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KPBS Commentaries

Practicing Patience in Poland

The Kafka Project waits. This part is what my friend  Anthony Rudolf , one of the Kafka Project  advisors in London, calls "the hard slog." Exactly what are we waiting for?

We are waiting to learn the locations of Nazi-era archives in Silesia , where Franz Kafka's missing papers were last traced. In Berlin ten years ago, I had to wait in some cases for months. I don't have that kind of time now. Byron and I leave Poland on the 24th of July, so there is pressure to move quickly. Time is running out to find these papers before they are lost forever. Locating these archives before they are opened, and providing information on what is missing is vital to discovering it. Even to people I meet on the street, who express even the slightest interest, I hand a copy of the Kafka Project ALERT, which identifies what exactly is lost and describes it in detail so that it can be recognized. The ALERT also establishes who owns these 35 love letters and 20 notebooks--the Kafka Estate of London, England. I have had the ALERT translated into Czech, Polish, Slovak and German. These are the languages spoken in the area which encompass Silesia. 

Connections have been made, phone calls placed and emails sent. Now we wait for responses and answers. The connections have been remarkable. Last week, at a Fourth of July celebration held by the US Consulate in Krakow, I met the US Ambassador to Poland, Victor Ashe , and more importantly for the Kafka Project, the US Consul General Anne Hall , who offered the resources of the US Embassy.  A graduate student at the oldest university in Eastern Europe, Jagiellonian University , Magda Kozlowska, is helping with contacts and translations. She is writing about the Kafka Project for Jagiellonian's Jewish Studies Department. A couple of responses from my queries have arrived, but are fairly disheartening, indicating that Silesia is too big and our search too vague. But we already knew that. This search is the first step to getting the word out that these papers are missing.

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But while we wait, we have made excellent use of our time.

Greg Duch from San Ysidro (San Diego' s only southern suburb)
February 26, 2009 at 11:54 PM
How I envy you. Poland is such a beautiful country; and its people are a delite! The language can be a bit difficult to master... Americans have always been greeted warmly in Poland. This year "'09" marks several "'09" anniversaries for Poland. 1919--Poland defeated the Soviet Union, shortly after the Bolsheviks, under Lenin, took over Russia. 1939- The Nazis under Hitler launch the Blitzkrieg-- they invade, plunder, and occupy free Poland. 1949- The installation of a Stalinist Communist dictatorship which harshly suppressed the Poles during the COLD WAR era. 1989-- The fall of the Berlin Wall and the replacement of the totalitarian Communist regime in Poland, by a liberal democracy. Poland has had to struggle mightily to keep its dignity, its freedom, --and its freedom-loving SPIRIT alive through the most horrible of historical catastophes visited upon it over the generations..... Loved your article. Greg Duch