Karski then: The traumatic experience of witnessing the brutal conditions in the Warsaw Ghetto and the inhumane treatment of Jews at the Izbica transit camp, followed by his keen attempts to convince the West that immediate action was desperately needed to save millions of lives, only to meet with disbelief or indifference. “The second original sin had been committed by humanity,” Karski would later say. “Through commission, or omission, or self-imposed ignorance, or insensitivity, or self-interest, or hypocrisy, or heartless rationalization. This sin will haunt humanity till the end of time. It does haunt me. And I want it to be so.”
Karski now: What can I do? What can we do when we see what is going on in the world – another war, the mistreatment of refugees, and the ever-present disinformation and lies? Are we doing enough? These questions now haunt the Karski created on stage in the original play Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski, which was presented by the Jan Karski Educational Foundation (U.S.) and Fundacja Edukacyjna Jana Karskiego (Poland) between January 25 and February 4 in Poland. The tour of Karski’s homeland followed a highly successful two-year run in U.S. theaters, where this solo-actor drama received enthusiastic reviews. The tour attracted a lot of media attention, with numerous articles about the event and interviews with David Strathairn, who portrays Karski in the play, published and broadcast in top Polish newspapers, magazines, and TV channels. The demand for tickets vastly exceeded the supply, and as a result, all shows were sold out.
In four Polish cities – Warsaw, Łódź, Kraków, and Poznań – approximately 2,000 people saw the brilliant performance of the Oscar-nominated American actor David Strathairn as the Polish emissary (in English with Polish and Ukrainian subtitles). Standing ovations and tears of emotion accompanied each show. It was a touching and poignant experience but also educational: although people in Poland are familiar with the story, some Poles do not know all details of Karski’s life and mission. The superb writing and mesmerizing acting bring out the essence of the Karski legacy: this self-proclaimed “insignificant little man” is our hero, a role model, a cannon for empathy and individual responsibility, and a source of inspiration. So, the educational aspect of the play goes beyond mere facts: we learn more about the human condition in general and each of us in particular. Moreover, the timing of the tour, which took place merely one hundred and fifty miles away from the border of war-torn Ukraine, was especially significant. In this context, the message of the play became universal and far-reaching.
“We can all gather strength when we know what [Karski] went through,” said the actor during one of the post-show discussions. The creative team, which also included Derek Goldman (co-author and director) and Clark Young (co-author), were thrilled to share their vision of this extraordinary man with his fellow citizens. Members of the audience were offered books and informational materials about Karski and the Foundation. Undoubtedly, the sister foundations will continue to promote the play and the film (based on the play) that has recently opened nationwide through all available resources. As such, all inquiries are welcome.
On the right: David Strathairn as Jan Karski, jumping off the train during his dire escape from German captivity (Photo: Rich Hein)
While traveling around Poland, the American team (David Strathairn, Derek Goldman, Clark Young, Laura Smith, and Madeleine Kelley) had an opportunity to meet with local officials and representatives of museums and other cultural institutions, as well as students and members of the audience, whose wholehearted reception was overwhelming. The trip throughout Poland included visiting museums and memorials, such as Auschwitz-Birkenau Former German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp and the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. In Łódź, they visited the Museum of the City of Łódź, Karski's high school, the Mark Edelman Center for Dialogue, and the Film Museum. In Kraków, the team saw historical and cultural sites such as St. Mary’s Cathedral, Collegium Maius, the Wawel Castle, and the Kazimierz District.
Please see the reports and photos from all four locations:
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. (See the full list of artistic and managing contributors HERE). The tour was organized and funded by the Jan Karski Educational Foundation (U.S.) and Fundacja Edukacyjna Jana Karskiego (Poland) and highlighted 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), the Polish Foreign Ministry, the Polish History Museum, as well as many private, public, and corporate sponsors. The Foundation is extremely grateful to all institutions and individuals whose devotion to the project contributed to the tour’s success. THANK YOU!