Krystyna Starczewska

* 1937  

  • "Now here we have the patron of our school, the maharaja Jam Saheba Digvijay Sinhji, who received at his place, in India, who transported the departing Siberian children. When the Polish Armed Forces was being formed, when it departed, when Anders’ Army was formed, along with them hundreds, thousands of children were departing. And this Indian maharaja saved these children and now we, our school, are still in touch with three people who were these children back then, in India, who come to us and tell us about it. One man wrote a book about those things and I know from them how it was, what that experience was like. Even our children issued a small publication, with interviews in it, about the maharaja. There are descriptions of the Siberian experiences from different perspectives. Absolutely incredible".

  • "It was the last, so to say, the last sense of rejection of everything that is here, that it must be changed as soon as possible. The invasion of Czechoslovakia, what was happening here in Poland, the method of dealing with student’s riots, the anti-Semic witch-hunt, ridiculous, and Czechoslovakia – it was the last thing, some serious oppositional activity must be started. And then not only spontaneous activities started, but something more organized".

  • "So maybe will do it like this – we’ll let you go for two days, we’ll drive you back, and then you’ll come and sign this consent for cooperation". I say: "all right, all right". And I’m about to leave and that guy [says]: "but now you’ll have to sign that you’ll not repeat our conversation to anyone, it’s a routine, you know, everyone signs that". "All right, I can sign that I will not repeat our conversation". He takes a sheet of paper and holds it like this and says: "here, please sign here" and he’s holding this sheet like this. And I’m saying: "you know, but I never sign anything without reading it first, please remove your hand". And I’m reading: "I agree to the cooperation". So they these, these, the. If I had signed it, then I would be in their hands. So I flew into fury, and I said that in that case I would not sign anything, I started screaming, I was seeing red. So this guy apologized to me and said that he hadn’t noticed, that he had mistaken the forms and now it was all right. And before I left the other guy came in and said: "you know, you understand, Mrs. Starczewska, don’t play games with us, don’t play stupid games with us. Because if you play games with us, then you know. There’s a woman like you crossing the street and a car hits her, unknown culprits, do you understand? Or there’s a girl walking through a park, like your daughter, five thugs pull her into the bushes and rape her, unknown culprits, do you understand?".

  • "We had hope, I mean, we even had confidence, not hope, I mean, we were deeply certain that if not now, during our lifetime, then during the lifetime of our children, this will have to change because it was such a bad system that it cannot last, it must collapse. After the declaration of the Martial Law even more, I mean, it is such a striking absurd, this must end. Even though the hope was growing weaker in the society, we still had it. This is why we were composing the new school programme, because we thought that if not now, then maybe in two years, and if not in two years, then maybe in five years, but it’s a good thing to be preparing for the change. So this hope was always with us. So, if one didn’t have hope, then one wouldn’t do it, but there was a huge work to be done".

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    Warszawa, 28.07.2014

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    media recorded in project Iron Curtain Stories
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We were deeply certain that if not now, during our lifetime, then during the lifetime of our children, this will have to change because it was such a bad system that it cannot last, it must collapse

Krystyna Starczewska
Krystyna Starczewska
photo: Pamět Národa - Archiv

A graduate of the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Warsaw, Krystyna Starczewska became a secondary school teacher. However, she was dismissed from her position in 1967 for “teaching fideism” (certain aspects of Christianity that consider religious belief to be based on faith rather than on rational proof that God exists). This came about because one of her students wrote in her school-leaving thesis that “the word ‘homeland’ - whether attacking or under threat - always smacks of murder”, and another student based her Christian thinking on the words of the Pope and the lives of saints. Krystyna was subsequently employed at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences. In 1968 she participated in the student demonstrations at the University of Warsaw. From 1976 until the fall of communism she was actively involved in anti-government opposition activities. Krystyna collaborated with the Workers’ Defence Committee (Komitet Obrony Robotników - KOR) and in the early eighties she devoted her time to educational activities within the Solidarity labour movement. After the declaration of martial law she became a leading figure of the Independent Education Group, and from 1982 to 1987 she was the editor of the biweekly KOS publication. In 1989 she participated in the historic Polish Round Table Talks as an education expert and, at the same time, she became involved in the establishing of the Bednarska Community High School, where she still holds the position of director. According to Mirosław Chojecki, one of Krystyna’s former colleagues from KOR, “She is an individual without any personal ambition ... She would never even consider that she is the best at something, even though, in truth, she is the one who does certain things the best.” In 2006, Krystyna Starczewska received the Order of Polonia Restituta from President Lech Kaczyński.