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Walking the Pyrenees in the Snow Like Karski Did

David Strathairn accepts a special gift from the President of the City of Poznań, Jacek Jaśkowiak. (Photo: Bożena U. Zaremba) (Photo of Jan Karski in the background by Carol Harrison) David Strathairn accepts a special gift from the President of the City of Poznań, Jacek Jaśkowiak. (Photo: Bożena U. Zaremba) (Photo of Jan Karski in the background by Carol Harrison)

The last performance of Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski, presented in Poznan on February 4, ended with a standing ovation and naturally called for a summary of this powerful stage play's tour that took place in Poland from January 25-February 4, 2023.

The post-show discussion, which was part of every presentation, gave Derek Goldman, the co-writer and director of the monodrama, a chance to express his heartfelt gratitude to the organizers, Fundacja Edukacyjna Jana Karskiego and the Jan Karski Educational Foundation, for providing an opportunity to share the play’s vital message with Karski’s fellow citizens. He also thanked all the individuals behind the scenes who worked tirelessly to make it happen. The tour had been planned for a few years, but the war in Ukraine added a remarkable weight to the project. He spoke with many Ukrainians after each show, and for them, the most important theme was the notion of truth and misinformation. He also expressed his hope that the play would become a canon for other actors and theater scenes while the movie based on the play, Remember This, which has just opened nationwide,* would reach more people, especially the youth.

Cynthia Schneider, a distinguished adjunct professor of diplomacy in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the co-founding director of the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics, flew from the U.S. to see the show and participate in the discussion. She talked about the Lab’s mission to teach global politics through performance. She also expressed awe at what Poles have done and are still doing for Ukraine.

“We can all gather strength when we know what [Karski] went through,” said David Strathairn, who portrays the Polish emissary in the play. “It makes me feel fragile, humbled, and, in many ways, insignificant.” We may not be able to do what he did, but we should be inspired to follow in his footstep by trying to “walk the Pyrenees in the snow” and do at least something.

Questions and comments from the visibly moved audience were proof of the incredible impact this one-man stage play has had on people of Poland. Among the audience were members of the Jewish diaspora. Alicja Bromberger-Kobus, president of the Jewish Community of Poznań, was delighted to see the play and talked about the revival of Jewish life. She noted the importance of remembering Jan Karski and said, “I don’t know if I would have had the courage” to do what Karski did.

After the discussion, the President of the City of Poznań, Jacek Jaśkowiak, presented David Starthairn with a replica of a rogatywka – a cap used by Polish military formations in WWII – crafted especially for the occasion by a Poznań-based company that makes theater and film costumes.

The evening ended with a call to the audience for paying attention to little evils to stop the big ones from happening. However, the play’s message of empathy, tolerance, and caring for others will surely reverberate among the Polish audience for quite some time.

The play was created by Georgetown University’s Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics, co-written by Clark Young and Derek Goldman, and directed by Derek Goldman. The tour is organized and funded by the Jan Karski Educational Foundation (U.S.) 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, Dramatyczny Theater (Warsaw), Artkombinat (Łódź), VARIETE Theater (Kraków), Musical Theater (Poznań), Polish Foreign Ministry, the Polish History Museum, as well as many private, public, and corporate sponsors.

*See the screening schedule in our Upcoming Events section.