On October 20, 2022, the International Korczak Conference “Janusz Korczak and the children. Lesson of the past and hope. 80th anniversary of the death of Janusz Korczak” took place. The event was organised under the honorary patronage of the Marshal of the Senate of the Republic of Poland, prof. Tomasz Grodzki. The organizers of the event were the Parliamentary Team for Children, the International Janusz Korczak Association, the Maria Grzegorzewska Academy of Special Education (ASE) and the Janusz Korczak Pedagogical University.
During the prize-giving ceremony, awards were presented to people and institutions that apply Korczak’s pedagogical philosophy in practice and promote his thoughts. One of the winners of this honorable award is the Treblinka Museum. The Nazi German Extermination and Forced Labour Camp (1941-1944). On behalf of the Director Edward Kopówka, the award was given to Monika Samuel, employee of the scientific and publishing department of the Treblinka Museum. We would like to thank the organizers of the ceremony for appreciating our activities and granting the Museum this unique award, of which we are extremely proud.
The conference was held at the Senate of the Republic of Poland and was opened by: Marshal of the Senate of the Republic of Poland, prof. Tomasz Grodzki; prof. Alicja Chybicka, Chairman of the Parliamentary Team for Children; Dr. Marek Michalak, Chairman of the International Janusz Korczak Association; Prof. Barbara Marcinkowska, Rector of the Maria Grzegorzewska Academy of Special Education and Prof. Mirosław Grewiński, Rector of the Janusz Korczak Pedagogical University in Warsaw.
The first lecture was delivered by Marta Santos Pais – a special guest of the conference, former Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Violence against Children in 2009-2019.
The session was chaired by Batia Gilad from Israel – a teacher, activist, former president of the International Janusz Korczak Association, together with Dr. Marek Michalak. The gathered people listened to 5 lectures delivered by specialists in various fields. Jacek Leociak, Professor in Institute for Literary Research at Polish Academy of Sciences, in the lecture “Janusz Korczak – pisma czasów wojny” (Janusz Korczak – wartime writings) presented the circumstances of the uprising and the meaning of the Old Doctor’s diaries. Professor Andrzej Mencwel, from the University of Warsaw, presented lecture “Źródła korczakowskiej wizji świata i dziecka w świecie” (The origin of Korczak’s worldview and the child in the world). Professor Mosche Shner, from the Oranim College of Education in Akko, presented the importance of Korczak’s thought for the modern world in a lecture entitled “The Isaiah of the 20th Century – Korczak’s Philosophy, a Utopia of all Men Solodarity”. Next lecture “Korczak – pedagog, pierwszy rzecznik praw dziecka” (Korczak – an educator, first spokesman for children’s rights) was presented by Professor Barbara Smolińska-Theiss, from the Maria Grzegorzewska Academy of Special Education, together with Dr. Marek Michalak. They introduced the figure of Janusz Korczak as an educator, but also as a friend and defender of children’s rights. Last lecture was “Jak aplikować idee Korczaka w praktyce pedagogicznej, społecznej, medycznej” (How to apply Korczak’s ideas in pedagogical, social and medical practice) by Dr. Nancy Bell from the Universiy of British Columbia.
The participants were involved in various thematic workshops. The first was the panel entitled “Dziecko – różne oblicza przemocy” (Child – different faces of violence), conducted by Professor Ewa Jarosz, from the University of Silesia and Sergey Sukhoboichenko, who represented Ukraine in International Chapter of the Order of Smile (ICOS). The moderators of the second section were professor Marek Konopczyński from the University of Białystok and professor Edita Ziobiene, the Lithuanian Children’s Rights Ombudsman. The third section was devoted to “Children’s Citizenship and Participation. How children build their world”. It was led by Professor Maria Czerepaniak-Walczak, from the University of Szczecin, together with her team. The last section was “Social professions in the service of a child”, moderated by Dr. Joanna Lizut from the Janusz Korczak Pedagogical University.
All people gathered at the Korczak International Conference had one goal in common: cooperation in various fields so that, in every place on earth, the child would be the treated as a person, not as the object of activities undertaken by adults. During the debate, as well as behind-the-scenes, talks, discussions were held on various aspects of violating children’s rights. During them many important solutions were proposed on how to remedy this problem.
During the event, a special ceremony of decorating with the Order of the Smile took place. The award have been granted and designed by children. Marta Santos Pais joined the honorable group of people awarded with the order. The Order of the Smile is the implementation of the will of Janusz Korczak, who wanted children to be treated personally. The idea of the order was born in 1968 in Poland. In 1979, on the International Year of the Child, proclaimed by the United Nations, Kurt Waldheim, UN Secretary General, awarded the Order of the Smile with an international rank.
Photo source: Treblinka Museum, Senate of the Republic of Poland.