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Polish great autorities
Jan Karski (1914 - 2000) - legendary Home Army (AK, Polish underground resistance movement) courier during the Second World War. He was initially a courier and emissary on missions to Paris, later to England and the USA. He transferred information to the Allies on Poland's occupation, and raised the alarm on the tragedy befalling the Jews. After the War he emigrated to the US, where he was a lecturer at Georgetown University in Washington. His most important distinctions include the Order of the White Eagle and honorary citizenship of Israel. His name was put forward for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Leszek Kołakowski (born 1927) - philosopher, professor of Warsaw University and the Polish Academy of Science (PAN). He emigrated from Poland in 1968, at the same time starting to lecture at many of the world's most prestigious centres of scholarship. His work has been devoted to the problems of civilisation and also modern culture, and the philosophy of the 17th century. He is the author of many books and papers on philosophy , for example 'Światopogląd i życie codzienne' (Worldview and Everyday Łife - 1957), 'Kultura i fetysze' (Culture and Fxetishes -1967), 'Cywilizacja na ławie oskarżonych' (Civilisation in the dock - 1990), 'Moje słuszne poglądy na wszystko' (My Correct Views on Everything - 1999). He is also the author of books that take a humorous approach to moral philosophy, including '13 bajek z królestwa Lailonii dla dużych i małych' (Thirteen Fairy Tales from the Kingdom of Lailonia for Big and Small 1963), 'Rozmowy z diabłem (Conversations with the Devil - 1965), 'Czy diabeł może być zbawiony?'(Can the Devil Be Saved? - 1982). He was granted the prestigious Dutch Erasmus Prize in 1983, and the Order of the White Eagle in 1998.

Marek Kotański (born 1942, died in a car accident in 2002) - Psychologist and therapist widely known as a social campaigner. In 1981 he set up a youth movement called Monar to combat the drugs problem. Today Monar has 25 centres all over Poland. In January 1994 Kotański founded Markot, an institution which tackles the problem of homelessness. Today there are 65 Markot centres in Poland (including houses for single mothers, handicapped children, and the old and sick). Apart from Monar and Markot, Kotański also established 27 special therapeutic centres all over Poland. He initiated many campaigns, including another anti-drugs movement called the 'Chain of Pure Hearts', and in 1994 he launched a campaign to promote the social acceptance of people suffering from AIDS. He was awarded many prizes and distinctions, including the Brother Albert Prize.

Tadeusz Kotarbiński (1886-1981) - philosopher, creator of independent ethics, for many years a professor at Warsaw University, and the first Rector of the University of Łódź. 'Elementy teorii poznania, logiki formalnej i metodologii nauk' (Elements of a Theory of Perception, Formal Logic and Scientific Methodology - 1929) was his first work, in which he presented his novel philosophical ideas. His other well-known works include 'Niektóre problemy etyki niezaleznej' (Some Problems of Independent Ethics - 1957), 'Trzy główne problemy' (Three main problems - 1964). His five-volume 'Pisma etyczne' (Ethical Writings) was published posthumously in 1987.

Tadeusz Mazowiecki (born 1927) - politician and journalist, lawyer . One of the advisors to the Solidarity trade union in 1980, later editor of the weekly 'Solidarność'. An active participant in the Round Table talks of 1989. First Prime Minister of the 3rd Republic of Poland (1989-90). Co-founder and one- time leader of the Democratic Union Party, which later became the Freedom Union. He was the Special Envoy for the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights to the former Yugoslavia in 1992-1995. In 1998 he was awarded the French Legion d'Honneur.

Janina Ochojska (born 1953) - well-known social campaigner. In 1989 she opened a Polish branch of the Equi-Libre foundation, which provides humanitarian aid for people in need. Ochojska was a key factor behind the establishment of a Polish charity organisation called Polska Akcja Humanitarna, which provided convoys of aid to Bosnia and Chechnya; and also runs aid programmes to help children in need in Poland. In 1993 the European Commission awarded her the title of European Woman of the Year.

Jerzy Owsiak (born 1953) - social campaigner, journalist, co-founder of the Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy Christmas charity orchestra, which 'played' for the first time in January 1993, when it collected money for children's cardiosurgery in the largest children's hospital in Poland. The huge public response led to the establishment of the event as a regular fixture in Poland's charity fund-raising calendar, which has been held every year since 1993. The money collected always goes for the treatment of sick children, but each year it is for a different type of disease. The money collected in January 2002 was allocated for the treatment of children with congenital disorders. Jerzy Owsiak is also an organiser of young people's events.

John Paul II, Karol Wojtyła (1920 - 2005) - Pope since 1978. He read Polish Philology at the Jagiellonian University, and pursued his interest in drama (he was a student actor and has written several plays and long poetic works). During the Second World War he attended a clandestine seminary preparing for the ministry in the Church and was ordained in 1946. In 1946-48 he studied for the Doctor's degree at the Angelicum Pontifical University in Rome. He was a lecturer of the Faculty of Theology of the Jagiellonian University until it was closed down by the Communist authorities in 1954. As Pope he would later erect the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Cracow. From 1956 he was a professor and head of the Department of the Ethics in the Faculty of Philosophy at the Catholic University of Lublin. In 1958 he was appointed a bishop, and five years later Metropolitan Archbishop of Cracow. In 1967 he received the cardinal's hat. On 16 October 1978 he became the first non-Italian for over 400 years to be elected to the See of St. Peter. The pontificate of John Paul II has been characterised by an openness to dialogue with the world at large and an extremely active, new form of evangelisation. He was the first pontiff in the history of the Roman Catholic Church to hold prayer meetings with representatives of all religions. He opened up a dialogue with followers of Judaism. He has consistently implemented the postulates of the Second Vatican Council. His pastoral work has included reform of Canon Law (1984), the publication of a new Catechism for the Roman Catholic Church (1992), the reorganisation of the Roman Catholic Curia, numerous encyclicals on a wide range of religious matters, starting with 'Redemptor hominis', new canonisations and beatifications. He has made close to 100 visits ('pilgrimages') to countries all over the world, many times to Poland, and regularly visits Roman and Italian parishes. His first visit to Poland in June 1979 provided the inspiration for the people who soon afterwards founded the Solidarity movement, which eventually led to the fall of Communism. The important messages of the pontificate of John Paul II are the protection of human life from conception to natural death, a repudiation of materialism in all of its modern guises and of the civilisation of death, respect for human rights and working-men's rights, work for world peace, opposition to totalitarianism, a new evangelism and a global evangelical renewal of the young.
On May 13th 1981 he was injured but survived an assassination attempt in Saint Peter's Square.
He died on April 2nd, 2005


Father Józef Tischner (1931-2000) - philosopher, priest, one of Poland's greatest 20th- century thinkers, a student of Roman Ingarden. From 1980 he was professor at the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Cracow. Author of many books, including 'Świat ludzkiej nadziei' (The World of Hope - 1975), 'Etyka Solidarności' (The Ethics of Solidarity - 1981), 'Polski kształt dialogu' (The Polish Shape of Dialogue - 1981), 'Spór o istnienie człowieka' (A Controversy over Human Existence - 1999), 'W krainie schorowanej wyobraźni'(In the Land of A Sick Imagination - 1997), 'Historia filozofii po góralsku' (A History of Philosophy in the Mountain Tongue - 1997). In his works he expressed his philosophical and social opinions in a spirit of tolerance, moderation, and in a persuasive and entertaining style.
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