All Roads Lead to Pawel
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Having successfully infiltrated the party, Kathi finds Susan Parker-Burns and US Consul General Anne Hall . They exchange cards and Kathi obtains the names of a couple of librarians to contact at the American Information Resource Center (AIRC) at the US Consulate. A few days later we go the Consulate on Stolarska Street, just off the main square, and meet with the librarians. They are both excited after listening to Kathi and understand the purpose of our search. Both agree that the person we need to contact is a professor at the University of Silesia in Sosnowiec, Dr. Pawel Jedrzejko . They telephone Pawel, who seems very enthusiastic. Pawel is quite taken by Kathi's phone voice and by their second email exchange is signing off with "Hugs, Pawel."
So, the top half of the Kafka Project's hourglass is full. We've travelled to Poland, we have rented a car, we have the information ready to be distributed, and our only solid lead is, "Hugs, Pawel." Great.
After a brief weekend sojourn in Zakopane in the Tatra Mountains (see previous post: "The View From Kafka's Head") we drive to Sosnowiec and I won't mention the half-completed roads, confusing maps, even more-confusing signs, unpronounceable names of the towns and somewhat barfy trip to the University of Silesia. We contact Pawel (pronounced Pah-vel) after finally reaching Sosnowiec. By cell phone, he guides us to the university parking lot and comes out to meet us.
It turns out that Professor Pawel Jedrzejko (Yen-JAY-ko) is like, the nicest guy in the world. He greets Kathi by bending down and kissing her hand--as he does with every woman he meets. He takes us to a popular hangout around the corner called Stonehenge.
Over coffee and pizza and many cigarettes, we discover that he has two full-time academic jobs to make ends meet and also is a musician, singing traditional sea shanties on weekends with a group called Banana Boat . He has many ideas for the distribution of the Kafka Project materials. Unfortunately many of the key people may be away for the summer but he will do what he can. He has to drive to Warsaw in the morning but does not abandon us until he sees us safely to a hotel in Bedzin.
While awaiting Pawel's return we tour the town where Dora Diamant grew up and as a result get the Bedzin blues. (See previous post.) The next day, we meet Pawel again at Stonehenge. He is obviously exhausted from his overnight roundtrip to Warsaw and also from counseling three students who are failing his classes. Nevertheless, that evening, Kathi and I take Pawel and his lovely wife, Zuzia , who is also an academic with three jobs, to an early dinner at an Indian restaurant. We agree to meet in the next morning for the day of reckoning.
In the morning, Pawel drives us to the Library of Silesia & in Katowice, which is spacious and modern.
We are met in the lobby by Pawel's friend, the Library's Director of Promotions, Aneta Satlawa, who leads us to Maria Gutowska, the Deputy Director of the Library of Silesia. (More hand kissing.) &
After a brief meeting with Pawel translating, Maria takes us downstairs to run an electronic search of the Library's archives for key words in our search. While the search is being run, we are joined by Dr. Teresa Roszkowska, the Director of Special Collections.
A conference ensues which determines the fate of the Kafka Project. As Pawel translates, Kathi explains again the purpose of the search and passes out the Polish versions of the Kafka Project Alert. We get actual confirmation from real archivists that Nazi documents were indeed shipped out of Berlin and deposited throughout Poland. Some have been gathered here in Katowice, and may have been moved to Warsaw, some may be in Wroclaw, (formerly Breslau) and some may have been sent as far away as Lublin, even further to the east.
Pawel asked us later what it is like to listen to Polish. My best explanation was listening to Scooby Doo (" rrte row ") talking through a zipper.
As the conference progressed, Kathi noted that Maria Gutowska's face was flushing with excitement. They were into it!
There was a pause in the conversation, Pawel smiled and translated. "They think it would be a good idea if the Kafka Project materials could be distributed to every library and archive in Poland."
"Could they?" asks Kathi.
"Yes," says Pawel.
Maria Gutowska and Teresa Roszkowska smile at Kathi.
The results of the Library's search of its own files comes back with no results at this branch. But the bottom half of the Kafka Project Hour glass has opened up with the distribution of the search materials to every library throughout Poland. Every library.
Thanks to the kindness of strangers, the Kafka Project has achieved a major goal by getting the message out in Poland that these papers are missing. Of course, they are strangers no longer. By far the best part of the Kafka Project is the people we meet along the way who become our friends.
Pawel is trying to set up a meeting with a history professor at the university who is THE expert on the distribution of Nazi archives. Kathi is working with the US Consulate to help. Of course this professor is leaving on Tuesday, the day we begin our return to America.
Kathi was frantically searching the internet for ways to change our train to the Czech Republic. She called Pawel for advice. "How are my favorite Americans?" was the way he answered the phone. Kathi explained he problem. "Don't worry about it" says Pawel. "There are plenty of trains out of Katowice, and, if worst comes to worst, we'll drive you to Prague." What a guy.
Next Up: The Kafka Project Scores in Silesia with New Leads