Lech Bądkowski

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Lech Bądkowski (born January 24, 1920, Toruń, Poland, d. February 24, 1984, Gdańsk) - Polish writer, journalist, publicist and Kashubian-Pomeranian activist, promoter of regional history and culture, co-founder and leader of the Kashubian-Pomeranian Association, opponent of the Communist rules in postwar Poland.

Early life[edit]

Lech Bądkowski was born Leszek Buntkowski on the 24th January 1920 in Toruń, Poland. There he completed primary school and a male gymnasium. In 1938 he entered law faculty at the Józef Piłsudski University in Warsaw, but was first drafted into the Polish army, and in 1939 took part in the September campaign, that he later described in his book "Soldiers from the Bzura River". In 1940, he managed to escape to France, and then England. He fought under Narvik in Norway, where he showed immense courage. In July 1941 he was decorated by Gen. Władysław Sikorski the Silver Cross of the Virtuti Militari War Order, the biggest Polish military honour. He underwent partisan-parachutist instructing course and was to be sent to Poland. He finished the army as a sublieutenant. In England he learned the language, educated himself and was active in Pomeranian Union. Amongst others he wrote a booklet "The Pomeranian Political Thought" (1945).

Early career[edit]

W 1946 r. he returned to Poland and settled in Gdynia. His goal was to be a politician, but he soon abandoned the idea and took up journalism. He worked in "The Baltic Daily" and wrote for numerous others papers. In 1947 he married Zofia Janiszewska, they had one daughter Sławina, born in 1953. Buntkowski also changed his name into "Bądkowski". He finished commerce studies and completed political science. In 1951 he moved to Gdańsk. In 1952 his first book was published under the title "The Fishing Boat on the Beach". Since 1953 he was active in the Polish Writers' Union. Soon he met with obstacles from the side of the authority and had to retract from current journalism. He worked in a puppet theater in Gdańsk as a literary headmaster and for a time was an editor of a weekly "The Earth and the Sea".

In 1956 Lech Bądkowski co-founded the Kashubian Association (later Kashubian-Pomeranian Association) and its basic program. Since the beginning he was a member of CPA authorities. He wrote an outline of the history of Kashubian literature (1958), prepared a deep analysis of the organisation's activities and a widening of its profile and name, which happened in 1964. In years 1957-66 he was also a leader of the Gdańsk branch of PWU. He wrote then his most popular books: "Funny in the Tropics" and "The Battle is going on". He translated into Polish the Kashubian novel "The Life and Adventures of Remus" by Aleksander Majkowski. In 1965 he got a Cross of the Order of Poland's Restitution. He wrote a lot for a daily "The Voice of the Coast" and well over a dozen magazines. Some of his texts were aired as radio theater pieces in Polish Radio Gdańsk. He wrote and published about a book a year and some of them got reprinted. However a resistance towards communist rules in Poland began to arise in Bądkowski and in 1968 he openly protested the so-called March events, provoked by the authorities and directed against students, intelligentsia and Polish Jews.

Later career[edit]

In the 70's the regular rhythm of Lech Bądkowski's creative work slightly waned. One of the reasons were obstacles done by the party and censorship, another - the way of life, habits and health problems of the writer. Also studies upon some subjects took him a great deal of time, as did travels, social life, correspondence with numerous friends and some literary works. In these years Bądkowski edited two books of Augustyn Necel and a work of the Rev. Juliusz Pobłocki "In the Cassubia 100 years ago". He planned to write a six-part cycle of novels on the beginnings of the Pomeranian state, but completed only two volumes: "The Young Prince" and "Clouds". For his creative work and social activity for Pomerania he got the Stolem's Medal (1978). Since 1979 he was a member of the Polish branch of the PEN-Club. In all he wrote about 1500 articles and over 30 books and booklets, some of which got further re-editions. He became also an object of interest for the Security Service (SB), his workroom and house were wired, and he got a tag "Inspirer" in the secret files. Towards the end of the 70's he joined in the underground activity of the Gdańsk political circles, opposed to the communist rules, amongst others.the Young Poland Movement. Some years before his death a grandson of Bądkowski was born (b. 1979).

In August 1980 Lech Bądkowski representing the area's literary circles supported the striking shipyard workers. He became a member of the Inter institutional Strike Committee in the Gdańsk Shipyard, its press officer and also a member of the group negotiating the Gdańsk Agreements. In September 1980 he began editing a rubric "Self-governing" in "The Baltic Daily". He managed to transform it into a weekly that put up only three editions in 1981 and was suspense during the Martial Law in Poland 1981-83.

Since the end of the 70's Lech Bądkowski was sick of cancer and died on the February 24, 1984 in his house at Long Str. in Gdańsk. He was buried at Srebrzysko in Gdańsk - Wrzeszcz. His funeral that 5 thousand people took part in, amongst them Zbigniew Herbert, Bronisław Geremek, Lech Wałęsa and Donald Tusk, was an immense manifestation of opposition against the government. Upon the grave a sculpture of Kashubian Griffin was placed and the words "Lech Bądkowski - writer, soldier, citizen".

Legacy[edit]

Lech Bądkowski was a complex personality, had wide interests and numerous fields of activity. He lived too short and did not leave a complete work of his life. As a writer he was a second grade figure, supporting his existence through literary works and subsequent books. As a journalist he met with opposition from the side of the then cultural and political situation that he was strongly attached to and could not abandon. His political activity developed for a short while towards the end of his life and the weekly "Self-governing" that he had great expectations of was soon closed. The planned cycle of the Pomeranian novels was not to be completed either.

The biggest achievements of Lech Bądkowski lie in his regional activity, especially on the forum of the Kashubian-Pomeranian Association. He became an augur and an example for the descendants that he has left many. Also his translation of Aleksander Majkowski's "The Life and Adventures of Remus" has preserved its value and is reedited and read. But albeit some attempts a complete biography of Lech Bądkowski and a critical evaluation of his creative work and activity has not yet been written. His literary output is mostly lifeless.

On May 3, 2006 the President Lech Kaczyński decorated Bądkowski posthumously with the Order of Poland's Restitution. Since 2006 the monthly "Pomerania" keeps publishing the memories of people who knew Bądkowski. They are to appear in print. A film "File "Inspirer"" was made about Bądkowski and was shown already on TV and amongst others in Gdańsk, Gdynia and Luzino, at the Lech Bądkowski Primary School. The year 2009, the 25th anniversary of his death, was in Kashubia called the Lech Bądkowski Year. With financial support of the Senate of Poland an exhibition was opened and a booklet published about this great figure of Pomeranian regional movement. The letter exchange between Bądkowski and his longtime friend Maciej Słomczyński has reappeared in print and was promoted in a few cities of Northern Poland. A big number of meetings, competitions and exhibitions has been already done and still is to be done, some publications are also in the pipeline. Lech Bądkowski got to the internet, with a website devoted to himself, and the events of the Lech Bądkowski Year are widely documented in cyberspace for the record.

Bibliography[edit]

  • J. Borzyszkowski, D. Albrecht (red.): Pomorze - mała ojczyzna Kaszubów. Historia i współczesność. Kaschubisch-Pommersche Heimat. Geschichte und Gegenwart, Gdańsk-Lubeka 2000, pp. 454–457 (German/Polish)