienki park tomorrow and for Constitution Day celebrations May 3rd. But who knows? There might be some new energy mobilised for a short run in Pole Mokowskie. The first after the Marathon in that case.

Miłego długiego weekendu!