Jan Karski, an extraordinary ordinary man

Jan Karski (Łódź, 1914 – Washington, July 2000), born as Jan Kozielewski, was a Polish reserve officer and a junior diplomat who served the Polish Army and then joined the Polish Underground resistance, where his mission was to inform the West and the Polish government-in-exile about the situation in Poland during the Nazi occupation. When he found out about the horrors of the Holocaust, he committed his life to inform the world about it. On 1982 he was awarded the distinction Righteous Among the Nations.

Jan Karski born in a Roman Catholic family and was the youngest of eight children. His

Karski

source: Jan Karski, http://www.yadvashem.org

hometown, Łódź, was an industrial city in the heart of Poland, populated by Polish Catholics, Germans, Russians, and 233,000 Jews before the Second World War. He studied law and diplomacy at the University of Lwów and trained as an artilleryman in the Polish army. Following his studies, he started his career in the Polish diplomatic corps. On September 1939, when both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia began their invasion of Poland from the western and the eastern front, Jan Karski was serving the Polish Army. While he served at the Polish base at Oświȩcim – where few years later would have been built the Auschwitz death camp – the German troops’ attack forced the Polish unit to find shelter in the hinterland. Moving in the eastern territories of the country, the Polish soldiers encountered unexpectedly the Red Army. After being disarmed, together with Polish officers, policemen, and prominent citizens, Jan Karski and the unit he served was sent by the Soviet army to a detention camp now in the Ukrainian territory. Soviet NKVD’s plan was to release the enlisted men, while all the Polish officers and citizens with political past would have been killed in mass shootings, known as the Katyń massacres. However, Karski managed to survive presenting himself as a Private from Łódź. The Soviets believed his story and sent him to Łódź, that in the meanwhile had fallen under German rule. At first, Germans transferred him to Radom, in a POW camp, then, while on a train to reach another camp, he escaped.  He reached Warsaw where he found his older brother, Marian, who introduced him to the Polish Underground Resistance. The representatives of the Polish Underground immediately noticed Karski for his incredible capacity of analysis, his memory, and his loyalty to the cause, and entrusted him with numerous missions to the Polish government-in-exile as a messenger. It was precisely during one of these missions in those territories of Poland under Nazi-occupation, that he found out that mass deportations were taking place. His role of messenger gave him also the possibility to have several important contacts in the major Polish political movements which, in agreement with the Polish government-in-exile, created an Underground state – that in future would have a central role in the formation of a democratic Poland-. However, his brother and other collaborators were arrested and sent to Auschwitz, while he was caught and tortured by the Gestapo few months later. He tried to commit suicide because he was afraid that, under the tortures of the Gestapo, he would have been able to reveal some secret information. Sent to an hospital in a Slovak city, he managed to escape helped by the Underground.

In 1942, the Underground requested Karski to travel to London – where the Polish government-in-exile was transferred – and report as much information as possible about the atrocities committed by Nazis in Poland, especially against the Jews. Karski infiltrated the Warsaw ghetto, were he knew that about 450,000 Jews were living in inhumane conditions; as he wrote in his memoir: “Everyone and everything seemed to vibrate with unnatural intensity, to be in constant motion, enveloped in a haze of disease and death through which their bodies appeared to be throbbing in disintegration”. During his mission, he met Leon Feiner, a Jewish leader, and Menachem Kirschenbaum, a Zionist, who explained him the Nazi’s plan to exterminate the Jewish population. Both men pled him to inform and ask for help to the Allies. On July 22, 1942, the Nazis started to liquidate the ghetto. Then he visited the transit camp at Izbica, and could even document the transport of Jews to the killing center in Belzec. In October, Karski reached London, where he communicated to Polish Prime Minister Sikorski and President what he saw during his several missions to the ghetto and Nazi camps. Even the Vatican was then informed by Polish diplomats, with no results. Other authorities were contacted by Karski, such as British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden, Winston Churchill, and in July 1943 he met in Washington with American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but both parties remained indifferent – or even did not believe –  to him. As Karski wrote in his account, the American President seemed to be more interested in the internal organization of the Polish Underground, how it managed to secretly communicate with the Polish government in France and then in London, and the condition of horses in Poland, completely underestimating what Karski reported on the situation of the Polish Jews. While in Washington, Karski met the Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter as well, who replied to his account saying that: ‘Mr. Karski, a man like me talking to a man like you must be totally frank. So I must say: I am unable to believe in what I have just heard, in all the things that you have just told me.’

After all these appearances, the Germans most likely had identified Karski as secret courier of the Polish Underground, and therefore he decided to remain in the United States. At the end of 1944, he wrote his first book, Story of a Secret State, in which he described the situation of Jews in Poland and his missions with the Polish underground organization. Unexpectedly, the book became a best-seller. In his book, as during his communications, Karski continued to remark the extraordinary nature of the Holocaust, claiming that ‘never in the history of mankind, never anywhere in the realm of human relations did anything occur to compare with what was inflicted on the Jewish population of Poland’.

When the war ended, the Soviet propaganda depicted Jan Karski as an anti-Semite – probably because of his attempts to inform the American Jews of the dangers of the Soviet domination in Poland and other parts of eastern Europe -, making him only a marginal figure of the Second World War.

During the Cold War, Karski decided to remain in the United States, where he completed his Ph.D. studies at the Georgetown University. After that, he will work for 40 years as a professor in the School of Foreign Service, where he previously studied.

In 1982, Karski received from the Yad Vashem the title of a Righteous Among the Nations. In 1994, the Israeli government, such as his Polish hometown, Łódź, declared him an Honorary Citizen. For the help and courage demonstrated by him for the Polish cause during the war, Karski received from the Polish government two high honors, the Order of the White Eagle and the Virtuti Militari. After his death in Washington, on July 2000, his life continues to be celebrated; on 2012, American President Barack Obama awarded Karski of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest American civilian honor.

Despite the attempts of the Communist propaganda to make Jan Karski disappear from the memory of the war and the Holocaust, his works for the Polish-Jewish reconciliation and the recognition of the Nazi crimes against Jews are still remembered and celebrated. Jan Karski is not only one of the numerous Poles who helped the Jews during the Holocaust, he is the man who risked his life to publicly denounce the extreme situation in the Jewish ghettos and death camps and after that the indifference of the Allies. As Kozlowski, his biographer, recalled: ‘There could hardly be another person who felt more deeply, painfully, and bitterly the expedient abandonment of Poland by the Allies in World War II. Jan Karski was a man who, tragically, had to feel that his own prodigious efforts on behalf of the Jews of Europe – and on behalf of his briefly independent native land – were an utter failure. Regarded as a hero in both Poland and Israel, his was a  heroism not of triumphs but of extraordinary integrity and courage’.

Jan Karski surely played a central role in the history of Poland, and his book is the proof of how powerful can be the voice of a single man.

Veronica Pagnani

MA in Central and Eastern European Studies

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Jan Karski, an extraordinary ordinary man

Jan Karski (Łódź, 1914 – Washington, July 2000), born as Jan Kozielewski, was a Polish reserve officer and a junior diplomat who served the Polish Army and then joined the Polish Underground resistance, where his mission was to inform the West and the Polish government-in-exile about the situation in Poland during the Nazi occupation. When he found out about the horrors of the Holocaust, he committed his life to inform the world about it. On 1982 he was awarded the distinction Righteous Among the Nations.

Jan Karski born in a Roman Catholic family and was the youngest of eight children. His

Karski

Source: Jan Karski, http://www.yadvashem.org

hometown, Łódź, was an industrial city in the heart of Poland, populated by Polish Catholics, Germans, Russians, and 233,000 Jews before the Second World War. He studied law and diplomacy at the University of Lwów and trained as an artilleryman in the Polish army. Following his studies, he started his career in the Polish diplomatic corps. On September 1939, when both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia began their invasion of Poland from the western and the eastern front, Jan Karski was serving the Polish Army. While he served at the Polish base at Oświȩcim – where few years later would have been built the Auschwitz death camp – the German troops’ attack forced the Polish unit to find shelter in the hinterland. Moving in the eastern territories of the country, the Polish soldiers encountered unexpectedly the Red Army. After being disarmed, together with Polish officers, policemen, and prominent citizens, Jan Karski and the unit he served was sent by the Soviet army to a detention camp now in the Ukrainian territory. Soviet NKVD’s plan was to release the enlisted men, while all the Polish officers and citizens with political past would have been killed in mass shootings, known as the Katyń massacres. However, Karski managed to survive presenting himself as a Private from Łódź. The Soviets believed his story and sent him to Łódź, that in the meanwhile had fallen under German rule. At first, Germans transferred him to Radom, in a POW camp, then, while on a train to reach another camp, he escaped.  He reached Warsaw where he found his older brother, Marian, who introduced him to the Polish Underground Resistance. The representatives of the Polish Underground immediately noticed Karski for his incredible capacity of analysis, his memory, and his loyalty to the cause, and entrusted him with numerous missions to the Polish government-in-exile as a messenger. It was precisely during one of these missions in those territories of Poland under Nazi-occupation, that he found out that mass deportations were taking place. His role of messenger gave him also the possibility to have several important contacts in the major Polish political movements which, in agreement with the Polish government-in-exile, created an Underground state – that in future would have a central role in the formation of a democratic Poland-. However, his brother and other collaborators were arrested and sent to Auschwitz, while he was caught and tortured by the Gestapo few months later. He tried to commit suicide because he was afraid that, under the tortures of the Gestapo, he would have been able to reveal some secret information. Sent to an hospital in a Slovak city, he managed to escape helped by the Underground.

In 1942, the Underground requested Karski to travel to London – where the Polish government-in-exile was transferred – and report as much information as possible about the atrocities committed by Nazis in Poland, especially against the Jews. Karski infiltrated the Warsaw ghetto, were he knew that about 450,000 Jews were living in inhumane conditions; as he wrote in his memoir: “Everyone and everything seemed to vibrate with unnatural intensity, to be in constant motion, enveloped in a haze of disease and death through which their bodies appeared to be throbbing in disintegration”. During his mission, he met Leon Feiner, a Jewish leader, and Menachem Kirschenbaum, a Zionist, who explained him the Nazi’s plan to exterminate the Jewish population. Both men pled him to inform and ask for help to the Allies. On July 22, 1942, the Nazis started to liquidate the ghetto. Then he visited the transit camp at Izbica, and could even document the transport of Jews to the killing center in Belzec. In October, Karski reached London, where he communicated to Polish Prime Minister Sikorski and President what he saw during his several missions to the ghetto and Nazi camps. Even the Vatican was then informed by Polish diplomats, with no results. Other authorities were contacted by Karski, such as British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden, Winston Churchill, and in July 1943 he met in Washington with American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but both parties remained indifferent – or even did not believe –  to him. As Karski wrote in his account, the American President seemed to be more interested in the internal organization of the Polish Underground, how it managed to secretly communicate with the Polish government in France and then in London, and the condition of horses in Poland, completely underestimating what Karski reported on the situation of the Polish Jews. While in Washington, Karski met the Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter as well, who replied to his account saying that: ‘Mr. Karski, a man like me talking to a man like you must be totally frank. So I must say: I am unable to believe in what I have just heard, in all the things that you have just told me.’

After all these appearances, the Germans most likely had identified Karski as secret courier of the Polish Underground, and therefore he decided to remain in the United States. At the end of 1944, he wrote his first book, Story of a Secret State, in which he described the situation of Jews in Poland and his missions with the Polish underground organization. Unexpectedly, the book became a best-seller. In his book, as during his communications, Karski continued to remark the extraordinary nature of the Holocaust, claiming that ‘never in the history of mankind, never anywhere in the realm of human relations did anything occur to compare with what was inflicted on the Jewish population of Poland’.

When the war ended, the Soviet propaganda depicted Jan Karski as an anti-Semite – probably because of his attempts to inform the American Jews of the dangers of the Soviet domination in Poland and other parts of eastern Europe -, making him only a marginal figure of the Second World War.

During the Cold War, Karski decided to remain in the United States, where he completed his Ph.D. studies at the Georgetown University. After that, he will work for 40 years as a professor in the School of Foreign Service, where he previously studied.

In 1982, Karski received from the Yad Vashem the title of a Righteous Among the Nations. In 1994, the Israeli government, such as his Polish hometown, Łódź, declared him an Honorary Citizen. For the help and courage demonstrated by him for the Polish cause during the war, Karski received from the Polish government two high honors, the Order of the White Eagle and the Virtuti Militari. After his death in Washington, on July 2000, his life continues to be celebrated; on 2012, American President Barack Obama awarded Karski of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest American civilian honor.

Despite the attempts of the Communist propaganda to make Jan Karski disappear from the memory of the war and the Holocaust, his works for the Polish-Jewish reconciliation and the recognition of the Nazi crimes against Jews are still remembered and celebrated. Jan Karski is not only one of the numerous Poles who helped the Jews during the Holocaust, he is the man who risked his life to publicly denounce the extreme situation in the Jewish ghettos and death camps and after that the indifference of the Allies. As Kozlowski, his biographer, recalled: ‘There could hardly be another person who felt more deeply, painfully, and bitterly the expedient abandonment of Poland by the Allies in World War II. Jan Karski was a man who, tragically, had to feel that his own prodigious efforts on behalf of the Jews of Europe – and on behalf of his briefly independent native land – were an utter failure. Regarded as a hero in both Poland and Israel, his was a  heroism not of triumphs but of extraordinary integrity and courage’.

Jan Karski surely played a central role in the history of Poland, and his book is the proof of how powerful can be the voice of a single man.

 

Veronica Pagnani

MA in Central and Eastern European Studies

How CES visited Frontex…

Last week visit to Frontex was organized by CES student, Aurélien Pommier in his capacity as an Ambassador to Poland for the European Student Think Tank (EST). Aurlienne is a 1st year MA student of the Polish-French double degree programme with the Institut d’Etudes Politiques at the University of Strasbourg. 

Below are his thoughts, impressions and ideas on Frontex as an agency that plays central role in resolving some of recent crisis in Europe and what recent changes mean for it’s activities. 

On Friday 17th of March, a group of 20 students visited the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. Among the group, the majority (12 students) was from the Centre for European Studies –CES– of Jagiellonian University.

This visit to Frontex was organised to acquire a better knowledge of this European Agency which has a growing importance, especially since the migration crisis.

As scheduled, we were received in the Frontex building (Plac Europejski 6, Warsaw) at 11: am and accompanied in a conference room of the agency. Frontex 2

Krzysztof Borowski, Public Relations officer at Frontex, held the presentation. This presentation covered several topics as the new regulation of October 2016 and the related new mandate and powers for the agency, but also the joint operations currently in action (Triton and Poseidon) and the principles migrations routes to Europe. A special attention was made to the creation of a rapid reaction pool of 1500 agents deployable within 5 days to react in case of emergency and to the role of Fundamental Rights during Frontex operations. This presentation was a very good insight into the role of Frontex as the cooperation platform between Member States regarding management and monitoring of external borders of the Union.

The session was following by a presentation of videos aiming to make us understand the reality in the field, especially regarding the danger that migrants undergo during their attempt to reach the European Union. Part of the video was quite harsh, but represent the reality known by coast guards.

Finally, a large room was left to questions and answers, but that was just enough to answer all interesting questions raised by students. This question answers session bring us on the topic of EU/Turkey statement and its danger today, the new intervention capacity of Frontex, but also the everyday life of an employee of Frontex, as some students showed an interest in job opportunities proposed by the Agency. Our host uses this interest to point out that the Frontex agency planned to extend in the following years and that more and more job opportunities will be offer. However, possibilities of internship are highly competitive.

At the end, some booklets about the agency were offered as well as Frontex’s notebooks and pencils.

This presentation of the Agency was very interesting in the sense that it gave us a real insight in the operations of Frontex and also taught us that Frontex as such has no real initiative, as all rely on the cooperation of Member States. However, the new regulation about the Agency tried to provide more autonomy and power, by the possibility of buy and lease their own materials and this rapid reaction pool in case of emergency situation. To sum up, Frontex was provided with more tools and means to tackle situation as migration crisis, and carry out operation more efficiently.

Frontex 1

Following this visit of Frontex, all the CES students remain with the group for a common lunch break and a quick visit to the Information Point of the European Union representation in Warsaw.

In the information point, many materials about the European Union waited for us.

This visit was the chance to explain the principal aim of those European Union Representations, educate and inform about the European Union, and point out that they are present in most big cities of the Union.

The study trip organised by the European Student Think Tank finished after it, and all the people enjoyed the rest of the day to discover the capital of Poland.

Aurélien Pommier

Women’s rights week at CES!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWomen’s rights week is starting at CES today. This is a week long project initiated by CES student, Alexia Fafara. Alexia is a first year MA student of a two-year Polish-French double degree programme, jointly run by the Institute of European Studies JU and the Institut d’Etudes Politiques at the University of Strasbourg. We have asked her some questions in order to present her “Women’s rights week” project to you. 

 

1. What has inspired you to organize Women’s rights week? 

I am a women’s rights activist for some years now and I think that every opportunity is good to seize even if it is just symbolic or at a very small scale. As far as CES is very open to all kinds of suggestions i just said to myself “Why not?”.

2. What is the aim of the project? 

The aim of the project is to raise awareness. Of course we are in a context where people are probably already aware of some problems but i often hear that there is no need to fight for women’s rights anymore because they are not threatened as they used to be. I totally disagree with this analysis. If we just take a look at what is happening  in Poland we clearly see that we have to be constantly ready to defend our rights and not to take things for granted. Women’s rights are threatened everywhere and Europe is not an exception.

Also, i often hear that 8th March should not exist, that there should not be a woman’s day and i take this opportunity to correct it: 8th March is not about celebrating a specific kind of woman or about making sales in supermarkets which are often absurd because they are spreading very sexist stereotypes like “Woman’s day: sales on washing machines” or as i saw yesterday on a billboard from a well-known supermarket where it was written : “Woman’s day: one shower gel bought, one for free”. The point is that it is not a  “woman’s day” but a “women’s rights day”. On this day, we raise awareness about the rights of ALL women. Actually, to achieve this goal everyone should be involved, women and men. It is all about understanding that when women will have the same opportunities as men, everyone will win from this situation.

3. Why do you think people should be interested in the project?

I don’t know if people will be interested, i just can hope! It would be great to see people involved as far as it is something that really have an impact on our everyday’s lives, for women as for men. I hope that a lot of people are going to take some time to stop on the hall of CES, to read the informations and to write some wishes on the board that is available all this week. And of course i hope it will inspire some people so we could create new projects for the next months.

4. What events are planned?

I planned three things. First of all you can find on the hall of CES a “Make a wish for women board” and some informations about women’s rights in EU and in the world. Everyone can write a wish regarding women’s rights on this board: it can be something you consider as a priority for women’s rights in 2017 or simply a general wish. On Wednesday, we transform the usual movie night of CES into a special movie night by broadcasting the movie “Solidarnosci wedlug kobiet”. This movie underlines the crucial role of Polish women into the movement Solidarnosc. This is an opportunity to remember that history is also written by women and that they deserve to see their fight acknowledged. Eventually on Friday at 7pm in Massolit, we will be really glad to have a discussion with Professor Smadar Lavie from the Department of Ethnic Studies  in the University of California, through the topic “Mizrahi Feminism and Palestine at the Crossroads”.  That is all for this week but i plan to organize other things during the semester.

5. Do you have any suggestions for students who are thinking about starting a project of their own?

 
As a good friend of mine would say: Just do it! Don’t think it is not important or that your action does not matter because it does, even at a small level. Moreover, CES Staff is very supportive and will be happy to hear your ideas.

Interview with Dr. Paul Vincent, a visiting professor for spring 2015 semester at Jagiellonian University’s Centre for European Studies

Paul Vincent - int

Dr. Paul Vincent

Dr. Paul Vincent has received Fulbright U.S. Scholar Grant to teach as a visiting professor for spring 2015 semester at Jagiellonian University’s Centre for European Studies. CES students were lucky to have an opportunity to participate in Dr. Vincent’s Nazi Germany: A political and Social History class.

We met with Dr. Vincent on a sunny afternoon in April to talk about Poland, Krakow, CES, students, life in general and also share knowledge on best food places in Krakow…

 

 

What brought you to CES?

To answer I must go back a few years to the point where we created an exchange relationship between Keene State College and Jagiellonian.  That was largely triggered by Jolanta [Ambrosewicz-Jacobs], who I had contacted in December 2010.  She told me that I should connect with somebody at the Centre for European Studies (CES); indeed, she helped make that connection.  For an

American academic program focused on Holocaust Studies, Poland seemed like the right place for our students to study.  I’d already been to Poland a few times.  Well aware that the Nazis carried out the bulk of their mass murder in Poland, I believed an academic exchange program in Krakow made a great deal of sense.  Jagiellonian University was perfectly situated.  That was the beginning.

After formalizing the exchange relationship, JJ [Justyna Jochym] visited New Hampshire to attend one of Keene State’s international studies fairs.  She sat in on one of my classes—I think this was in September 2012—and said later over coffee that “we should get you to teach at the CES.”  From the moment she spoke those words I knew I wanted to turn that idea into reality; I really wanted to experience teaching for the Centre.  So JJ and I started to exchange notes on how to bring me to Krakow as a visiting professor.

Ultimately, I used official letters-of-invitation from both Professor Mania and Professor Mach to land me the Fulbright Scholarship—an award that ensured I wouldn’t need to sleep on benches in the Planty while teaching for the CES.  With the Fulbright, everything fell into place and worked out beautifully.  I have absolutely no regrets.

Do you still like Krakow the same way as you expected to like it?

I like it better every day; from day one, it’s been wonderful.  When I arrived in January, Christmas trees and the Christmas market were still in the city.  There was about an inch of snow on the ground and the city looked magical.  Indeed, ever since those first days I’ve thought of this place as magical.  It’s a delightful place to live.

Also, right from the start, people at the Centre were just so welcoming; they treated me so well.  Without Sylwia [Sylwia Boryka], for example, I’d never have figured out how to operate my SIM-card cellphone.  I’m a dunce when it comes to cellphones and she ensured that I could use one that works—actually walking me to a shop on Karmelicka to get the help I needed (I now go there often).

I have no doubt—this is now my favorite city in the world! It’s overriding importance for me rests, however, in the incomparable opportunity living here has given me to both touch and analyze Polish sensitivities as these relate to the Second World War and the Holocaust.  This is the chief blessing I’ll take away from my months in Kraków.

 

Speaking of teaching, do you have a teaching philosophy?

IMG_1571

Dr. Vincent with CES students

I am a historian and, as a historian, I think the main principle I bring to the classroom is an insistence that, when studying the past, a student must forget that they know what will happen.  To truly appreciate history, it’s crucial—as much as is possible—to put yourself back in the moment that you’re studying, without unwrapping what will happen between that moment and now.  If you’re unable to do this, I don’t think you can appreciate decisions that were made or responses typical human beings had to the realities that they faced.  I believe that every historian must embrace that philosophical principle; I certainly do.

Beyond that, I want my students to think for themselves.  In my role as their professor, I can provide them with the basic facts.  On quizzes, I ask them to identify the what, where, who, how, and why related to fundamental questions.  Of course, “why” is sometimes a difficult question to address, but it’s important for them to grapple with “why.”

Has your approach changed since you started teaching at CES?

Well, my CES audience is different.  I used that to evolve a special assignment.  I told my students early on about a writing assignment, one that I unwrapped today in class—they’ll actually do this in a couple of weeks.  I told them that I wanted them each to write about their country’s experience with Nazi Germany.  That’s a broad concept.  Beyond that, however, how did the Nazi era impact the region or city where they come from, and, digging even deeper, how did it impact their family or people who were close to their family.  In other words, I’m looking for some personal detail.  These are not questions that I can ask in America—or, if I ask them, they won’t likely lead to answers that are very meaningful.  But the answers of my European students will likely be very meaningful to me.  In a sense, this has also changed me.  I am getting used to the fact that I am teaching students whose families were affected by the Nazi regime in far greater ways than is true of Americans.

Whether here or in the States, I know that I can always learn from my students.  With respect to history, but also with respect to various other courses, professors can all learn from their students.  Regardless of how long we’ve been on the professor’s side of the lectern in the classroom, we are all ultimately students until the day we retire.

12011548_1605042129759473_979084628_o

Bunkier Café

What was most surprising for you when you started teaching at CES?

I am not going to say that it was a surprise, but I recognized something I needed to get accustomed to.  The issue is not just limited to CES; it is broader than that.  I needed to accustom myself to teaching at Jagiellonian, in a Polish environment—maybe to some degree, a European environment.

I’m the product of a higher education system that puts a terrific emphasis on office hours.  But I didn’t have an office here at CES.  I knew there was a point when I, because I’m an American, had to have office hours and so I needed to find a place for them.  I picked the Bunkier Café.  But until last week the only students who came to office hours were Keene students, and they weren’t even taking my course.  Ultimately, it became more about “let’s go see Professor Vincent at the Bunkier” than it was about anything to do with coursework.  Then last week, for the first time since February, two of my MA students showed up and talked generally about the course.  It was delightful—albeit, a bit disconcerting for the Keene students.

I’ve been told that office hours in Poland are designed more for administrative purposes, not to continue the conversation from the classroom.  I hope that I’ve transformed some thinking a bit.  For me, it’s really important to be available beyond the classroom for my students.

What was especially unique about teaching CES students?

All of my students are European.  Some of them have better language skills than others, especially when they are stand-up comedians in local clubs where they speak in English—an unusual circumstance that’s a clear advantage.  They are quieter in class than American students.  But that may have something to do with English not being their first language.  Of course, that’s a good reason for an American professor to have office hours.  It will be a fine memory having that; it will be hard to find it back in America.

Speaking of students, maybe you have some interesting story that was striking, surprising to you, that you think would have never happened back in the US?

One thing that really did shock me, quite honestly, occurred early on in the semester.  I was going on about something in class when suddenly I looked at my watch:  I had kept them 10-15 minutes beyond the end of class time.  Nobody had said a word.  They simply sat there, taking notes and listening to what I had to say.  I was so apologetic.  I could never do that in America; everyone would be talking and pointing at the clock.  If it’s time for the class to end, it’s better for the professor to shut up and let them go.  That was not the case in this instance and it really surprised me.  Their silence may have been out of respect, I don’t know.  But it left a very positive impression on me.

Your advice to Keene students who consider coming to study abroad at CES?

keene

Dr. Vincent with CES Spring 2015 study abroad KSC students

As a historian, I often say that we are separated by time and distance from what we study.  We can change the variable of distance, but we’re not able to change the time variable—nor would we likely want to.  My sense is that if you have even a remote interest in the Holocaust and learning more about it, nothing will have a greater impact than visiting and studying in one of the places where it happened.  There is just something special about standing on the ground where the event happened.

Krakow is such a delightful place; I would return to the city in a heartbeat.  For a start, you’re surrounded by students.  By and large, they are reasonably well behaved and self-controlled.  I am increasingly impressed by the maturity that I experience in Krakow and know that it is valuable for American students, whether or not they’re studying the Holocaust, to see and appreciate that one can grow up as an undergraduate in this environment in a more mature way.

“Don’t anticipate that you’ll come to Krakow and lead the princely lifestyle that you’re able to lead at Keene State College,” I would advise, “because residence halls here are not hotels, such as at KSC.”  But that is not among the purposes of studying at Jagiellonian.  “Your goal,” I would say, “is to experience something different and exciting—and you will experience something different and exciting.”

The last thing I would advise is “learn a little Polish.”

How is your Polish, Paul?

Oops, you got me there!  I was doing okay for about six weeks.  Then the invitation arrived from Prague to speak before the Senate of the Czech Republic.  There was no longer time for Polish—no doubt, my biggest regret.  Dziękuję bardzo.

 

 

 

Take your work seriously and challenge yourself!

One of the CES specialization: Central and Eastern European Studies: Research Track offers students to lead their own research project or take part in the Internship Programme. Read the interview with Alex from US, one of the students that used this opportunity and he had an internship at New Eastern Europe magazine.

Why was it worth it to be an intern at NEE?Alex B

My internship experience at New Eastern Europe complemented my coursework at CES very well, I was able to get relevant professional experience while completing my MA classes, and I made valuable professional contacts.  I would encourage all incoming CES students to pursue internship opportunities!

What did you learn during your internship?

I learned a lot about the whole editorial process of a regional current affairs magazine — everything from generating ideas, to soliciting commentary from authors, to formatting the outlook of the issue before publication. I was also able to write two book reviews for the print edition, which was a very valuable experience.

What was the most challenging?

The most challenging thing was to balance the demands of the internship with other schoolwork, but luckily New Eastern Europe was very flexible in this regard.

Why is worth it to be an intern in general?

You can gain professional experience while getting academic credit at the same time, which counts toward your MA coursework requirements.  Doing an internship helped me to finish the program requirements—besides the thesis, of course—in one academic year.

Tips from Alex on how to take maximum advantage from an Internship.

  1.   Find something that complements your coursework and is relevant to your interests and career goals.
  2.   Challenge yourself and don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone.
  3.   Network with your colleagues at the internship.
  4.   Take your work seriously, but have fun with it!

Thank you Alex!

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Be a wanted specialist!

Do you think of a research/expert career? Would you like to learn more about what it means to research? Meet some of the CES Alumni who are now successfully conducting their doctoral studies and who are willing to share their thoughts about it.

Alex Pomiecko from USA, who is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. If you want to follow her steps, we encourage you to check out the specialization: Central and Eastern European Studies: Research Track at CES which focuses on research management and prepares students to act as experts in the future. See how possible it is!

Alex Who is a researcher/expert? What is the role of researchers/experts today?

A researcher is someone who dedicates him or herself to a particular area of interest and utilizes the tools available to them to the best of their knowledge and capability. The role and uses of a researcher are varied; they can be as limited to a personal interest in a specific subject to a consulting position in a company.

How did you discover you would like to become a researcher?

My decision to pursue a research-based field was based on an early personal, academic interest in history. As I continued my university studies, I took courses related to the field and was able to refine my specific interests. Finally, I began to look at career and professional options related to my interests and narrowed it down to a research-based one. It seemed the best suited for my personality, goals, and work ethic.

What are your research areas of interests? Why did you choose those? How do you work on it?

My research focuses on Central and East European history; specifically, Belarusian and Polish history of partisans and guerrilla groups from 1915 to 1943. I knew for several years that I was interested in history in this particular region. As I continued my university studies, I took opportunities that would allow me to explore options pertaining to this type of study, and it is in this way that I was able to determine whether or not a research-related path was the right one for me. In my specific case, this came about through writing research papers, learning foreign languages, working in various archives, as well as talking to people who were pursuing a research-field in history. Lastly, I thought about a topic and research questions that were lacking in the historiographical field. This allowed me to choose an understudied subject that could hopefully be marketable for the future.

What keeps you motivated from day to day?

Ultimately, it is a strong passion and interest in the topic that motivates me. Furthermore, having a dedicated supervisor and group of peers makes the experience more rewarding and enjoyable.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a researcher/expert? What is the most challenging?

The most rewarding part is that I truly get to learn and work on a topic of my interest. Having the opportunity to be able to research and study something is rewarding in itself. In my case, being able to speak with people who are equally interested in similar topics makes it equally worthwhile, as I can share my ideas and many times, learn from others. That being said, there are, of course, many hurdles in the process that make the research challenging. These can be as minor as bureaucratic difficulties in accessing documents in the archives, to dealing with individuals who do not share your views and can be detrimental to your research development.

What kind of skills should a researcher/ expert develop?

Patience, dedication, motivation, and openness are equally important and vital to a researcher. These usually come automatically if someone is truly interested in what they want to study. There are, of course, minor skills that are more tailored to each research project; for example language skills, computer/technological skills, etc. Being able to work both with people and individually is another asset.

What is your advice for students who want to become a researcher/ expert?

I would recommend being flexible with your interests and research pursuits. Taking the time to think about a topic is vital, as in most cases it is something you will be working on for many years to come. Rushing into a project may prove to be weary and not enjoyable. This can be remedied by talking to people in these respective fields or university departments, who are working on issues you are interested in. Furthermore, while the research process itself is narrow and quite subject-specific, will the outcome of your research provide you with opportunities in the future?

Thank you Aleks!

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Review of academic article: Goio, Franco (1994), ‘Teorie della nazione’. Quaderni di scienza politica, COEDIT, Genova, Year 1, n.2.

The author of this article, Professor Franco Goio, is currently teaching Political Science at the University of Trieste, Italy, and has published several academic articles and books on nationalism and nation-building process. With this article, he provides us with an important description of the theories of nation, very interesting and useful to understand what the concept of “nation” and those closely related of “nationality”, “nationalism” and “nation-state” actually mean.

The Professor takes into consideration the main theories of nation developed in political science, dividing them into cultural and political ones. The article is structured in a very clear and effective manner, which allows the reader to comprehend the main points of the theories of nation considered in the article, to compare them and to develop his own point of view on the subject.

Before starting analyzing the theories of nation, the author mentions the meanings usually ascribed in the common language to the terms “nation”, “nationalism” and “nationality”. He emphasizes from the very beginning the fact that these concepts are both cultural and political, that is, founded on the close link between cultural and politico-institutional elements. This introduction is very useful for the reader to understand how the different theories of nation regard the idea of nation and nationalism. Given these assumptions, he moves on to consider the cultural theories of nation, that is, those theories of nation that give primacy to cultural features in the nation-building process. In the article, he analyzes the works of Ernest Gellner and Karl W. Deutsch. From the author’s point of view, the cultural theories of nation are inadequate to explain nation-building process and nationalism, since politics plays a fundamental role in the definition of nation; this point is the main thesis of the author and it provides a very interesting perspective in the studies on nation and nationalism.

After, the Professor examines the main political theories of nation, considering the works of several scholars. He starts his analysis from the theories of Benedict Anderson and Mario Albertini, then he moves on to consider the works of John Breuilly and Anthony D. Smith. In the first two cases, the author stresses the definition of the relation between culture and politics in the studies of Anderson and Albertini; then, he considers more in detail the theories of Breuilly and Smith. In the study of the theory of Breuilly, the author is referring to the work “Nationalism and the state”, where Breuilly focuses especially on the concept of nationalism. According to Breuilly, in order to understand what nationalism is, it is necessary to consider the socio-political context where nationalism has developed, that is, the modern nation-state. The analysis of Breuilly is a very significant work in the studies on nationalism, since it considers more in detail the processes of citizenship and civil society building. Last, the author provides a very interesting analysis of the work of Smith, one of the most known and prolific among contemporary scholars of nationalism. In the article, the Professor focuses on those issues that Breuilly leaves unsolved in his work, thus considering Smith’s insight on the nation-building process. One of the elements, which makes the study of Professor Goio on the theory of Smith particularly notable, is his elaboration of how the cultural and the political features are connected in Smith’s work. Although Smith ascribes to ethnicity a key role in the nation-building process, his theory can be considered a political theory of nation.

After analyzing the main political theories of nation, the author concludes the article developing some very important considerations on the definition of the concept of “nation”. The idea of nation is based on two main principles: representation and integration; the elaboration of the integration processes behind the concept of nation is very enlightening for the reader. A national community can be defined as a collective identity, the outcome of an identification process.

The article treats a very complex and controversial subject such as the idea of nation and nationalism in a very helpful and intriguing way. Professor Goio provides the reader with a remarkable and interesting perspective on the definition of the concept of nation and nationalism. The article is useful particularly for Political Science students, since the jargon used is very specific and the reader should be already familiar with Political Science theories.

Besides, the article is a must-read for those Political Science students who are interested in analyzing the subject of the idea of nation and nationalism focusing on the relation between culture and politics. For those students who would like to elaborate the concepts of ethno-cultural or constitutional nationalism, this article provides a very good overview to begin with. The Professor also gives the reader the opportunity to study more in detail the theory of each scholar, since he makes specific references to their works.

The article, besides being a very remarkable, interesting and useful analysis for Political Science students, also provides the reader with much food for thought, given the importance and the urgency of the subject. It is then definitely worth being read.

Martina Cester,

MA student, Centre for European Studies 

Be a wanted specialist!

Do you think of a research/expert career? Would you like to learn more about what it means to research? With this new series of articles you will have an opportunity to meet some of the CES Alumni who are now successfully conducting their doctoral studies and who are willing to share their thoughts about it. Adrian Favero from Switzerland, who is a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh will be the first to do it. If you want to follow his steps, we encourage you to check out the specialization: Central and Eastern European Studies: Research Track at CES which focuses on research management and prepares students to act as experts in the future. See how possible it is!

Adrian AWho is a researcher/expert? What is the role of researchers/experts today?

Personally, I would describe a researcher/expert as someone who spends a lot of time reading and analysing a certain topic of interest. Through learning and experience, the researcher obtains intellectual and academic capacities, such as to think critically and the ability to convert information into high-quality written work.

How did you discover you would like to become a researcher?

During my research for my MA thesis, I realised that I enjoyed gathering and organising information and to analyse the data with statistical methods to explain the observed phenomenon. I also liked the process of writing and finding a way to state my arguments in a manner that made them comprehensible for the readers. Moreover, I want to gain more knowledge in the area of my personal interest and I would like to convey this knowledge to students, once I have completed my studies.

What are your research areas of interests? Why did you choose those? How do you work on it? What keeps you motivated from day to day?

Generally, I focus in my research on European Union politics. More specifically, I examine identity related opinions and behaviour towards the EU. Growing up in Switzerland, a country where anything related to the EU is debated controversially, made me want to learn more about the relationships between place-based identities and the view on the EU. Currently, I am at the stage within my PhD where I read books and increase my knowledge about the topic. I also meet with my supervisors regularly to discuss my findings. In my opinion, the key to being motivated is, to be interested in the topic.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a researcher/expert? What is the most challenging?

 I think the reward of doing a PhD is first and foremost intrinsic. I would like to think of my work as being interesting and maybe meaningful one day. I am free in how I accomplish my work and I believe in the approach that I am taking. I feel satisfied when I learn something new and discover a new angle to my investigations. Another aspect is, to meet new people from all over the world who share the same interests. The interactions and discussions with them are very interesting and fruitful.

One of the biggest challenges is the self-management of the studies. Doing a PhD requires a high degree of self-motivation and self-structuring. It is easy to lose track since nobody forces the researcher to so something. It’s on them to make progress.

What kind of skills should a researcher/ expert develop?

A researcher should develop the ability to think critically, analyse carefully and to work to high standards.

What is your advice for students who want to become a researcher/ expert?

You should like to read and to study. You should be able to work independently and enjoy being part of the academic environment.

Thank you Adrian!

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Join CES in 2015!

Admission for 2015/2016 academic year! Only 1day left! 

We continue introducing  our double degree MA programmes. Learn today about  new double degree programmes offered at the Centre for European Studies.

MA in Governance, Leadership and Democracy Studies

Double Degree Programme with Universidade Católica Portuguesa

This programme combines a teaching dimension with high-quality research. It provides students with knowledge in the field of EU studies and democracy and governance. Programme is designed for students eager to learn more about the contemporary Europe understood as political, economic and social project.

This double degree programme is open for students interested in political order in Europe in a new global challenges and perspective. Students will both be able to start in Krakow and progress to Lisbon and vice-versa.

Learn more about Governance, Leadership and Democracy Studies. 

European Regional Studies

Double Degree Programme with the University of Tartu

Programme provides students with knowledge of history, political, economic, social and cultural developments as well as international relations in both regions. The programme is designed to train specialists and researchers dealing with two partly overlapping regions: North Eastern Europe (courses offered by the University of Tartu as the Baltic Sea Region) and Central and Eastern Europe (courses offered by the Jagiellonian University in Krakow).

Learn more about European Regional Studies programme.

EU-Japan Advanced Multidisciplinary Master Studies

Programme gives students an opportunity to select from the full range of courses offered by the humanities, social as well as natural sciences. It allows to undertake a unique learning experience of the multidisciplinary nature of the Double Degree Programmes.

The EU-JAMM curriculum enables exchange students from the EU and Japan to conduct a comprehensive and structural analysis of the EU and Japan from a multidisciplinary perspective.

Pedro BPerdo (Portugal):

This MA is instrumental in fulfilling my goal and broadening my perspective. This double-degree programme gives me the opportunity to study in Krakow and Kobe, it fills my aspiration to progress in two reputable Institutions, develop an interdisciplinary MA studies which will grant me a competitive edge.  Also, the added perspective from outside of Europe is crucial to an all-round better understanding of Europe issues. The expertise and range of the studies were of the utmost importance to me. 

This DDP enables one to understand fundamental political issues in Central and Eastern Europe and EU-Japan relations whilst discovering how culture and history shaped political thinking and vice versa.

Furthermore, Japan’s future is also closely related with the forthcoming decades of the European project. They are solidly intertwined. Therefore it is naive to favor one by disregarding the other. Comprehending how all these variables interact is one of the goals of this programme . Additionally, I believe that Central and Eastern Europe have an increasing role in shaping and solidifying the European project. This MA addresses both themes which are an emerging issue in international relations.

The upcoming years bring a shift in the paradigm of International Relations, in the complex global world we live in, properly informed individuals are in order to better tackle future issues. This DDP is the perfect platform from which to get the necessary to become a much needed specialist in Japan’s role and its importance for Europe, both historically and contemporarily.

Learn more about  EU-Japan Advanced Multidisciplinary Master Studies. 

Join CES in 2015! Visit CES webpage to learn more about our programmes!