Archive for the ‘Henryk Korowicz’ Category

A BUILDING IN CHERNIVTSI… A BLIZZARD IN LWÓW   Leave a comment

.
building Pawlowski
A building in Chernivtsi…
.

On a bitterly cold December day in Lviv last year, as wind, sleet and snow beat down in equal measure, I ducked into an antiquarian bookshop to seek shelter and warm my cockles before moving on. I thought I might find some interesting bric-a-brac from the days of my father’s youth which might serve as a Christmas present for my brother back in Ireland. I perused the shelves and presentation cases with cursory glances. Nothing caught my eye. Some old medical text books, specialist literature on outdated sciences, the usual old coins and stamps, Soviet pins and tin insignia celebrating long-forgotten jamborees and olympiads, along with the obligatory busts of Lenin, Gorky, Stakhanov and their dead comrades. I noted the prices seemed rather high for nondescript junk of the type found in abundance in the outhouses, abandoned factories and canteens of the former Soviet Union. As I was the only customer in the shop and the proprietor had the air of a man scorned by the public’s lack of appreciation for his treasure trove of insignifica, I decided I’d buy something small and symbolic. When he enquired what I was looking for, I asked if he had something from before the war, perhaps an old guidebook, a city map, a photojournal of Lwów before the end of days. He pointed to some tattered publications which underwhelmed with their dreariness. A cabinet maker’s manual, translations of Dreiser and Dickens, assorted monographs on subjects morose or beyond my comprehension. Finally I spotted a few collecting albums resting on the counter which contained old postcards. Notable views of Lwów and other cities. That will do! I thought and began flicking through them. They seemed quite pricey for what they were. In Dublin I can buy postcards of a similar vintage for less and Dublin for the most part is considerably more expensive than Lviv. Perhaps because of the history of Lviv, a city scourged with exile as much as murder and displacement, keepsakes, mementos, and familiar junk command higher prices for returning prodigals and their families. Or perhaps this particular proprietor knows something about the true value of cultural jetsam which I do not.

.

But I did find something interesting. A pre-First World War view of a building in Chernivsti which I had seen with my own eyes just a year previously. I had traveled there to see Edward, a cousin whom I had never met but whose very existence, only recently discovered, was quite marvellous. My father’s bloodline, where not annihilated, had been disconnected and separated by the Second World War and its aftermath. A message on this very WordPress site from Edward telling me his great-grandmother was my great-great-grandfather’s sister was thus how I came to visit Chernivtsi, the city where my grandmother Olga Pawłowska was born, when Chernivtsi was Czernowitz, capital of Bukowina, a crownland of Austro-Hungary. She met my grandfather Henryk Korowicz at Bank Polski in Warsaw where work had brought both of them. He was an economist and she a bookkeeper. She was also the daughter of a mathematician, Antoni Pawłowski, who was the founding rector of Lwów’s Academy of Foreign Trade. The marriage worked out well for both of them. My father was born and my grandmother wasn’t the only one happy that her parents were close by. My grandfather ended up working alongside his father-in-law, eventually becoming the rector of the Foreign Trade Academy himself.

.

IMG_20181009_085839

The same building in 2016

.

In Chernivtsi, Edward took me to the graveyard where ly the mortal remains of my great-great-grandfather, also Antoni Pawłowski (1830-1901). Antoni Sr. was a man of some note, the official municipal builder, entrusted with erecting some of that city’s grand constructions. The building in the postcard you see is in fact one of Antoni’s efforts and not a bad one at that, still standing one hundred and twenty years after his death and looking for all intents and purposes like a monument to his craftsmanship which will stand for many more. The building served as a ministry in Austro-Hungarian times, the headquarters of the Communist Party in Soviet times, and is now an academic institution.

.
IMG_0026

The builder Antoni and his wife Zusanna, my great-great-grandparents

.

Telling the proprietor nothing of my family connection to the building in the postcard, I plucked it out of the album sleeve. As I went to pay for it, I realized I had left my wallet at my hotel. Fortunately, I had eight hundred hryvnia in my pocket and handed over half of it for the postcard. On the street, a blizzard whipped the cobblestones and erased the city from view. I ducked into one of the courtyards off the Old Market Square. A few stragglers raced past me in search of shelter. As I stood there under an archway, I spotted an old woman in a swaddle of layers, hunched over with age and privation, shrouded in a white shawl of thick snowflakes, with a gnarled hand held out before her. She was sobbing but no sound could be heard above the squall.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

THE FUTURE OF INTERNATIONAL LAW (1945)   Leave a comment

.

IMG_20180213_164057

.

“During the inter-bellum and throughout the war which began in 1939, innumerable articles were published in the daily press and periodicals denouncing international law, whose beautiful rules were consigned to remain only on paper as two wars, with increasing atrocity and devastation, raged throughout all corners of the world. However, if any accusations levelled at international law came from jurists, they were not only ill-founded and glib, but increasingly rare. As for opinions from non-legal quarters which decry the ineffectiveness of international law, they can be considered entirely justified, but it is not the juridical character of the law which is at fault, rather the present state of that law which has failed on account of ambitions, egos, and a lack of mutual understanding among states, which must ultimately carry the blame.

.

On the face of it, this shelf-parched, soft-bound tome, written in France during the Second World War, did rather well to survive this far. I recently saved it from the oblivion of a book depository in Aquitaine. The year and location of its publication, the identity of its author, the subject and content, the small number of the imprint and even the quality of the paper it is printed on are all testament to the unlikelihood of its existence let alone the likelihood it may have anything of note to say to the modern reader. La Souveraineté Des États et L’Avenir Du Droit International (“The Sovereignty of States and the Future of International Law”) was written by my great-uncle Marek Stanisław Korowicz, whose story I have documented here previously. Marek, a professor of International Law, represented Poland at the League of Nations in the interwar period, specialising in the complicated sovereignty of the disputed territory of Silesia, with its Polish, German and Czechoslovak claims.

.

Marek after his defection from the Polish People’s Republic United Nations delegation in New York (September 1953)

.

When World War II broke out, Marek made his way east (visiting my father and grandparents briefly in Lwów), before escaping through Romania and making his way to France. There he joined the Polish 5th Rifle Regiment and fought with the French Army until its surrender. Already a fluent french speaker, he joined the intellectual underground, producing books and pamphlets denigrating the rise of fascism and communism. As he would later describe in his book W Polsce pod Sowieckim Jarzmem (“In Poland Under the Red Yolk”), he made the fateful decision to return to Poland in 1946 to recommence his work as a professor. He is best remembered for his dramatic escape from the Polish People’s Republic in 1953 by renouncing his diplomatic credentials to the United Nations in New York.

.

Cutting through the unopened pages with a paper-knife holds a specific fascination, not only for the light it shines on the personal circumstances of Marek in occupied France, but also for the aptness of its theme. That a man whose expertise is International Law should be going back to the drawing board in the midst of a brutal war in which every edifice and instrument of law seemed to have failed, and failed spectacularly, perhaps shows the tenacity of his choice of profession; but knowing as I do that he had lost his parents, siblings, and cousins in that war, had been living in exile and in fear of arrest, and within two years is going to return to his Polish homeland to discover that any hope of a just society there based on the rule of law will be crushed by a Soviet policy of political interference, administrative manipulation and the threat of military force makes the pages turn with a fatalism that stems from this reader’s qualified omniscience.

.

The final page notes that this book was written in Chambéry and Grenoble between March 1943 and March 1944. Marek was then working with the resistance movement. Following Italian occupation, the Germans invaded Grenoble in September 1943. The self-styled capital of the Maquis witnessed a year of sabotage, ambush, and brutal retaliation before the Germans finally withdrew on 22nd August 1944.

.

Marek survived the war in the French underground. As he was all too aware by the time he published this book in 1945, with the war finally at an end, the toll his own family had paid for being Jewish, or Polish, or educated would become tragically clear. His father had been successful Jewish lumber merchant Joachim Kornreich. Although Marek adopted the Polish surname Korowicz from the start of the Second Republic in 1918 and became a Catholic through marriage, his choice of profession and not his ethnic origins could very well have resulted in his extra-judicial murder if he had not managed to escape from occupied Poland in 1939. That was in fact the fate of his brother and fellow professor, my grandfather Henryk Korowicz who was murdered in Lwów in July 1941 along with 24 of his colleagues.

.

Marek dedicates the book to his parents whom he was not to see again. Eighty-year old Joachim was beaten to death by German soldiers in Lublin in 1939. Joachim’s wife Gisela disappeared into that charnel house of human slaughter where international law had been most ineffective.

.

29177820_10160106247660228_2451590881862483968_n

“To the memory of my Mother and my Father, murdered in Poland by the German occupier.”