The renowned Polish stage Teatr Dramatyczny in Warsaw hosted the Polish premiere of the one-man stage play Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski on January 25. It stars the Oscar-nominated American actor David Strathairn in a gripping role as the Polish emissary, Jan Karski, whose harrowing eye-witness report to the western politicians, decision-makers, community leaders, and journalists met with indifference, inaction, or disbelief.
The Polish tour of the play, which includes four cities, (see below) attracted a great number of media outlets, and interviews with David Strathairn were published and broadcast in top Polish newspapers and TV channels. “[I wanted] to recognize who [Karski] was for Polish people,” said David Strathairn during a press conference held on January 24, “but also who he is for the world now.”
Two Warsaw shows, on January 25 and 26, met with an enthusiastic reception. The post-show discussion with David Strathairn and the co-writers, Clark Young and Derek Goldman, provided the audience with additional feedback about the origin of the play and the journey it has made since the first presentation at Georgetown University during the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Jan Karski’s birth in 2014. The creators were thrilled to “bring Karski home” after presenting this solo performance to audiences around the US with great success. Considering International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which falls on January 27, the raging war in Ukraine, as well as division and unrest around the world, the timing of this show could not have been more perfect. Among the audience were Ukrainian refugees, invited by the Foundation in every city where the play is going to be presented, including a group of 22 women, who witnessed the Bucha massacre. They attended the Warsaw premiere. They are staying in Poland to undergo mental health treatment.
The Karski legacy challenges us to react when someone else is in trouble, especially if it is “the other,” and to replace selfishness with empathy and fear with courage. The play poses more questions than answers. We leave the theater asking ourselves: What about me? What can I do?
On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the creative team visited the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which attracts 300,000 visitors annually. They toured the core exhibition and met with the Museum’s Director, Zygmunt Stępiński, and a Board Member, Joanna Fikus, who talked about the beginnings of the Museum and its educational mission to enlighten people about the centuries-long Jewish presence on the Polish land and the role the Jewish community has played in Poland. The guests also played a special tribute to Jan Karski at the Karski bench in front of the Museum.
Upcoming shows are in Łódź (1/29), Kraków (2/2), and Poznań (2/4).
The play was created by Georgetown University’s Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics, co-written by Clark Young and David Goldman, and directed by Derek Goldman. The tour is organized and funded by the Jan Karski Educational Foundation (US) and Fundacja Edukacyjna Jana Karskiego (Poland), and highlights the accomplishments of the Foundation on its 10th anniversary. It was made possible thanks to the collaboration with the Cities of Warsaw, Łódź, Kraków, and Poznań, as well as many private, public, and corporate sponsors.