After two weeks on display at the State Capitol in Hartford, CT, the travelling exhibition, The World Knew: Jan Karski’s Mission for Humanity – created by the Polish History Museum with assistance from the Jan Karski Educational Foundation – has opened at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain and will be available for viewing at the Burritt Library on campus through June 30.
To mark the occasion, Consul General of the Republic of Poland Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka from New York visited New Britain on June 3 to lecture about Karski’s legacy.
First she stopped by New Britain High School, where she presented Karski’s extraordinary life experience as a courier during WWII to an audience of 170 students and teachers, followed by a screening of the powerful short movie Messenger from Hell. The film depicts Karski’s mission to present his eyewitness report about the ongoing slaughter of Jews in the Nazi-occupied Poland to Allied leaders.
In the evening, Consul Junczyk-Ziomecka addressed faculty members at Central Connecticut State University and a general audience, presenting Karski’s remarkable life story of courage and integrity, stressing its historical and political context, as well as the dangers, adversities, disappointments, despair and horrors he encountered. Consul Junczyk-Ziomecka recounted Maciej Wierzynski’s comments about Karski from his interviews with the legendary emissary for “Voice of America,” depicting him as a great partner in conversation, insightful, humble, yet always trying to find humor and irony in the experiences he was describing. She said that the world still needs true heroes like Jan Karski and that “his important message is here to stay.”
Madame Consul also talked about various Karski initiatives to raise awareness of his accomplishments among the American youth, most notably the project led by the Jan Karski Educational Foundation to bring this real hero and his legacy to schools, by placing his wartime memoir Story of a Secret State in the hands of American school and college students.
During open discussion, Alan Berkowitz from Voices of Hope, organization charged with the mission of sharing the experiences of Holocaust survivors by bringing together their children and grandchildren, said: “I have been involved in Holocaust education for a number of years and yet I learn something new each time I engage [in] the topic. The extraordinary life and mindset of Jan Karski is exactly the example we all wish to convey to our students.” Prof. Donald Roger, Adjunct Professor in Historyat CCSU, said: „Thanks for sharing information about the Jan Karski [Educational] Foundation, which opens a chapter in European and Human Rights history that I was unaware of. Thank you for educating me.”
During her visit to New Britain, Madame Consul also granted an interview to John Dankovsky of the WNPR Connecticut radio station. On air, Consul Junczyk-Ziomecka not only recounted Jan Karski’s courageous mission during WWII, but discussed how the history of Jews had been intertwined with the history of Poland for centuries. She mentioned the opening of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw on October 28, as well as the 25th Anniversary of Poland’s democracy and President Obama’s recent visit to Poland. When asked about the situation in Ukraine and how the Polish example could help the Ukrainians build their own democracy, she stressed the importance of building a strong economy. The podcast of the interview can be accessed through the WHNPR website.
The exhibition and Madame Consul’s visit are part of a long-established series of lectures, exhibits and movie showings related to the Polish-Jewish relations, organized by the Polish Studies Program at CCSU, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. These events are free and open to campus and outside community. The exhibition was created by the Polish History Museum in Warsaw in cooperation with the Jan Karski Educational Foundation and sponsorship from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland and the National Endowment for the Humanities Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.