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The Karski Stage Play Presented in His Hometown

David Strathairn on the Karski bench at the Mark Edelman Dialogue Center (Photo: Bożena U. Zaremba) David Strathairn on the Karski bench at the Mark Edelman Dialogue Center (Photo: Bożena U. Zaremba)

The performance of Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski in Lódź, Poland, on January 29, had a special significance and a unique vibe. Performing in Karski’s hometown was certainly more emotional for the actor David Starthairn, who had an opportunity to feel Karski’s everlasting presence in the city.

During the after-show inspiring discussion, moderated by a Polish film critic and TV and radio personality Błażej Hrapkowicz, the whole creative team talked about the significance of the place, which made them feel honored but also more challenged than at any other location in Poland. Clark Young, the co-writer, admitted that he had never heard of Karski until Derek Goldman (co-writer and director) offered him to work on the play, even though, as a Georgetown University student, he had passed by Kraski’s bench on the campus daily. However, he was so inspired that he did extensive research to get to the bottom of the Polish emissary’s story and personality. When asked about the formal aspect of the play, Derek Goldman said that, as educators, they tried to imitate a regular classroom atmosphere with a professor talking directly to the students. One member of the audience was so moved by the performance she said she was proud to be Polish.

During the play team’s visit to the city, where Karski was born and went to high school, they had an opportunity to visit the Museum of the City of Łódź. To their disappointment, the Karski office display, which had been created with the help of the Polish emissary when he was still alive (Karski donated his awards and memorabilia), was no longer there. We do hope it will eventually be restored.

The team also visited Karski’s high school (III Liceum Ogólnokształcące im. T. Kościuszki), vibrating with the energy of young people, just like during Karski’s times. The school’s Principal, Maria Włodarczyk, presented the over-one-hundred-year history of the school and talked about Karski’s visit after WWII.

Also included in the city tour was the Marek Edelman Dialogue Center, where Karski’s bench overlooks the Survivors Park and the Righteous Among the Nations Memorial. The Center’s Director, Joanna Podolska, shared the Center’s mission of preserving the memory of Marek Edelman, one of the Warsaw Ghetto fighters, a Holocaust survivor, a doctor, and a great humanitarian. She also showed how the Center teaches the young generation empathy through action.

Upcoming performances of the play are in 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, the Polish Foreign Ministry, the Polish History Museum as well as many private, public, and corporate sponsors.