Seventy-fifth Anniversary Jan Karski Medal Awarded to Hoover Curator Maciej Siekierski

Thursday, February 7, 2019
Dr. Maciej Siekierski, Curator of the European Collections
Image credit: 
Nicholas Siekierski

Dr. Maciej Siekierski, Curator of the European Collections
Dr. Maciej Siekierski, Curator of the European Collections at the Hoover Institution Library & Archives at Stanford University

Dr. Maciej Siekierski, Curator of the European Collections of the Hoover Institution, has been awarded the Medal of the 75th Anniversary of Jan Karski's Mission. This is a distinction given to those fostering respect for the renowned courier of the Polish Underground, the Jan Karski Society reported to the Polish Press Agency (PAP).

"The medal is an expression of respect and thanks to those who carry Jan Karski in their heart and mind, trying to do something for his memory. We pay homage to them." emphasized the deputy chairwoman of the Jan Karski Society, Dr. Wiesława Kozielewska-Trzaska, also a representative of the hero's family, his niece and god-daughter, while justifying the choice of this year's laureate.

Maciej Siekierski received the medal as an unwavering guardian of the history of Poland. "There are few people in the United States with such a scale of contributions for Polish national memory as him. The Hoover Institution saved invaluable historical documents  related to the fight for freedom and independence during the Second World War and post-war activities" — as stressed in the recommendation for the award of the medal.

To Dr. Maciej Siekierski we also owe the fact that the archives of Jan Karski himself were sent to the Hoover Institution.

On this occasion the Jan Karski Society recalled that Jan Karski was "the first Pole whom Herbert Hoover, founder of the Institution (then — the Hoover Library on War, Revolution and Peace), engaged in acquiring documents." In December 1945, Hoover sent him for this purpose on a special six-month mission to England, France, Italy and, Switzerland. 

The awarded scholar, Dr. Siekierski, is also a relentless advocate in the fight for the restoration of the Monument of Gratitude to America that was unveiled in 1922 in Warsaw. It stood in the heart of the capital on Herbert C. Hoover Square. Its creator was the then 47-year-old Xawery Dunikowski. The monument disintegrated in 1930, because it was made of poor quality of sandstone instead of marble (to save money). Appealing for its reconstruction, among others, were Jan Karski, Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, and this year's laureate of the Medal of the 75th Anniversary of Jan Karski's Mission, Dr. Maciej Siekierski.

"We not only have photographs of the monument, but even a wooden copy of it has survived in Warsaw," said Dr. Maciej Siekierski.  Adding that, "whenever the case returns, I feel ashamed that Poland was unable to restore the monument."

I understand that it was impossible politically in the Polish People's Republic, but since 1989 there is supposedly a new Poland in a strategic alliance with America, which is so eagerly emphasized. Restoring the monument to its historic place should be a matter of Polish honor.

"I understand that it was impossible politically in the Polish People's Republic, but since 1989 there is supposedly a new Poland in a strategic alliance with America, which is so eagerly emphasized. Restoring the monument to its historic place should be a matter of Polish honor" — stressed the scholar.

The Medal of the 75th Anniversary of Jan Karski's Mission was designed by the artist Janusz Kapusta from New York, and minted by the medalist Wiesław Kuleja. Only thirty copies of the distinction have been minted. The first person honored was Pope Francis, whom the medal was given to in the Vatican by Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz. The list of the honored includes the presidents of Poland, the United States, and Israel — Andrzej Duda, Donald Trump, and Reuven Riwlin. It was received by the hierarchs of the Catholic Church in Poland — Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz and Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz, and Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek. The medal was also awarded to the Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw, which was associated with part of Jan Karski's underground activities during the occupation. (PAP)

(Translated from Polish https://www.dzieje.pl/aktualnosci/medal-75-lecia-misji-jana-karskiego-dla-macieja-siekierskiego by Nicholas Siekierski)

Maciej Siekierski PhD

Senior Curator / Research Fellow

Maciej Siekierski is curator of the European Collections at the Hoover Institution Library & Archives and a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

siekierski [at] stanford.edu