On October 21, the Museum Treblinka hosted the participants of the International Korczak Conference “Janusz Korczak and the children. Lesson of the past and hope. 80th anniversary of the death of Janusz Korczak”. The representatives from 2nd Lieutenant Emilia Gierczak Primary school in Łąck also participated in the meeting. The organiser of the event was the Museum Treblinka in cooperation with the Polish Janusz Korczak Assosciation.
The gathered people paid tribute to Janusz Korczak, the Children and Staff of the Orphans’ Home, who together with the “Old Doctor”, died in the begging of August 1942 in the gas chambers in Treblinka. The guests visited the areas of the former German Extermination Camp Treblinka II with the museum’s guides, and also took part in the opening of a temporary exhibition “’History will catch up with anyone who runs away from I’ – Exhibition on the 80th anniversary of the death of Henryk Goldszmit / Janusz Korczak” by Anna Remiszewska, an Assistant in Education Department at the Treblinka Museum. The exhibition was presented at the museum’s parking and was introduced to the guests by its author.
The main point of Friday’s events at the Treblinka Museum was the planting of 16 new memory trees in the Korczak Forest. The Korczak Forest project is carried out in cooperation with the Polish Janusz Korczak Association. Just as a young tree needs perseverance and care to become strong, it is also important to constantly cherish the memory of all those who were co-creators of Korczak’s educational system. Institutions joining the Korczak forest project can take part in workshops on Korczak-related topics. During these visits, representatives of institutions symbolically water their trees and visit the Treblinka Museum with a guide. Planting and nurturing trees is a form of involving the participants in active creating their own paths of remembrance of important figures and important historical events. It is also a way to protect the natural environment. Detailed information about the project is available on the Treblinka Museum’s website.
On this day trees were planted by: Public Primary School Janusz Korczak in Jaroszów; the Janusz Korczak Youth Sociotherapy Center from Zgorzelec; UNESCO Janusz Korczak Chair in Social Pedagogy; the Janusz Korczak Association Australia; 2nd Lieutenant Emilia Gierczak Primary school in Łąck; the International Janusz Korczak Association; International Chapter of the Order of Smile (ICOS); Janusz Korczak Primary School in Nowa Ruda, the Janusz Korczak Pedagogical University in Warsaw; Koło Przyjaciół Korczakowa im. Jerzego Zgodzińskiego. A tree was also planted 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 and a honorary doctor of the Maria Grzegorzewska Academy of Special Education in Warsaw. The representatives of Knights of the Order of the Smile Primary School in Toruń, the Ghetto Fighter House, the Dominicans Monastery Warszawa-Służew, Tunisian Janusz Korczak Association and Ukrainian Janusz Korczak Association also planted their trees.
The participants of the International Korczak Conference also listened to the concert “In memory of Janusz Korczak and the Children” arranged and performed by Witold Radomski. The artist is a local poet, teacher, life enthusiast, the founder of Cyganeria Podlaska (the Bohemia Podlaska) – an independent and informal group of artists and supporters of broadly understood art. For many years Witold Radomski was a scout of the Janusz Korczak Scout Troop in Sokołów Podlaski. He is also a friend of the Treblinka Museum.
The concert began with the song “As Mr. Chagall painted”, inspired by the paintings of Marc Chagall, painted as an expression of opposition to the events of March 1968. It is the work of two outstanding artists: Wojciech Młynarski – the author of the text, and Leopold Kozłowski – a composer called “the last klezmer of Galicia”. The next song was Ryszard Marek Groński’s “Ballad about the Old Doctor”, who is a writer for adults and children, journalist, satirist and poet. Then the participants of the meeting listened to the author’s musical interpretations of two poems by Władysław Szlengel “The small station of Treblinka” and the “Kartka z dziennika ‘akcji’”. There was also a song based on a poem by Felicja Raszkin-Nowak entitled “Treblinka”. The artist ended the concert with “Elegy for the death of Janusz Korczak” a song by Stanisław Grochowiak.
The songs were carefully selected. Władysław Szlengel is called the poet of the ghetto. In 1940-1943 he was in the Warsaw ghetto, where he continued his writing activity. He died there on May 8, 1943. Felicja Raszkin-Nowak is a Polish Jewish Holocaust survivor, journalist and writer, the niece of the Białystok Esperantist Jakub Szapiro. A “Kartka z dziennika ‘akcji’” is one of the particularly dramatic poems by Władysław Szlengel. The poet witnessed the last walk of Janusz Korczak, the children and staff of the Warsaw Orphanage, who were led to Umschlagplatz, from where they were all transported by the Germans to the Treblinka II Extermination Camp.
The concert “In memory of Janusz Korczak and the Children” was an integral part of the event. We would like to thank all participants for their presence and inspiration for further activities.