Winter is over. The early spring is smiling with the sun, bird’s singing and hope for a better and happy life. Everyone is busy with his own life. Tired, in a hurry we sit down in front of TV, computer screens, we flip through glossy magazines which is easy and fun. It may be possible, but from 10 April 2010 everything became different, and, first of all – we are different, although we are not aware of it. It looks as if we lost the ground beneath our feet and found it difficult to keep balance. We pretend that life is going on but in a different way which we are not able to control. Somebody will say – air crashes happen, either they are more or less tragic. Yes, but airplanes with presidents do not crash accidentally. It is difficult to find a similar example in the history of the world. Such airplanes are serviced in the best way, the best pilots sit in cockpits, everything is on the highest level. They flew not far away – over old Polish lands – to Katyń, a place symbolizing thousand acts of crimes on the Polish nation on ‘inhuman land’. Everyone was killed.

Their absence is felt more and more. There is lack of them everywhere.

In the Institute of the National Remembrance there is not Janusz Kurtyka.

Just after the catastrophe it took me over a year to prepare a documentary about the Institute of the National Remembrance, managed by a historian dr. hab. Janusz Kurtyka from 2005.

Earlier, before this terrible tragedy happened, I had planned to make such a film, I had listened to speeches of Janusz Kurtyka, read his books, watched exhibitions and admired the work of the Institute and the attitude of the chairman. I saw how he was being attacked and destroyed deceitfully. However, what I saw and heard during my work on this film, was beyond my expectations! The enormity of achievements in all spheres, such as: archiving, protecting documents, publications, exhibitions, intensifying actions of the investigation and lustration division. Shortly speaking – Janusz Kurnyta caused an avalanche of actions brining the truth back to Poland. He roused enthusiasm in many young educated people who did not count hours at night or during a day, but they were working, ‘because it was worth, because we wanted to’ – as they were saying to camera. ‘An excellent manager, an excellent scientist, extremely clever, wise lover of Poland, Accursed Soldiers, Józef Piłsudski, a man of romantism and a positivism. Soldier’s duty and fantasy, courage, hard-working, his credo was historic truth’.

And these were not only beautiful words expressed about the chief by his employees, but it was also a sincere adoration for somebody who is prominent, who motivated for action, gave work its sense, set high standards. All my interlocutors emphasized: ‘He was a demanding chief, but he demanded the most from himself’.

I recorded over 20 hours of interviews with cooperators of the Institute of the National Remembrance and colleagues from the Jagiellonian University. Despite the passing time, I often return to records saved on film tapes.

These were excellent meetings, experiences for the whole team, as if we were in different Poland. ‘They all speak incredibly truly and are fascinated with work’ – I heard the surprise of the team. It was caused by the fact that Janusz Kurtyka attracted people with his enthusiasm to work. His cooperators said that he had a very interesting feature – if he was criticizing somebody, he was doing it in such a way that the criticized person did not feel frustrated but mobilized. ‘If in a situation of crisis somebody was asked by him for a talk, then after the talk a problem was over. He could listen and often allowed for being convinced reasonably with argumentative explanations’. As the superior he was a visionary with very wide and coherent concept of the institution functioning. It concerns not only the sphere of the Institute of National Remembrance but also pursuing a widely understood historical policy, which is missing in Poland today. I was extremely impressed by a young historian and an employer of the Institute of National Remembrance who was speaking about his chief with an incredible engagement: ‘Janusz Kurtyka was a man of an unusual organizational talent. He could concentrate on a lot of issues. He has an incredible divisibility of attention. He could remember an issue from a few weeks or even a few months before. When he managed a branch of the Institute in Cracow, he dealt not only with academic and official work but he also supervised the thorough renovation of the headquarters of the branch of the Institute in Wieliczka, which required his making decisions, often in purely technical matters. Not only was he able to match everything together, but he was also realizing his exploratory interests. Although he was holding his managerial function, Janusz Kurtyka never stopped being an active scientist; he published regularly and also supported publications of his subordinates. He read them, wrote introductory words, inspired for writing an article, a book….Undoubtedly, he turned out to be a suitable man on a suitable position. He took the motivation for action from idea premises. His purpose was to restore our pride on the fact of being a Pole. He used to speak that ‘it would be worth doing something for Poland’.

‘He reminded Poland about people who were removed from history. The results of his work are great but I think that their significance will be revealed only after some time when they will start existing in the social consciousness. It will be really difficult to replace him’.

When I listen to sentences pronounced live in front of the camera just after the catastrophe at Smoleńsk, I cannot resist being emotionally moved. They show the truth, spontaneity, glow and lack of agreement to the fact that somebody like him might suddenly stop living, not return to his cooperators, friends, not undertake started works and projects, not fight against a destructive lie. Janusz Kurtyka was killed on the way to the truth. The task of the Institute of National Remembrance is to complete this great work of the great man and his team and uncover the truth about Poland for the good of us, Poles. There is a basic question: will successors want and be able to be courageous to remember and walk the way of Janusz Kurtyka?


"Niedziela" 15/2014

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: