There are different paths to Józef Czapski, who died in Paris in 1993 at an advanced age.
He was a painter, writer, critic and officer in the Polish army, but as a pacifist avoided military service.
In 1924 he went to Paris as an artist.
In 1932 he moved back to Poland and became a Soviet prisoner of war after the Hitler-Stalin pact.
There he belonged to a group of more than 20,000 Polish soldiers who had Stalin murdered in Katyn - Czapski was among the almost four hundred survivors.
He later found the trail that allowed the authorship of this crime to be traced back to the highest command posts of the NKVD, which in no way saved him from being scolded in court for speaking this truth five years after the war.
What we have today from Czapski in German,
are not his reports on the horrors of the 20th century, but a little book from the Friedenau press, entitled: “Proust.
Lectures in the Gryazovets camp”.
Armed with nothing but his memory, Czapski gave these lectures to imprisoned comrades in sub-zero temperatures.
If anyone brings up the silly distinction between political and non-political literature, between socially “important” and supposedly “useless” books, Czapski's argument is to silence them.
Everything lived on in this man, especially the ability to leave everything in its place.
Our memories are indivisible and belong only to us, but it is also clear that they are quite disordered in terms of size, weight, layering and colour, unattended anyway.
Sometimes memory could be described as a mush of an elusive consistency, at other times as stew, Irish stew or cheese fondue, depending on how the particles in it are connected and how they can be fished out of the broth.
The greatness of Józef Czapski also lies in the fact that art activated his strongest memories and wrapped him around him like a protective armor.
At a time when inhuman prison conditions were close to degrading him and his comrades, he thought of a memorial work called In Search of Lost Time.
By showing us the importance of seemingly insignificant details, he proved that dignity is also saved in immaterial ways.
A wonderful essay by the Polish poet Adam Zagajewski is entitled: "Józef Capski - Master of my ignorance".
There would be a lot to quote from it, but two sentences should suffice, they also fit the war and our war-related sighs, groans and babbles: “Anyone who met him knew immediately that he was dealing with a righteous man.Keywords: