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Reminder about Poland’s Tragic History

Students of the Elementary School No. 1 in Tuszyn with their teacher Robert Kobylarczyk (Photo: Courtesy or Robert Kobylarczyk) Students of the Elementary School No. 1 in Tuszyn with their teacher Robert Kobylarczyk (Photo: Courtesy or Robert Kobylarczyk)

You never know where Karski can find his fans. Tuszyn is a small town of a little over 7,000 inhabitants near Karski’s hometown of Łódź, Poland, where an enthusiastic teacher of English as a Second Language, Robert Kobylarczyk managed to thrill his sixth grade students at the Elementary School No. 1, with the Karski story. It all started when he decided to participate in the Erasmus+ project organized by Voyager Academy in Peterborough, England, and its leader Mrs. Blanka Glyde asked him to prepare a workshop about information fluency. The core of the project embraces prominent personalities and the values they represent.

“From that moment on, I knew Karski’s story will be an essential part of our project, as his mission was about information on which so much depends,” says Mr. Kobylarczyk. “As I heard from some teachers from the UK, there are more and more students of Polish heritage in their schools, I decided I want them to know we will visit them and bring them the values Karski represents. Jan Karski's story is timeless and universal as it shows how to behave when one is confronted with evil, so we are eager to share our knowledge about Karski to enrich the whole project from an ethical perspective. We want to make all students aware that the project will instill in them the values of leadership, courage and integrity, as exemplified by the life of Jan Karski.”

What better way to introduce the story of Jan Karski to young people than the graphic novel Karski’s Mission: To Stop the Holocaust?  It was Mr. Kobylarczyk’s choice to include the book in the ESL curriculum; his students read the book in its English language version and then wrote their comments in English.

“My students read the whole comic book in a complete silence and enveloped in a special atmosphere,” Mr. Kobylarczyk continued. “They seemed to be petrified by the whole lesson; they said it was the experience of their lifetime – unbelievable and unthinkable. They said they were unable to believe that it was all true and I immediately thought about Justice Frankfurter and his reaction. Some of them had tears in their eyes, some blushed with uncertainty what to say, while others had their foreheads covered with sweat. I know the students are sensitive and will be good citizens. ‘To serve others, to use our skills against intolerance, indifference and to show that goodness, modesty and tolerance will prevail and make us be successful,’ is the motto of my students.”

Mr. Kobylarczyk also managed to sell the idea to Ms. Erika Perez, the teacher at the La Hubara Elementary School in Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain. Her students will be reading the graphic novel in English, too.

Click on the link to read the students’ insightful and heartfelt comments: tuszyn-students-review-karskis-mission-to-stop-the-holocaust.pdf

The books were donated by Fundacja Edukacyjna Jana Karskiego, the Jan Karski Educational Foundation’s sister organization in Warsaw, Poland.