Franciszek Duszeńko

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Franciszek Duszeńko
Franciszek Duszeńko (1925–2008).jpg
Franciszek Duszeńko in Gdańsk
Born(1925-04-06)6 April 1925
Died11 April 2008(2008-04-11) (aged 83)
Known forSculpture
Notable workMemorials at Treblinka and at Westerplatte
MovementMonumental art
ElectedRector of Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk

Franciszek Duszeńko (6 April 1925 – 11 April 2008) was a Polish sculptor, professor of the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk and its Rector in the years 1981–87. He was a former prisoner of Nazi concentration camps in World War II.[1]

During the occupation of Poland Duszeńko was the soldier of Armia Krajowa (the Home Army) in the service of Gródek Jagielloński Inspectorate of Communication in the Lwów district (now Lviv, Ukraine). Arrested in Lwów, he became prisoner of two Nazi concentration camps including Gross-Rosen and Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg. He survived, and later devoted his artistic output to the remembrance of those who had perished.[1]

Life and work[edit]

Duszeńko was born at Gródek Jagielloński (now Horodok, Ukraine) in the Second Polish Republic eastern region of Kresy.[1] He witnessed the ethnic cleansing accompanying the 1939 Soviet invasion of Poland, and the subsequent Operation Barbarossa by Nazi Germany in 1941. He worked in the Underground but at the same time began to study art in Lwów at the already renamed Kunstgewerbeschule (Arts Institute) in 1942 under Professor Marian Wnuk. He was arrested in 1944 and shipped to concentration camps.[2]

The Treblinka memorial by Franciszek Duszeńko (1958–64)[3]

Following World War II and the annexation of eastern Poland by the Soviet Union Duszeńko relocated to Gdańsk where he obtained a fine arts diploma in 1952 and began to teach at his alma mater in the same year. He became Dean at the Faculty of Sculpture in 1960–64. During the Solidarity years Duszeńko was appointed Rector of the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk in 1981, in office until 1987.[4] He served as Head of Sculpture and Drawing Department in 1987–96. After his tenure, at the request of the authorities of the Gdańsk Academy, he continued to guide graduating students in their creative work leading toward the final diploma, until 2001.[1]

Duszeńko is the author of several iconic World War II monuments in Poland including the 8 metres (26 ft) tall Memorial to Victims of the Treblinka extermination camp designed with architect Adam Haupt,[1] and unveiled on site by the Marshal of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland in the presence of 30,000 guests who attended the ceremony in 1964 including Jewish survivors from Israel, France, Czechoslovakia and Poland.[5] More than 800,000 Jews died in the gas chambers of Treblinka during the Holocaust in Poland.[3] The sculpture represents the trend toward large avant-garde forms introduced in the 1960s throughout Europe, with a granite tower cracked down the middle and capped by a mushroom-like block carved with abstract reliefs and Jewish symbols.[6] He is also the author of the "Heroes of Westerplatte" Monument in Gdańsk (with Adam Haupt and with Henryk Kitowski architects) built in 1986–87, as well as the "Polish Gunners" in Toruń and notable others.[2]

His surviving wife, Urszula Ruhnke-Duszeńko,[2] (b. 1922) is a painter and academic employed in 1952–71 at the Gdańsk Academy, initially at the painting atelier of Prof. Juliusz Studnicki, and then as Head of the Painting Studio at the Faculty of Interior Design. His son, Marcin Duszeńko (1958–2000) was also an artist and an adjunct at the Faculty of Painting.[7] A big retrospective of Franciszek Duszeńko's work was organized in January 2013 at the Günter Grass Gallery in Gdańsk.[2] Duszeńko was posthumously awarded the Medal of the City of Gdańsk in 2008. He died only months earlier, and was buried at the Srebrzysko Cemetery locally.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e PAP (11 April 2008). "Odszedł Franciszek Duszeńko" [Franciszek Duszeńko passed away]. Polska Lokalna, Pomorskie. Gdańsk: Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d Grażyna Antoniewicz (22 January 2013). "Franciszek Duszeńko i jego stoły. Wystawa w Gdańskiej Galerii Güntera Grassa" [Franciszek Duszeńko and his work tables, at Günter Grass Gallery] (in Polish). Dziennik Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  3. ^ a b Władysław Piecyk, Wanda Wierzchowska (eds) (2013). "Treblinka II". Nadbużańskim Szlakiem. Od Korczewa do Treblinki. Sokołowskie Towarzystwo Społeczno-Kulturalne. ISBN 83-906213-1-2. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  4. ^ "Kadencja: 1981–1987, prof. Franciszek Duszeńko". Poczet Rektorów ASP w Gdańsku. Akademia Sztuk Pięknych w Gdańsku (Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk). 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  5. ^ Kopówka, Edward; Rytel-Andrianik, Paweł (2011), "Treblinka II – Obóz zagłady" [Monograph, chapt. 3: Treblinka II Death Camp] (PDF), Dam im imię na wieki [I will give them an everlasting name. Isaiah 56:5] (in Polish), Drohiczyńskie Towarzystwo Naukowe [The Drohiczyn Scientific Society], p. 122 in current document, ISBN 978-83-7257-496-1, archived from the original (PDF file, direct download 20.2 MB) on 10 October 2014, retrieved 9 September 2013, Translation: The official unveiling of the monument took place on 10 May 1964. At that time, the name of the Mausoleum of the Fight and Martyrdom was introduced. The event was attended by 30,000 people. Original in Polish: Oficjalne odsłonięcie pomnika odbyło się 10 maja 1964 r. Przyjęto wtedy nazwę tego miejsca – 'Mauzoleum Walki i Męczeństwa w Treblince'. W wydarzeniu tym uczestniczyło ok. 30 tys. osób. [...] Odsłonięcia dokonał wicemarszałek Sejmu PRL – Zenon Kliszko. Wśród zebranych byli więźniowie Treblinki II: Jankiel Wiernik z Izraela, Richard Glazar z Czechosłowacji, Berl Duszkiewicz z Francji i Zenon Gołaszewski z Polski.
  6. ^ Marcuse, Harold (Feb 2010). "Holocaust Memorials: The Emergence of a Genre" (PDF file, direct download 26.3 MB). American Historical Review: 35–36 of current PDF document. Retrieved 23 October 2013. Beginning with the Buchenwald memorial and numerous designs for the Birkenau competition, and continuing with the Île de la Cité in Paris, Treblinka, and Yad Vashem near Jerusalem, such experiential spaces have become a hallmark of major Holocaust memorials.
  7. ^ Elżbieta Skalska (2005). "Franciszek Duszeńko; Marcin Duszeńko" (PDF file, direct download 157 KB). Biogramy twórców. Muzeum Narodowe w Gdańsku. p. 3 in current document. ISBN 83-88669-91-5. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  8. ^ Urząd Miejski w Gdańsku (28 October 2013). "Laureaci medalu księcia Mściwoja II" [Recipients of the Count Mściwoj II Award]. Odznaczenia Rady Miasta Gdańska (in Polish). Rada Miasta. Retrieved 28 November 2013.