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Learning to speak Polish
Marek Edelman Social activist
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Was Polish your first language? Russian. And then Yiddish? No, then Polish and only then in school, out in the yard. No, no Russian was first. I couldn't speak any Polish, at home we didn't speak Polish - it was either French or Russian. Jan Strysz spoke Polish. Who else? The intelligentsia speaking Polish? No way. But my mother learned to speak Polish very quickly and she spoke it very well but I spoke ... after all, I had a Russian nanny who caught typhus and a grey ambulance took her away when I was 3 or 4 years old to a hospital for infectious diseases, and she died there. I saw that ambulance, I can still see it, a grey ambulance for infectious cases. And that's all, in Russian. I learned to speak Polish quite late.

[Q] A polski był Twoim pierwszym językiem?

Rosyjski.

[Q] A potem jidysz?

Nie, potem polski, a potem dopiero w szkole i na podwórku. Nie, nie, pierwszy był rosyjski. Ja w ogóle nie umiałem mówić po polsku, bo wiesz w domu się nie mówiło po polsku, albo francuski albo po rosyjsku. Jan Strysz mówił po polsku, kto to mówił dalej, inteligencja po polsku, a skąd. A mama się nauczyła bardzo szybko polskiego, mówiła bardzo dobrze po polsku, ale ja mówiłem, przecież miałem nianię Rosjankę, która zachorowała na tyfus plamisty i taka szara karetka, jak miałem ze 3 czy 4 lata, zabrała ją do szpitala zakaźnego i umarła. Widziałem tą karetkę, widzę tą karetkę, szara karetka zakaźna.  I to wszystko po rosyjsku. Po polsku się późno nauczyłem.

Marek Edelman (1919-2009) was a Jewish-Polish political and social activist and a noted cardiologist. He was the last surviving leader of the 1943 uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto. Following the Second World War, he took an active part in domestic and international politics, dedicating himself to fighting for justice and peace.

Listeners: Joanna Szczesna Joanna Klara Agnieszka Zuchowska Anka Grupinska

Joanna Szczesna is a journalist writing for Gazeta Wyborcza. Together with Anna Bikont, she’s the author of Pamiatkowe rupiecie, przyjaciele i sny Wislawy Szymborskiej (The Recollected Flotsam, Friends and Dreams of Wislawa Szymborska) a biography of Wislawa Szymborska, the Polish winner of the Noble Prize for Literature. Since the 1970s, Joanna Szczesna has been involved with the democratic opposition movement in Poland, active in the Worker’s Defence Committee (KOR), the co-founder of the independent press in Poland: editor of KOR’s Information Bulletin, Solidarnosc Press Agency and Tygodnik Mazowsze.

Joanna Szczesna, dziennikarka "Gazety Wyborczej", autorka - wraz z Anna Bikont - biografia polskiej noblistki "Pamiatkowe rupiecie, przyjaciele i sny Wislawy Szymborskiej". Od lat 70-tych zwiazana z opozycja demokratycznaw Polsce, wspólpracowniczka Komitetu Obrony Robotników, wspóltwórczyni prasy niezaleznej w Polsce: redaktorka "Biuletynu Informacyjnego KOR-u", Agencji Prasowej "Solidarnosc" i "Tygodnika Mazowsze".

Joanna Klara Agnieszka 'Aga' Zuchowska was born 20 January 1938. Her father was killed in the Katyń massacre. After the war, she moved from Warsaw to Lódz. She obtained a degree in medicine in 1960, qualifying as a specialist in internal medicine in 1973. Dr Zuchowska worked with Marek Edelman for 15 years. In 1982 she left Poland for Algeria where she remained for the next three years, returning to Poland in 1985. She currently lives in Lódz.

Joanna Klara Agnieszka 'Aga' Zuchowska, urodzona 20 stycznia 1938. Ojciec zginal w Katyniu. Po wojnie zamieszkala w Lodzi. Studia ukonczyla w 1960 r. a specjalizacje z chorób wewnetrznych w 1973 r. Doktorat obronila we Wroclawiu. Pracowala z Markiem Edelmanen przez 15 lat. W 1982 r. wyjechala do Algerii. Wrócila do Polski w 1985 r. i mieszka obecnie w Lodzi.

Anka Grupinska studied English at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland. She wrote for Poznan’s underground publications and was herself one of the founding publishers of the bi-monthly Czas Kultury. She spent 1988 and 1989 in Israel compiling reminiscences of Holocaust survivors. From 1991 to 1993, she held the post of Cultural Attache at the Polish Embassy in Tel Aviv. She moved back to Poland in 1996 and now writes books on Jewish subjects, mainly dealing with the history of the Warsaw ghetto. She is also a freelance journalist for Tygodnik Powszechny. Anka Grupinska is the director of the Centropa Foundation project in Poland (oral history project) called “The Witness of the Jewish Century¿, presents her own radio programme, “Of Jews and of Poles too¿, and teaches creative writing and oral history in Collegium Civitas and SWPS in Warsaw.

Anka Grupinska ukonczyla filologie angielska na UAM w Poznaniu. Wspólpracowala z poznanskimi pismami podziemnymi, wraz z innymi zalozyla i wydawala dwumiesiecznik "Czas Kultury". W latach 1988-1989 przebywala w Izraelu opracowujac wspomnienia ocalalych z Zaglady. W latach 1991-1993 pracowala jako attaché kulturalny w ambasadzie polskiej w Tel Awiwie. Od 1996 mieszka w Polsce. Anka Grupinska specjalizuje sie w tematyce stosunków polsko-zydowskich. Publikuje ksiazki (m. in. Wydawnictwo Literackie, Zydowski Instytut Historyczny, Twój Styl), artykuly prasowe (m. in. "Tygodnik Powszechny", "Rzeczpospolita"), realizuje projekty wystawiennicze. Jest takze koordynatorem miedzynarodowego projektu "Swiadek zydowskiego wieku" (archiwizowanie pamieci o zydowskiej przedwojennej Polsce), prowazi autorska audycje radiowa "O Zydach i o Polakach tez" i uczy warszawskich studentów sztuki czytania i pisanie tekstów literackich.

Tags: Russian, Yiddish, French, Jan Strysz

Duration: 1 minute, 13 seconds

Date story recorded: December 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008