The Tatra Mountains climber (‘taternik’), alpinist, and polar explorer. Founder of the Faculty of Biochemistry at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan.

- I do not like to walk in someone else's footsteps…, said Prof. Dr. Ryszard W. Schramm. And indeed, he set his own.

Ryszard Wiktor Schramm
Source: Wielka Encyklopedia Tatrzańska

He was born on 8 June 1920 in Poznan. His father, after whom he got his middle name, Wiktor, was then the head of the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Poznan, an assistant professor and soon after became a professor. His grandfather Julian, a chemist and associate professor at the University of Lvov, was a full professor at the Jagiellonian University.

He considered Poznan’s Sołacz, a ‘professorial’ villa district, as ‘home, his real home’, as well as Olchowa, a small village in the Eastern Carpathians, a few kilometres from Zagórze and Lesko, in a manor where his grandfather lived after marriage and where his father was born. The Schramms spent all their holidays in Olchowa, including those in 1939, from which they did not manage to return to Poznan. Ryszard by then completed high school (I Liceum Ogólnokształcące im. Karola Marcinkowskiego) and his second year of chemistry at the University of Poznan. 

         The family survived the war in Olchowa. In 1944, Ryszard joined the underground army, 23rd Division of the Polish Home Army ‘South’, as a senior shooter, alias ‘Józwa’.

In November 1944, the communist authorities ordered the owners of the manor to leave their home. They managed to load just one cart. Everything else, including a valuable library and the natural and ethnographic collections of Professor Wiktor Schramm (researcher of this region), were lost. The manor was looted and burned down in 1946. What survived was a brick chapel, from 1926, with paintings by Helena Schramm, Ryszard’s aunt, along with the family epitaphs.

         Ryszard W. Schramm returned to Poznan and continued his studies in chemistry. In 1947, he obtained a MA and, in 1949, received his PhD; in 1952, he obtained an additional Master’s in biology. After a few years as assistant professor at the Chemistry Department, he worked (since 1950) at the newly established Medical Academy in Poznan. From 1953 to 1994, he progressed through the successive levels of his university career to the full professorship. In the years 1966-1969, he held the position of acting dean.

During his time at the University of Poznan, he initiated and developed – from the didactic and organizational side – the Biochemistry Department. From just a two-person department, it grew into what is now the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology with several dozen people employed.

         Before the outbreak of the war, in the summer of 1939, he qualified from the School of the Polish High-Mountain Club of the Polish Tatra Society (Szkoła Taternicka Klubu Wysokogórskiego Polskiego Towarzystwa Tatrzańskiego), ran by the outstanding Polish climber, Stanisław Motyka. Following the war, he returned to the Tatra Mountains and, starting in 1946, he managed to accomplish a number of the new summer and winter passes. And in 1954 and 1955, he participated in the so-called ‘alpiniada’ (the Alpine mountaineering winter team ‘manoeuvres’ in the Tatras, preparing for expeditions). From 3 to 13 September, 1955, he was part of a five-member team that made the first passage along the entire ridge of the Tatra Mountains. He was a born organiser. On his initiative, the Poznan-Pomerania Chapter of the High-Mountain Club was established, of which he became the first president in 1950. He edited and published the Oscypek magazine between 1952 and 1954. It was to replace the non-appearing – in the Stalinist period – Taternik, the oldest Polish magazine dedicated to alpinism. He was involved in the activities of the Polish Photographers Association and participated in several exhibitions, while continuing to publish.

The team of the first passage of the main ridge of the Tatra Mountains in 1955. From the left Zbigniew Hegerle, Jan Staszel, Ryszard Wiktor Schramm, Jerzy Piotrowski, and Zbigniew Krysa.
Photo: Ryszard W. Schramm, Zbigniew Hegerle

After the High-Mountain Club was reactivated in December 1956, he became a member of the General Board: 1956-1961, 1965-1967, and its Vice-President (1958-1959), and, in 1956-1974, he became the head of the Editorial Board of Taternik.                                     

- This Committee never came together – recalled the magazine's longtime editor, Józef Nyka. - Ryszard W. Schramm made up for the entire Committee, supporting me with his vast knowledge and experience which he gained from Oscypek and Taternik.

         In 1957, he participated in the trip of the Mountain Club to the Alps. He led one of two Polish climbing camps in the Chamonix area. And led the rescue operations after the disappearance of Stanisław Groński and two Yugoslav mountaineers, and after the fatal accident of Wawrzyniec Żuławski. Żuławski, President of the High-Mountain Club, died in an avalanche during the rescue operation – the search for Groński in the Mont Blanc massif. The death of the prestigious Polish climbers had a powerful effect on the Taternic community. And this drew attention to Schramm, especially when he forbade to dig out the body of Żuławski from the ice gap.

‘Enough of these deaths!’ – he said.

‘You do not abandon your teammate, even if he is a block of ice’ – Żuławski argued while still alive. Tragic events sparked once again the old debate about the line between sacrifice and responsibility.

         On 16 August 1960, Ryszard W. Schramm suffered an accident while climbing Gerlach in the Tatras. After the accident, he was left with an extensive hole in his forehead.

He began his expeditions on the occasion of the Third International Geophysical Year in 1958. During his first polar expedition, he followed a mountaineering program for the Mountain Club: reconnaissance of climbing goals for future expeditions to Spitsbergen. Similar exploratory goals took him to other parts of the world. He conquered virgin summits, such as Kuh-e Nadir Shah (6,848m above sea level) in the Afghan Hindu Kush in 1962, or a mountain called Poznan in Ruwenzori in 1974. Moreover, he set out new tracks, like these, for example, during a winter expedition to the high Atlas in Morocco (1969).

The 1975 expedition to the Badachshan Mountains in northern Afghanistan was a particular feat. This was a region poorly charted and completely unexplored. A report from the expedition, with carefully drawn maps, was published in the The Himalayan Journal and Afghanistan Journal, and drew the attention of the Explorers Club. Ryszard W. Schramm was invited to the Club. In 1979, he became its Member Correspondent. This category released the holder from paying dues – a privilege, which was granted to Schramm, when he admitted with embarrassment, that the annual dues, amounting to 50 USD, was equal to 1,5 months of his university salary.

In the years to follow, he gradually introduced newly distinguished Polish explorers to the Club. This attempt of creating the Polish Chapter of The Explorers Club, however, turned out unsuccessful. The obstacle was the level of annual dues that the citizens of the then Communist Poland could not sustain. This problem began to diminish only in the 1990s, after the fall of Communism.

Political barriers – e.g. ‘communist’ passports issued by the then Poland – doomed Schramm’s exploration projects, such as the first expedition to the Andes after World War II in 1959, or the expedition to Greenland in 1977. The Communist revolt in Afghanistan also ruined plans for the 1979 expedition to the massive Kohe Khushdara.

Ryszard W. Schramm in the Badachshan Mountains, Afghanistan, in 1975 (using a stick instead of an ice-axe – during the march, a donkey fell into the river and drowned, carrying luggage, including all the ice-axes)
Photo: Tomasz Schramm

Spitsbergen was a corner of the Earth, where Ryszard W. Schramm liked mostly to climb, besides the Tatras. After his expedition in 1958, he returned there six times. He was accompanied on many of his expeditions by his son, Tomasz.

- My father’s idea that I participate in the expedition to Spitsbergen in 1973, was a complete surprise. Father’s proposition was the realization of old dreams, an honour, but also a challenge – says Tomasz.

Father and son formed a complementary tandem.

In 1965 and 1977, Ryszard W. Schramm led an expedition into as yet little explored mountains of Land of Wedel Jarlsberg (later known as the Torrell Land) and Atomfjella. This led to numerous first ascents in different mountains around the world. Ryszard W. Schramm’s explorations resulted in 34 first ascents of various world peaks, ensuring his first place among the Poles. In 1973, he made the initial passage along the northwest part of the island.

In 1980 and 1983, he managed (in two stages) his major expedition project, the accomplishment of an old idea of Stanisław Siedlecki, i.e. travel all the way around Spitsbergen on small deckless boats. Siedlecki participated in the first part of the voyage, however unfinished it due to numerous difficulties, battling heavy weather conditions at sea and on land. In all, the cruise lasted four months. Its sea route was more than 2,800 km, in addition, the participants, mostly in small groups, covered several hundred kilometres by land. In 1983, they reached 81 º N – north of the Sjuöyane archipelago.

Navigating around Spitsbergen was quite a feat. This was the first such cruise and probably the only one. It is unlikely to be repeated in the same fashion, however, this was the only way for the Polish explorers at that time. Shabby boats, with engines less than 20 hp, unsuited to saltwater conditions, food in the form of preserved meat, grains and pasta, powdered soups, woollen jerseys, and no radio communication. These varied significantly from world standards at the time.

- It was one of the most romantic, imaginative, truly great expeditions, in a style reminiscent of the heroic era of nineteenth-century polar exploration – says Maciej Kuczyński, polar explorer, speleologist, long-time President of the Polish Branch of The Explorers Club.

- During the last voyage of Ryszard W. Schramm to Spitsbergen, at the age of 72, he travelled across the island with his son Tomasz, covering some 250 km. After reaching Longyearbyen in August 1992, the Professor was quite discontent with a heading in the local Norwegian newspaper: ‘The old man from Poland crosses the glaciers’– recalls Jan Marcin Węsławski.

In 1994, he also visited Bear Island.

Spitsbergen's experience made Ryszard W. Schramm one of the leading figures of the emerging and developing Polish polar milieu, which in 1974 was organized into the Polar Club at the Polish Geographical Society. From the beginning, he was involved in its activities, and from 1982 to 1986, he was the second president, after Professor Alfred Jahnie.

Jan Marcin Węsławski called him the ‘last polar gentleman’.

- The polar gentleman was someone who treated expeditions as a masculine, fair undertaking, and a way of overcoming his own weaknesses. It was good to support scientific research, and necessary to have knowledge in many fields of natural sciences in order to be a partner for the professionals taking part in the expedition. The gentleman who was a box-carrying, rolling barrels, fighting in a storm to rescue a drowning cargo, who never spared himself in the harshest of conditions. This is how I remember Professor's polar expeditions: in a thick, self-made sweater, in knee-high trousers, in carefully preserved leather shoes. Polite, concrete, always with a ready-made action plan. No gore-tex, plastics or improvisation.

- As a leader, Ryszard was open and friendly – says Mirosław Kuraś. – Even though he led the excursions with an iron fist, and he always had the last word, he would carefully listen to each one of us before making the final decision, and would often ask directly for our opinion.

Ryszard W. Schramm published over 100 scientific works. Almost three times longer is the list of publications relating to his numerous passions. Part of them consists of reports and small press notes, but also texts that he contributed to Oscypek: comprehensive and thoroughly researched papers relating to his expeditions, the history of mountaineering and polar exploration. His greatest achievement in this field is the two-volume Dwa długie dni (Two long days), Poznań 1996, describing voyage around Spitsbergen, the preparations for the trip, including digressions about the nature of the polar regions and the history of their exploration. He intended to write some books on his mountains activity, but managed to prepare only one: Życiorys tatrzański (My Tatra life-story) (Poronin, 1995), containing a part of his previous Tatra stories. Being dedicated to his friendship, he edited and privately published Pamiątkową księgę przyjaźni (Commemorative book of friendship) on the 80th anniversary of Stanisław Siedlecki (1992).

Commemorative book of friendship is handed over to Stanisław Siedlecki, 1992. In the middle: Ryszard W. Schramm; on the right: S. Siedlecki.

In the final years of his life, Ryszard W. Schramm began to return to his ‘little homeland’ in Lesko. The distance he maintained for decades stemmed from a painful sense of loss in 1944. The tale Na wschód od Osławy (Towards East of Osława), which he wrote back in the 1950s, submitted in 1977 – to the Ziemia rodzinna Grzegorza z Sanoka w literaturze (The homeland of Grzegorz of Sanok in literature) competition – won first prize. This text was paired with the prose of Władysław Odojewski, Stanisław Vincenz and Jerzy Stempowski. His interest in family history led to detailed research, which found its expression in the book Prywatna podróż pamięci (The private journey of memory), Olszanica 2003. He also wrote poetry.

Professor Ryszard W. Schramm died in Poznan on December 8, 2007.


Okupnik M., dir. Nie lubię chodzić po cudzych śladach… O życiu i dziełach Ryszarda W. Schramma  ["I do not like to walk in the footsteps of others...” The life and works of Ryszard W. Schramm], Poznań 2009

Schramm R.W., Życiorys tatrzański [My Tatra life-story], Poronin1995

Schramm R.W., Dwa długie dni [Two long days], Poznań 1996

Schramm R.W., Prywatna podróż pamięci [The private journey of memory], Olszanica 2003.


A polar explorer, Tatra Mountains climber (‘taternik’), and geologist. Participant of the first Polish polar expedition to Bear Island and creator of the Polish Polar Station – which now bears his name – on Spitsbergen.

- He was an outstanding scholar who made a significant contribution to Polish geology – recalled Stanisław Siedlecki’s friend, Prof. Ryszard W. Schramm. - And there would probably be no Polish polar expeditions as they are today without him.

Stanislaw Siedlecki on a boat during an expedition to Bear Island.
Source: Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe

Stanisław Siedlecki was born on 17 September 1912 in Cracow. His father, Michał, a professor of zoology at the Jagiellonian University and a traveller, died in 1940 in the German camp of Sachsenhausen, as one of the victims of the Sonderaktion Krakau – a Hitlerite action conducted on 6 November 1939, which led to imprisonment of 183 professors and assistants of the Jagiellonian University.

Stanisław started his Tatra activities quite early: in 1930, he became a member of the Polish Tatra Society. He climbed, among others, with Stanisław Motyka, Stefan Bernadzikiewicz and Jan Sawicki. And it was then that he got his nickname ‘Siaś’, which eventually stuck to him forever.

Stanislaw Siedlecki on Bear Island in 1932.

In 1933, Siaś was one of the 13 founding members of the Polish High-Mountain Club of the Tatra Society. A year earlier, as a freshman in mathematics and physics at the Jagiellonian University, he was part of a three-man expedition that spent 13 months on Bear Island as part of the Second International Polar Year. In this way, a key figure of Polish polar expeditions was born. The expedition to Bear Island made Siedlecki to change his field of study – geology opened up much greater possibilities for polar expeditions. He was also fascinated by the idea of organizing an expedition to Spitsbergen. This idea was realized in 1934, with the support of Stefan Bernadzikiewicz, a member of the Board of the High-Mountain Club of the Warsaw Branch of the Polish Tatra Society, who became the head of the expedition; and Prof. Antoni Bolesław Dobrowolski, a participant of the first Antarctic wintering on the ship ‘Belgica’. Dobrowolski required that the expedition would have a serious scientific program. The expedition operated in the western part of Torell Land (now Wedel Jarlsberg Land). Participants developed maps of the area covering about 300 km², introducing a number of Polish placenames. They conducted geological surveys of an area of about 750 km². They climbed 25 peaks, including 22 virgin summits. The expedition provided abundant photographic and film documentation.

Spitsbergen traverse in 1936. First from the left S. Siedlecki.
Photo: Stanisław Siedlecki (Source: S. Siedlecki, ‘Przejście z południa na północ przez Zachodni Spitsbergen’, in Wierchy, vol. XVI (1938)
Spitsbergen traverse route, 1936.

In 1936, Stanisław Siedlecki, Stefan Bernadzikiewicz and Konstanty Narkiewicz-Jodko made the first traverse of Spitsbergen from 7 July to 1 September. They had crossed about 850 km.

- It was a unique project in the history of mountaineering and polar expeditions, much better known and appreciated abroad than in Poland. The expedition was relying on its own resources, without any communication and support, through complicated and difficult terrain, mostly without maps at all, the muddle of glaciers and unknown mountains – emphasized Ryszard W. Schramm. It was not until 44 years later that this traverse was repeated in completely different logistical and climatic conditions.

In 1937, Siedlecki participated in the first Polish scientific expedition to Greenland. It operated in the Artesiorfik.

S. Siedlecki and Inuit Jani, Grenland 1937.
Photo: Stanisław Siedlecki, (Source: S. Siedlecki, ‘Wspomnienia z wyprawy na Grenlandię’, in Kurier Literacko-Naukowy (1937), no. 44)
Members of the Spitsbergen traverse, in 1936, in the northernmost place reached by the Poles. Visible from left to right: Stefan Bernadzikiewicz, Stanisław Siedlecki, and Konstanty Jodko-Narkiewicz.
Photo: Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe

He survived the Nazi occupation in Cracow. In 1944 he obtained a MA from the secret University of Warsaw. He initiated and organized the ‘Waga Action’ – securing the Tatra mountain huts near Waga Pass, by Morskie Oko lake and in Roztoka valley during the passage of the front in the summer of 1944.

Siedlecki's Taternic activity flourished with new strength after World War II. He set out new paths. In 1947, he initiated, organized and directed the first post-war departure of Polish climbers to the Alps.

- Despite almost a ten-year break, prior acquaintance with the Alps by only three members of a ten-man team and highly outdated equipment, the trip was successful, bringing closer the resurging Polish mountaineering to the world – said Ryszard W. Schramm.

Since 1946, Stanisław Siedlecki had entered the path of scientific career. He was an assistant in the Department of Geology of the Jagiellonian University (in the years 1946-1951), worked in the Cracow Laboratory of the Earth Museum (Krakowska Pracownia Muzeum Ziemi; in the years 1951-1953), in the Upper Silesian Branch of Geological Institute (in the years 1953-1956), in the Department of Geological Sciences of the Polish Academy of Sciences (since 1956). He received his PhD in 1949 and an associate professorate in 1954.

Poland was to participate in the 1957-1958 world science project: The International Geophysical Year, creating a science station on Spitsbergen.

- For all those who knew the problems of the North, there was no doubt that the manager would be Siedlecki – wrote Jerzy Piotrowski, his Tatra and polar companion – He could not have a competitor because of his polar, expeditionary, scientific and language skills, among others, a first-class Norwegian. He also had a great mountaineering experience and a great ease of establishing personal contacts.

- One day in 1955, a huge BMW motorcycle drove my way on Szewska Street in Cracow – says Maciej Kuczyński, a polar explorer, speleologist, long-time President of The Polish Chapter of the Explorers Club. – On the motorcycle sat an unknown man in incredibly thick glasses, with a dusky face, and my sister, Małgorzata, a novice taternik. - This is my brother, and this is Siaś! – she introduced us. – Maciej organizes expeditions to the Tatra caves. – Then – said Siaś – maybe you would like to organize an expedition to Spitsbergen? – I did not hesitate for a second. I felt a strong embrace of his large, hard, hand of a geologist and taternik. We worked together for several months, building a team and equipment for the establishment of a station in Hornsund. I saw every day how his competence and self-confidence resulting from a thorough knowledge of the subject, impress the party apparatchiks, constantly nosing in our endeavour. His eminent authority prevented the expedition from being put into the hands of trusted party members, which could end in disaster. Many times, in the evenings, after being called on the carpet in the Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party, he told me how, giving personal guarantees, he managed to defend yet another participant – from removal – who was not liked by authorities. During the preparations, in Sweden and Norway, he gave me a wonderful lesson in diplomacy and savoir vivre, both in embassies, in salons and in the homes of Scandinavian polar explorers. He was remembered everywhere from the pre-war expeditions and was received with respect and friendship. During the reconnaissance expedition, when in Hornsund we were looking for a place to set up a Polish base, I found out what it means to be a ‘blood and bone polar explorer’. This was Siaś on the ice and in the tundra, during the snowstorm, hurricane, and frost he felt and behaved at home. Not surprisingly, he brought up a whole generation of polar explorers who regarded him as their master.

    Siedlecki therefore led a reconnaissance expedition in 1956, then the construction of the polar station of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Hornsund, which today bears his name. He led expeditions from 1957 to 1958 and beyond as part of the International Geophysical Cooperation in 1959, 1960 and 1962. From 1964 to 1965, he worked in Norway as a scholarship holder of the Norwegian Royal Scientific and Technical Council.

Alfred Jahn and Stanisław Siedlecki, Spitsbergen 1958.
Photo: Ryszard W. Schramm

Contrary to his original intentions, he settled in Norway and until his retirement in 1980, worked at the Norwegian Geological Institute, conducting a geological reconnaissance of the Varanger Peninsula. In his home in Trondheim and in a summer cottage on a small fjord, which he gave the name ‘Wawel’ (after the Royal Castle in Cracow), he often hosted his Polish friends.

- We established the ‘Society of Old People of Don’ – recalled one of them, the writer Jan Józef Szczepański. – The program consisted of two points: the fight against communism and the breeding of rhododendrons.

Since 1978, Siedlecki participated in the annual meetings of the Polar Club in Poland. In 1980, he became a member of The Explorers Club. In the same year, he took part in the realization of his old idea: to travel all the way around Spitsbergen on small deckless boats. This expedition was organized by his long-time friend, Ryszard W. Schramm, admitted to The Explorers Club a year earlier. Siedlecki then approached his 68th birthday and had coronary artery disease. He wrote in a letter to Ryszard: ‘I am aware of the risks I am taking. I take all responsibility. So, if the efforts of the expedition would accelerate the end of my life, then this price of my participation in the expedition, in my opinion and my calculation, will not be either too high or paid prematurely. I'm prepared for it.’

Ryszard Schramm's son, Tomasz, who participated in this expedition, wrote: ‘Having Stanisław Siedlecki as our commander and companion was itself exciting. Indeed, he was a living monument to Polish polar exploration! And now we were with him together, and in this way somehow we also made history – and we were proud of it.’ Due to various difficulties, including severe weather conditions, this cruise was suspended. For health reasons, Siedlecki did not participate in the second part of the undertaking in 1983.

Stanisław Siedlecki at the beginning of the circumnavigation of Spitsbergen in 1980.
Photo: Ryszard W. Schramm

Siedlecki was very committed to the development of Polish polar exploration – from the first of his expeditions and the drafting, in 1936, of a memorial to the Ministry of Religious Denominations and Public Enlightenment regarding Poland's ownership of its own research vessel adapted for navigating in the polar seas, to patronizing various projects of his younger successors from Poland, ruled by Communists.

- When submitting the visa forms, we were facing the requirement to provide a recommendation in Norway – recalled Adam Krawczyk, who organized the mountaineering expedition to Hornsund in 1973. – Without any contacts there, we came up with an idea that today still seems naive and cheeky to write to Stanisław Siedlecki in Trondheim. The professor not only agreed to use his name, but in anticipation of the arrival of the documents, he himself made a recommendation to the Norwegian authorities. Let us put ourselves in his situation: here is a group of young people unknown to him, whose true intentions, responsibility, honesty he knows nothing about, who want to use his name to ensure that they will not ask for asylum, will not work illegally, steal or spy. This trust and help shown to us to this day amazes and fills me with respect.

Jan Marcin Węsławski, a participant in the wintering expedition at Hornsund station in 1981-1982, recalled a critical moment on 13 December 1981 – the day when the authorities declared martial law in Poland:

- We had no doubt that we should ask him for advice and care. Being cut off from any news from Poland, we expected at any time the Russian invasion. We did not know what position the Norwegians would take towards us. After listening to a radio message from Warsaw, we went to write a letter to the Professor. The letter contained both our unequivocal political declaration and a number of specific questions – for example, the possibility of political asylum in Norway. When after a month came a letter from Trondheim, it turned out that Siedlecki on the same day wrote ‘To the crew of the Polish Polar Station in Hornsund’. He did not know us; he did not know who was on the expedition. Whether there are agents of The Office of Public Security, the military, or appointed by the party polar explorers. He felt responsible for the station and the people in it. He wrote a beautiful and wise letter, offering his help and experience. Siedlecki, known from the stories and polar legend, turned out to be the same in real life.

 - We are all a bit moved, but also embarrassed. Here we are in historical encounter: we meet a man-legend of Polish polar research. The embarrassment passes quickly. The professor is a very nice person, interested in everything – the functioning of the station, our research programs. And he is a great storyteller – Krzysztof Opaliński, a polar explorer, recalled the meeting with Stanisław Siedlecki.

    - He could spend hours recalling interesting, breath-taking memories of his expeditions to Spitsbergen and Greenland – ensured Prof. Krzysztof Birkenmajer.

- Probably the greatest, most valuable historical merit of Stanisław Siedlecki is to carry the Polish polar tradition through the abyss of World War II, to renew it and to educate a new generation of researchers – in the opinion of Maciej Kuczyński. – For years and today, too, everything that happens under the white and red flag near both poles – is because of him.

In 1991, Prof. Stanisław Siedlecki returned to Poland and settled in Łódź, where he died on 7 March 2002.

Tomasz Schramm, prof. dr hab.  (FI ’1998 - The Explorers Club)

Monika Rogozińska (FI ’1993 - The Explorers Club)

Redakcja i przygotowanie do publikacji Róża Paszkowska


Siedlecki S., „Wśród polarnych pustyń Svalbardu” [In polar deserts of Svalbard], Warszawa-Lwów 1935.

Siedlecki S., „Dom pod biegunem” [The home at the pole], Warszawa 1964.

Schramm R. W. dir., „Pamiątkowa księga przyjaźni. Stanisław Siedlecki”, [Commemorative book of friendship – Stanislaw Siedlecki], published independently by R.W. Schramm (1992).


Naturalist, physician, explorer of Siberia and Kamchatka, distinguished contributor to the study of Lake Baikal, called the “father of Polish limnology”

“As a young boy in Lithuania, I heard stories about the life and deeds of Dybowski told by exiles returning from Siberia. In the long winter evenings I would avidly listen – as to the adventures of Robinson Crusoe – as Dybowski, Dubiecki and Kietliński built a hut in Darasun or chopped ice to set nets to catch the creatures of Lake Baikal; or as Dybowski, preparing for an expedition on the Amur river, built a ship and then as he helped out the lepers in the Commander Islands” recalled Julian Talko-Hrycewicz, professor of the Jagiellonian University in Cracow (Domaniewski, 1954). For his generation Benedykt Dybowski was a true hero.

Benedykt Dybowski
Source: Słabczyński W., ”Polscy podróżnicy i odkrywcy”

Benedykt Tadeusz Dybowski was born on 30 April 1833 in the manor house of the Adamaryn estate owned by a relatively well-off family of Polish gentry (boasting the Nalecz coat-of-arms), in the province of Minsk (now Belarus). The Adamaryn estate, named after his paternal grandparents (Adam and Mary), was located in the territory of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth later absorbed by the Russian Empire following its second partition in 1793. Young Benedykt received a truly patriotic Polish upbringing. The family also imbued him with the altruistic desire to help other people. His maternal grandmother, Franciszka Przysiecka, was privy to the secrets of natural medicine and she would show her grandson how to collect, dry and apply herbs. “It was under her supervision that I grew to embrace the vocation of medical practice”, Benedykt Dybowski later recalled. The future physician started his medical education in Russian schools, which were run “in a fiercely anti-democratic and Russification spirit”. The teaching was done by random people, appointed to act as teachers, without much knowledge of the field they taught and devoid of any passion for their subject. There was one exception, however: Mr Rodziewicz, graduate of Moscow State University, highly skilled in mathematics and physics. Benedykt would remember him with deep gratitude. It was him who instructed young Benedykt how to perform meteorological measurements, and taught him the rudiments of chemistry and physics. In his school days, Benedykt discovered a genuine predilection for natural science, even though such subject did not feature in the school curriculum: “We felt a strong attraction to science yet we could find neither guides nor textbooks. We would breed different animals: mammals, birds and fish alike; we even set up a small aquarium in the garden.”

While studying at secondary school in Minsk, young Benedykt joined the school's sports section – he swam, ran, played ball and rode a horse, which proved a very good physical preparation for his later expeditions. Upon graduation, he went on to study medicine and natural science at the University of Dorpat (now Tartu, Estonia). His academic paper On the freshwater fish of Livonia earned him a gold medal, but he was expelled from university for assisting in a duel as a second. He moved to study in Breslau, then to Berlin, where he wrote his thesis in zoology: A treatise on the phenomenon of parthenogenesis, on the basis of which he was granted a doctorate. Upon returning to Dorpat, he experienced some difficulties in having this degree recognised. This was a form of punishment for taking part in patriotic demonstrations in Vilnius. He was eventually awarded the doctorate of the University of Tartu on the basis of yet another (his fourth) dissertation, devoted to the study of fish: An attempt at a monographic discussion of the cyprinidae of Livonia and comparison with European species of this family.

The work of Benedykt Dybowski earned him a high reputation among zoologists. He was offered the Zoology Chair at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, then in the Austrian partition; however, the Austrian state authorities banned him from accepting the post on political grounds. For taking part in Polish patriotic demonstrations in Vilnius in 1861, Dybowski was arrested and briefly deported to the Russian interior. In 1862 he got a job as an adjunct-professor at the Main School in Warsaw (later University of Warsaw).

He was the first university lecturer to teach zoology and comparative anatomy after the paradigm of those disciplines was transformed by Charles Darwin's theory of evolution published in 1859. It is noteworthy that while in the mid-nineteenth century, it was simply unthinkable that a woman should deal with scientific research, Dybowski strongly advocated equal rights for women and collaborated with a female researcher, a certain Mrs Januszkiewicz. In 1897 he published a study entitled On the So-Called Women Question from the Position of Natural Science, in which he argued that the fair sex was no way inferior in terms of intellectual abilities to men.

Dybowski passed on his scientific passion, patriotic and social values to the youth. He believed that “the issues of science and society are closely intertwined.” (Domaniewski, 1954). He also took an active part in the preparation of the January Uprising of 1863, the struggle for Polish independence from the Russian Empire, serving as a Commissioner of the National Government. He was arrested in the spring of 1864, first put to Warsaw Pawiak prison and then transferred to the 10th Pavilion of the Citadel, where Russians kept political prisoners. He was sentenced to death by hanging.

Through the intercession of German zoology professors, the authorities commuted his death sentence to 12 years of exile in Siberia. He was sent off from Warsaw to Irkutsk by train on 10 August 1864, then travelled by horse. While in prison, he had contracted a disease of the digestive system but even though he was struggling with his own weakness, he helped his fellow convicts on the way as a doctor. In the spring of 1865, they finally reached the place of punishment. In Irkutsk exiles were distributed to nearby labour camps. As a prisoner of the Tsar, Dybowski had the right to choose his place of residence. Even thought he was forced to do hard labour, he was determined to conduct observations and studies of the local fauna. He would pick locations where he expected to find interesting specimens. His passion for science infected both his fellow exiles and the natives, among them soldiers and local officials. Everyone seemed happy to assist him with his scientific endeavours. Dybowski worked with geologists and naturalists studying Siberian nature who had found themselves in exile upon previous convictions by the Tsar, such as Aleksander Czekanowski and Jan Czerski. With their understanding of the geological past of the region, Dybowski was able to refute the previous theses of older scholars, Alexander von Humboldt and Alexander Theodor von Middendorff, who asserted, among others, that Baikal was a remnant of a fjord of the Arctic Ocean. At his own request, along with three fellow exiles: Aleksander Czekanowski (geologist), Wiktor Godlewski and Alfons Parvex (ornithologists), he was transferred to a camp in the town of Chita. Being a qualified doctor, he helped local people while preparing to move to Darasun, where a natural resort was being set up. Anyone who built a house there and made it available for the bathers in the summer was exempt from forced labour. Dybowski took advantage of this privilege and built an abode in Darasun. He could now devote his time to treating the sick, collecting natural specimens and his  scientific research. His direct contact with the Buryats, an indigenous nomadic people of Siberia who had their settlements close to Darasun, allowed him to describe their lifestyle, beliefs and customs. He left Zabaykalsky Krai in autumn 1868.

Coast of Lake Baikal
Photo: Rajmund Skowron

He settled in the village of Kultuk on the shores of Lake Baikal, where he had a perfect base to explore the lake and its fauna. Dybowski's collections and scientific studies contributed many new facts to natural sciences. Together with Godlewski he performed measurements of the depth and temperature of Baikal waters, establishing its maximum depth.

His efforts to create a research station in the region only came to fruition after the overthrow of the tsarist regime. When a research station was finally established upon Lake Baikal, its research vessel was given the name of “Benedykt Dybowski”.

Fauna collection – Baikal scuds, brought by Dybowski to the Zoological Cabinet in Warsaw, now the Museum and Institute of Zoology of the Polish Academy of Sciences
Source: Domaniewski J. Benedykt Dybowski, 1954

In 1869 Dybowski was offered the opportunity to serve as a physician-scientist to the Tsar's Commission exploring the region of the Amur and Ussuri Rivers, Manchuria and Korea, reaching the eastern coast of Asia. During the expedition, he made a number of important ichthyological and ornithological discoveries. Upon return, he planned a great scientific expedition of his own. In 1872 and 1873, together with his exiled ornithologist friend Wiktor Godlewski and a naturalist Michal Jankowski, he travelled through the tributaries of the Amur River and explored Ussuriysky Krai overland (now part of Primorsky Krai): the Far East of Russia. They made it to Vladivostok.

In 1975 Dybowski resumed the study of Lake Baikal.

In June 1877, when he finally received permission to return home, he was sorry to leave the places where he had spent the most beautiful time of his life. His valuable research conducted in exceptionally difficult circumstances brought him great satisfaction. His efforts were appreciated by the Russian Geographical Society. He was granted a gold medal and the Tsar offered him a rare privilege to take on the honorary cognomen of “Baikalsky”, an honour Dybowski firmly refused. He handed over a large number of specimens, especially birds collected in Siberia, to the Cabinet of Zoology of the University of Warsaw.

Dybowski dreamt about a research expedition to Kamchatka. Thanks to the efforts and support of his Russian friends, he got a job as a doctor in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. He stayed in Kamchatka from January 1879 to 1883. He made numerous trips to the Kuril and Commander Islands, the Sakhalin Island and other locations along the Pacific coast. He treated patients and established a few hospitals for lepers. He helped not only by his medical practice, but also set up animal breeding farms for the local population: he used his private money to buy horses and reindeer to the inhabitants of the Bering Island. He would tirelessly engage in scientific research. He collected specimens of many bird species, 80 of which had been unknown to science.

In 1883 Benedykt Dybowski returned permanently to the partitioned Poland – he was appointed lecturer of zoology at the University of Lvov, then situated in the Austrian partition. He established a Zoological Institute, where he gathered collections from his explorations in Asia, but also scientific literature and materials. He strived to stay abreast with the latest discoveries and successes of other scientists. He organised the Museum of Ethnography and Natural Sciences in Warsaw.

At 53, Benedykt Dybowski married Helena Lipnicka. After retiring, he arranged a scientific laboratory in their house, where he continued his research and prepared publications. He would also undertake short exploratory trips to the countryside.

He never stopped longing for Siberia. The whirls of history almost got him deported there once again. The First World War found him in his sister's estate in the area of Navahrudak, Lithuania (now Belarus), which was then in the Russian territory. As an 81-year-old citizen of Austria, he was interned by the Russian authorities and ruled to be exiled to Siberia: first to Irkutsk and then to Yakutia. This decision, however, was challenged by the intercession of Russian scientists. He finally managed to return to Lvov thanks to the German army, which entered the territories under the Russian rule. Benedykt Dybowski died in Lvov, at the age of 97, on 30 January 1930. He was buried in the Łyczakowski cemetery.

Map of Benedykt Dybowski's journey prepared by O. Hryniecki
Source: Domaniewski, J. (1954) Benedykt Dybowski, PZWS, Warsaw

He left behind about 170 scientific studies, mainly devoted to Siberia. Many animal species have been named after him, such as Phoca baicalensis dybowskii (Baikal seal) Comephorus dybowskii (deep-sea fish). His name is among those carved on the plaque on the top of the Chamar-Daban mountain range, rising between the mouth of the Angara River and Lake Baikal. The highest peak of the Bering Island was named Mount Dybowski by grateful natives. His conscientious observations and study of Lake Baikal earned him the nickname of “the father of Polish limnology”, i.e. scientific study of inland water reservoirs.

written by Zdzisław and Edyta Preisner

edited by Monika Rogozińska

translated by Adam S. Sikora


Domaniewski, Janusz (1954) Benedykt Dybowski, Państwowe Zakłady Wydawnictw Szkolnych, Warszawa

Słabczyński, Wacław (1988) Polscy podróżnicy i odkrywcy, PWN, Warszawa

Dybowski, Benedykt (1912) O Syberyi i Kamczatce, cz. I, Gebethner i Wolf, Warszawa, Kraków


Geologist, Palaeontologist, researcher of Siberia, he filled in the blanks in its map, and was responsible for mapping previously unknown geological regions of Russia

Aleksander Czekanowski's father, Wawrzyniec, was a passionate entomologist and collector of insects. But it would be because of his son - prisoner of tsarist Russia, exiled barefoot to Siberia - that insects, arachnids, plants, mountains passes would carry his name...

Aleksander Czekanowski
Source: www.katalogmonet.pl

Aleksander Czekanowski was born in Krzemieniec in Volhynia, on February 12, 1833. His mother, whose maiden name was Gaztell, the daughter of a professor at the University of Vilnius, died when Alexander was but a small child. His father worked at the secondary school in Krzemieniec.

At the age of 17, Aleksander commenced medical studies at the University of Kiev. Medicine, however, was not his passion, he was more interested in earth sciences, geology. In 1855, he transferred to the University of Dorpat (now Tartu, Estonia). He spent two years attending lectures on mineralogy at the Geology Department. After completing his studies, he returned to Kiev, and worked on sorting out the university's collections. Before the outbreak of the January Uprising (1863-1864) - Polish national revolt against Russia, then occupying part of Poland, his home was a meeting place for the youth. He was arrested by the Russians in 1863 for his participation in the uprising and sent into exile in Siberia. He was chased on foot from Kiev to Tobolsk, and further, to the river Angara. He lived in poverty, working for peasants while conducting scientific research.

In1868, the Russian authorities released Czekanowski from compulsory work and authorised his transfer to Irkutsk. He carried out observations of geological structures in the Angara valley and the Baikal mountains, Chamer-Daban. He developed the geological map of the province of Irkutsk. This gained him great recognition in the scientific community. He was awarded a Gold Medal by the Russian Scientific Society. The results of his research and observations were published in 1874, in the XI volume of the branch of the Russian Eastern Siberian Geographical Society. There was such an abundance of material, that it filled all 400 pages of the volume. The Russian Geographical Society entrusted him with directing scientific expeditions into scarcely explored regions or those never before studied - the blank spaces on the maps of Siberia, between the rivers Jenisa, Lena, and the Arctic Ocean. The area north of the river Oleniok was entirely unknown.

Aleksander Czekanowski organized three expeditions. The first took place in 1873, in Lower Tungusk Valley district in Tunguska, where among other things, he discovered carbon and graphite ores. The second, in 1874, included exploratory research in the basin of the rivers Oleniok and Lena. He rafted 1600 km downstream the Oleniok River, until ice stopped him in his tracks. He walked on further. He returned with a collection of plants, animals and fossils.

This uninhabited region was also the goal of the third expedition in 1875.  Together with entomologist Zygmunt Węglowski, a Pole also exiled by the tsar to Siberia, they arrived at Lena. They reached the region from which Czekanowski turned back earlier, and continued all the way to the coast of the Arctic Ocean - the coast of Laptev Sea, exploring a part of it.

During these three expeditions, lasting a few months each, the participants covered a total of 25,000 km. They travelled by boat, on land, on horseback or by sled. The scientific results of the expeditions, carried out in very difficult conditions, at the expense of their health, because of Czekanowski's great commitment, organizational skills and perseverance, have proven to be extremely valuable, contributing a vast knowledge of Siberia to science. They mainly conducted geological research, but the expeditions also brought many valuable observations from the filed of geography in areas such as limnology, potamology, science of soil, geomorphology, plant geography. The head of the expeditions carried out measurements and meteorological and astronomical observations. He made hydrographical reports. In places where he encountered people, he undertook linguistic observations and those of the customs and daily life.

Czekanowski collected about 4,000 paleontological specimens, 18,000 zoological samples, 9,000 botanicals, and also a number of ethnographical oddities.  Academician, E. B. Schmidt, in the preface to his "Journal" wrote: "These expeditions brought the richest geological results of any undertaken in Siberia. Czekanowski's extensive works (...) translated into all languages became the achievement of science, and the maps he created, have to a large degree changed and completed the maps of Asian Russia."

In 1876, the International Geographical Congress in Paris awarded a Gold Medal for the map of eastern Siberia, created by Czekanowski.

In 1876 he went to Stockholm to consult the materials from Spitsbergen. After his return, he got the permission of the Russian authorities for a short trip to his hometown of Krzemieniec. He was also allowed to travel to St. Petersburg, where he worked on his collections - geographical, geological, paleontological, as well as a collection of fossilized plants and insects. (Other scientists described the botanical and zoological collections.) His health deteriorated due to the typhoid he suffered from earlier. He found the return home and the changes that took place there over the years very difficult. The depressing weather conditions of Petersburg also impacted his wellbeing. All this brought on a deep psychological depression.

On September 30, Czekanowski committed suicide by taking poison. In the obituary of the Russian Geographical Society, with which he collaborated for many years, was written: "His name, that has become famous not only in Russia but also in western Europe, will be remembered forever as one of the most outstanding pioneers of geographical knowledge."

A mountain range in Siberia, between the Lena and Oleniok rivers, was named after him - Czekanowski Mountains, as well as one of the Baikal peaks and a settlement near Brack, along the Angara. In Poland, streets in Lublin and Zielona Gora carry his name. In his honour, a plant from the Jurassic period in named after him, as well as Triassic ammonites Czekanowskites. Numerous plants, and an equal number of different species of insects, spiders, and crustaceans were also named after him.

In 1976, the Polish Post Office issued a stamp to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of Aleksander Czekanowski.

In 2004, the National Bank of Poland introduced into circulation collectible coins with Czekanowski's likeness in denominations of 2 PL and 10 PL.

Coin with a likeness of Czekanowski
Source: www.omega-numizmaty.pl
Postal stamp with a picture of Czekanowski
Source: www.katalogznaczkow.net

Zdzisław and Edyta Preisner

Ed. Monika Rogozińska


Wacław Słabczyński „Polscy podróżnicy i odkrywcy”
Editor Joanna Arvaniti „Polscy badacze Syberii”, author of the article: Małgorzta Sobieszczak-Marciniak  „Aleksander Piotr Czekanowski”, Archiwum Polskiej Akademii Nauk, Warszawa 2008


Designer and builder of Central Trans-Andean Railway, the highest situated rail in the world for over 100 years

At the altitude of 4818 m, the railroad weaves its path from the desert coast of the Pacific, where Lima is located, to Andean snow – “a miracle of nineteenth century engineering”. It was designed, constructed under dramatic circumstances, as well as funded by a Pole. It is astounding, how this engineering genius, Ernest Malinowski, who died childless, has been forgotten, even though his image appeared on Lima’s monuments.

In the mid ‘90s of the twentieth century, I could not find the name of the creator of the Trans-Andean Railway in “Encyclopaedia Britannica”, “Larousse”, “Americana”.  It did not figure in Peruvian travel guides. Representatives of local travel bureaus respond with surprise when I asked to be taken to the Ticlio pass (4818 m) - the highest point on “Malinowski's railroad”.

- Ernest Malinowski, this Peruvian patriot? And what did he have in common with the rail? - they asked.

The railroad was meant to link the Pacific coast with the Amazon, from the port of Callao through the Andes, creating a communication route spanning both oceans and ensuring the fastest transport to the Atlantic. A contract for building the Trans-Andean Railway that survived in the archives, as its first point reads: “Ernest Malinowski, his descendants, executors of the will or authorised representatives, are obligated to build a section of the railway between Central Transandino Callao and Oroya according to the draft and plans made by the chief engineer Ernest Malinowski.”

Ernest Malinowski, Lima 1886 r.
Source: www.polona.pl

Ernest Malinowski was born to a Polish noble family on January 5, 1818, at the latest in Różyczna in Podole (Podolia) or in Seweryny in Wołyń (Volhynia), now Ukraine, where he was baptized – in those parts of  Poland, which after the partition of the country in the second half of the eighteenth century by its powerful neighbours: Russia, Prussia and Austria, were under Russian jurisdiction. Ernest, son of Jakub Malinowski, Ślepowron coat of arms and Anna Świeykowska, Trzaska coat of arms, grandson of the voivode, he grew up on the family estate. He studied in the renowned Krzemieniec High School, called the Athens of  Wołyń. His father and older brother, Rudolf, took part in armed struggle for independence - in the November Uprising against the Russians, which broke out in the autumn of 1830.  As punishment, the tsar confiscated the family estate.  Malinowskis had to escape. Ernest, together with his father and Rudolf, went to Paris. His mother returned with the youngest son to Wołyń.

Ernest studied at the Ecole Polytechniquen. He completed the select Ecole des Ponts et Chaussees (School of Roads and Bridges), graduating with honours. He worked in the construction of bridges, roads, regulating rivers in France and Algeria. Many Poles sought shelter in France at the time, threatened with prison or Siberia for their participation in the attempts to liberate Poland (in 1863, another uprising broke out in the Russian partition – the January Uprising). Young, educated, deprived of their property for their patriotism by the partitioners, they were often seen as unwanted competition by the French. Peru was looking for engineers in Europe, tempting with attractive contracts. Many Poles went there. Ernest Malinowski followed in 1852. Seven years later, he presented the Peruvian authorities with a draft of the Trans-Andean Railway, which was deemed too ambitious. So Malinowski designed and supervised paving of  streets and squares of Arequipa, railway lines: Pisco-Ica, Chimbote-Huaraz. He finally obtained acceptance for the work of his life.

When on January 1st, 1870 Lima was celebrating the placing of the cornerstone inaugurating the construction of the Trans-Andean Railway, no one had any doubt who was the author of the project. In the presence of the President of Peru, archbishop of Lima, members of the government, the diplomatic corps, generals, army, and a crowd of the capital’s residents, the mayor thanked Ernest Malinowski for a triple merit: for promoting the idea for the construction, for fighting for it and for “the triumph of its realization”. The word “triumph” was used prematurely. Not many of distinguished engineers believed in the success of the project. Building the railway required courage, will, skills, creativity, labour and money. The funds were provided for a certain time by American industrialist Henry Meiggs and... birds. Deposits of their excrement (guano) found on the rocky islands of the Pacific coast, proved to be highly sought after fertilizer in Europe. Proceeds from the export of this “gold” represented 80% of Peru’s gross national income.

During the preparation of the project, Malinowski asked to be let down on ropes into the precipice, and pulled over deep gorges in a suspended basket. In order to climb up the rails at 170 km from sea level to an altitude higher than Mont Blanc, he planned chiselling out niches in solid rock, digging tunnels and building bridges. In the Rimac river valley, 63 tunnels were carved out manually, including those twisting inside the mountain, with a total length of 6 km. Galera, the longest and highest (4768 m above sea level), measured 1117 m. Some 1500 mules were used for transportation. Often 10 animals a day would fall and perish in the gorges. Chinese, Italian and Chilean workers recruited for work and the international professionals hired, had to battle not only solid rock, gales, blizzards, fog and rockslides but also high altitude sickness, with its attendant insomnia, apathy, headaches and chronic fatigue.

Thirty bridges and overpasses were constructed. Each was a challenge. They were commissioned from the United States and France in Gustav Eiffel’s plant. They were iron, riveted. Ernest Malinowski exhibited extraordinary creativity, pioneer solutions, and organisational talent. For the assembly he hired sailors skilled in climbing ropes; Indians capable of using slingshots to throw ropes across precipices; an American engineer, who offered his experience working in construction over the Niagara. Each bridge has its own name, and their catalogue forms a chronicle of the railway’s construction. “El Infiernillo” means “Little Hell”. The highest one on the planet at the time, bears two names: “Verrugas” or  “Puente Daniel Carrion”. It commemorates the tragic events linked to an outbreak of a mysterious illness, named "verruga”, which reached an epidemic. Nearly seven thousand people fell ill. In the coastal town of Paracas I saw a terrifying artefact. A hand had been placed in formaldehyde, covered in boils, marks of  “verrugi”. At one point they bled profusely, and high fever brought death. No one knows what would have been the fate of the construction were it not for Daniel Alcides Carrion, medical student from the University of Lima. He invented a vaccine, which he tested on himself.  He overdosed. He described the stages and symptoms of the disease till the end. He died, but thanks to these notes, his work could be completed and the epidemic contained.

An even greater destruction was sewn by a fever called “oroyic” (from the Oroya Station) where only one in a hundred survived.

Bridges on the Transandean Railway.
In the first photo, the largest of the viaducts - Verrugas. 1893
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The building of the Trans-Andean Railway was watched and written about in publications across almost the entire word. It was called “a miracle of technology”, stunning with the power of the human mind, capable of taming wild nature. In Peru, residents of one of the mountain provinces wanted to build a monument in gratitude... to the president, who consented to the railway’s construction.

After eight years, the first section of 141 km was opened, reaching 4100 m above sea level.  The railway became a tourist attraction. Its stations had sleeping accommodation, shops, restaurants, bars with piano and snooker, and where possible, tennis courts and cricket. It was an invaluable means of transportation for the copper, zinc, lead and silver mines located on high altitudes. The discovery of artificial fertilizers in Europe, financial crisis, the political turmoil of a young country, caused the Peruvian government to suspend the grants. The last fragment of the first section, Henry Meiggs and Ernest Malinowski financed out of their own pocket. The highest part –Ticlio Pass (4818 m) and the site of Oroya (3726 m) was reached only 23 years after the ceremony of placing the cornerstone in Lima. The death of Meiggs, the devastating war in Chile, Malinowski’s forced emigration to Ecuador (he began the construction of Quito-Guayaquil railway line there), was the reason why the restoration and further construction of the damaged Trans-Andean Railway began only in 1890. Ernest Malinowski, supervising the work, was then 72 years old! At the beginning 1893, the train stopped at the 218th km, at the Oroya station.

Railway bridge near Matucana.
Photo Xauxa Håkan Svensson
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Six years later, on March 2nd, after 41 years of work for its new homeland, the brilliant engineer died of a heart attack. This handsome erudite, who spoke many languages and of wide connections, the darling of salons, himself a wonderful host, did not start a family. He was buried in Lima. His life’s work was continued in the first half of the twentieth century, up to the 346 km route ending in Hunacayo.  It was forgotten who was the creator of the railway.

- In Peru, indeed, very little is said about Malinowski - the Polish Ambassador in Lima, Wojciech Tomaszewski, said in 1996.  – If there is a reference to the Trans-Andean Railway, it is always in the context of the name Henry Meiggs, who was responsible for the funding. His heirs continue his legacy to this day. There is a Meiggs school, street, bridge... and what about Malinowski? Polish institutions fund ed a plaque in Callayo, on the occasion of the 130th anniversary on the May 2 successful battle against the Spanish for the independence of Peru. In 1866, Malinowski fortified in the Real Felipe fortress, he well prepared it for battle and took part in defending the port. He risked his life, but nothing less was expected of him.

The Peruvians awarded the Pole the Medal of Courage, as a national hero. Before he was named “the head engineer of Peru”, he was granted honorary citizenship. In his lifetime, his image was placed on one of the reliefs on a monument dedicated to the battle of Callao, which stands in Lima in the Plaza Dos de Mayo Square.

In May 1996, I rode on a highway along a rusting Trans-Andean Railway. Only in fragments were used for the mines. The coach, with participants in a trip, which I helped organize under the aegis of the Polish Chapter of  The Explorers Club, following the footsteps of  Polish discoverers of  Peru, climbed along the deep canyon of the Rimac river. We passed by abandoned, once elegant stations. At the Ticlio Pass we searched in vain for a trace of the name of the Trans-Andean Railway’s creator. It was then, that Elżbieta Dzikowska, journalist, film director and member of the Club, disturbed by this omission, exclaimed:

- A monument to Ernest Malinowski should stand here!                         Thanks to Dzikowska’s persistent efforts, the Association of Communication Engineers and Technicians, the cooperation of the Peruvian government and many people, a monument made from 70 tonnes of Strzegom granite was place in July 1999 on Ticlio Pass. The inscription in Polish and Spanish reads: “Ernest Malinowski 1818-1899. Polish engineer, Peruvian patriot, and hero of the 1866 battle for Callayo, builder of the Central Trans-Andean Railway.

- It was important for me that the monument did not harm the space, the raw nature, and troubled sky – explained the creator of the monument, Polish sculptor, Gustaw Zemła phD. – It should fit into the culture of stone architectural and Inca sculpture. I crowned it with a wheel symbolizing movement, like the one Malinowski “rolled up” the mountain. It resembles a solar gate that has slipped down, to create the station at Ticlio. Malinowski deserved to have a stone brought from his homeland, since he himself could not return to Poland.

The construction of the monument on the Ticlio Pass initiated the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Ernest Malinowski's death. A replica of the image from the monument was also placed in the lobby of Desamparados Railway Station in Lima.

         The National Bank of Poland issued coins with a portrait of Malinowski. The Banco Central de Reserva del Peru also issued a silver coin commemorating Ernest Malinowski. The Polish Post and Peruvian Post issued a stamp designed by Jacek Konarzewski.

         The then president of Peru, Alberto Fujimori, established the Committee of the Centenary of the Death of Ernest Malinowski, which called for the introduction of the Polish engineer to history textbooks. Danuta Bartkowiak's monograph on Erneście Malinowski has been published in Spanish.

         The express train from Warsaw to Krynica was given the name "Ernest Malinowski" (it ran until 2009). Currently, they are worn by a train running on the Warsaw-Zakopane route, as well as a street in Warsaw, a bridge in Toruń and a school in Białystok.


Polish Post and Peruvian Post issued a stamp designed by Jacek Konarzewski
Source: www.archiwum-znaczki.poczta-polska.pl

Banco Central de Reserva del Peru produced a silver coin commemorating Ernest Malinowski. The then president of Peru, Alberto Fujimori, appointed the Committee for the 100th Anniversary of the Death of Ernest Malinowski, which called for entering the name of the Polish engineer in history textbooks. A monograph by Danuta Barkowiak on Ernest Malinowski was issued in Spanish.

Monika Rogozińska


Bartkowiak D., „Ernest Malinowski, konstruktor kolei transandyjskiej”, Poznań 1996.

Nierzwicka M. oprac., „Ernest Malinowski : konstruktor kolei w Andach Peruwiańskich: w 200. rocznicę urodzin twórcy Centralnej Kolei Transandyjskiej”, katalog wystawy, Toruń 2018.

Starowicz S. red., „Inżynierowi Ernestowi Malinowskiemu w setną rocznicę śmierci”, Zeszyty Naukowo-Techniczne Oddziału Stowarzyszenia Inżynierów i Techników Komunikacji w Krakowie, Monografia [t.] 4, Kraków 1999.

Słabczyński W., „Polscy podróżnicy i odkrywcy”, Warszawa 1988.

The grave of Ernest Malinowski is located in the Presbitero Matias Maestro Cemetery-Museum in Lima. Before All Souls' Day 2012, the Consul of the Republic of Poland in Lima - Dariusz Latoszek and Monika Rogozińska - President of the Polish Chapter of The Explorers Club, laid a bunch of flowers from the Polish nation.
(Photo: Archives of Monika Rogozińska)
Inscription on the grave of Ernest Malinowski
Photo: Monika Rogozińska
The tomb of Daniel Carrion - a medical student who sacrificed his life to save the builders of the Trans-Andean Railway.
Presbitero Matias Maestro Cemetery-Museum in Lima.
(Photo by Monika Rogozińska)
Sculptor Gustaw Zemła in his studio in Warsaw with a design for a monument to Ernest Malinowski, which was to be erected on the Ticlio Pass (4818 m) in the Andes.
Photo: Monika Rogozińska
Gustaw Zemła shows the designs of the monument to Ernest Malinowski that he created…
Photo: Monika Rogozińska

JAN CZERSKI (1845-1892)

Palaeontologist, Geologist, indefatigable Siberian researcher, pioneer researcher of the region between the great rivers of Indigirka and Kolyma

Jan Czerski, who for his participation in the January uprising against Russia was exiled as prisoner of the Tsar to the antipodes of the Russian empire, was also considered to be one of the most outstanding researchers of Siberia by some Russian scientists. His research of the Baikal  "become the basis of the study of the tectonic development of the Asian continent, and the mountain ridges rising above them, and led him, for the first time in world science, to the concepts of geomorphologic evolution" - claimed the outstanding Soviet geographer L. S. Berg. According to the chroniclers of the Russian Geographical Society, this exiled visitor to Siberia, self-taught, surpassed the greatest local scientists with his acumen.

It is no surprise then that the name Jana Czerski can now be found on the maps of Siberia. There is the Czerski Mountain, and Czerski Mountains, the Cherski Peak, Czerski Valley, and the town of Czerski by the Kolyma River in Jakuck. There are Cherski streets in Poland, the Ukraine, Belarus, Moscow, Irkutsk...

Jan Czerski
Source: Słabczyński W., „Polscy podróżnicy i odkrywcy”, Warszawa 1988

Jan Czerski was born on 15 May 1845, in a Polish landowner’s family, in the district of Swolna, in Witebsk. He lost his father early on. His mother, concerned about her children's education, sent him to the tsarist noble institute in Vilnius. His studies were interrupted by the January uprising against Russia in 1863.  For taking part in it, at the age of 18 he was exiled to Siberia, to the town of Omsk and conscripted into the Russian army.

At first he was a simple foot soldier, later relegated to an officer's adjunct, and once his talent for foreign languages was discovered (he spoke fluent German and French, that he learned at home), and his high level of intelligence, he was charged with overseeing the military library. There, Czerski could continue his education, with access to the works of Russian geologists, mineralogists and palaeontologists. He was greatly impressed with Charles Darwin's books that he found in the garrison’s small library and which had just been translated into Russian. Thanks to the efforts of Russian geographical surveyor and geologist Gorgij Nikolajewicz Potanin, with whom he became friends, Czerski could afford to carry out geological research in the region of Omsk, and even got the permission to organise scientific excursions up the river Om and down the river Irtysz. Some of the fossil specimens of plants and animals he collected were sent in 1867 to the Association of Natural Science in Moscow. However, its members refused to cooperate with him, due to the fact of him being an exile.

Czerski, as well as the collections which he amassed during his expeditions and which he gathered in a small geological museum he created, drew the attention of the well-known Russian traveller and naturalist Alexander Theodor von Middendorf. Probably thanks to his backing, Czerski, after five years of military service, was released due to ill health. He was, however, banned from leaving Omsk. Great lover of nature, he sustained himself by giving private classes, as well as an employee of an anatomical laboratory. At the same time he continued his escapades down the river Irtysz, collecting geological specimens.

Due to the efforts of the scientists of the Russian Geographical Society in Irkutsk, Czerski was transferred to the city. There he met other Polish exiles, among them prominent scholars, researchers into Siberia: geologist Aleksander Czekanowski and doctor, zoologist Benedykt Dybowski. He could continue his scientific research and expand his knowledge thanks to their support, and the resources of the extensive library and museum of the Society. He got the job of the librarian, which helped with his living expenses. He also carried out archaeological digs in the Irkutsk region. The result was the discovery of numerous stone tools and bones of different species of animals. The areas around Irkutsk, where original human settlements were found, were later named the Czerski Archaeological Site.

In 1873, Jan Czerski, together with another exile, botanist and entomologist, Mikolaj Hartungi made a scientific expedition into the Sajan Mountains. They studied the geological structures of the mountains, collecting data that helped improve the existing maps of the region. In 1875 and 1876, the Russian Geographical Society assigned its researcher the task of carrying out a geological studies of the Niznieudinska Cave, and later the Irkutsk valley.

His best-known expeditions are to the Baikal region, during which Czerski studied its coast, travelling kilometres deep into its tributaries, collecting samples of dead plants and animals, calculating the height of the coastal mountains, investigating   the Olchon Island. He produced the first geological map of the Baikal coast, and got to know the Baikal Mountains well.  

For his work in the region and developing the map, the Academy of Sciences in St Petersburg awarded Jan Czerski the Gold Medal and an annual salary. Unfortunately, due to personnel changes in the board of directors of that company, he stopped receiving funding for his field trips, and all his projects were rejected. Jealous colleagues criticized him for being self-taught and for publishing too much for an exile. The growing conflict led to a nervous breakdown and a diagnosis of a heart disease.

In 1881, Czerski and Mikolaj Witkowski- archaeologist, and another exile, despite strained relations with the management of the Geographical Society, secured funding for another expedition to the Selengi river basin.  After his return from that expedition, Czerski publishes another large tome on the Baikal, outlining the genesis of the lake and the geological structure of Eastern Siberia. His relationship with the Society deteriorated to the point that Czerski had to leave. With a wife and son to support, he was obliged to work in a grocery.

Maria Czerska with son Aleksander
Source: Słabczyński W., „Polscy podróżnicy i odkrywcy”, Warszawa 1988

After more than a year, he received an offer to carry out geological studies along the mail route from Irkutsk to the Urals.  Presenting the findings personally in St. Petersburg meant an automatic release from exile. After showcasing the results of the research and observations, scientist Vladimir Afanasjew Obruczew called it "a huge step forward in comparison with existing views".  Diverse scientific communities became interested in Czerski's work, becoming an expert resource in the field of geology and palaeontology of Siberia. He was offered a job with the Zoological Museum of the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, where he worked for six years, all the time actively participating in the world of research and publishing more work.

In 1890, the scientist was assigned the study of the Northern part of Eastern Siberia, in particular the regions around the rivers Kolyma, Indigirka, and Jana. Despite ill health, Czerski took up the challenge with enthusiasm.  At the beginning of February 1891, together with his wife and son, he took off from St. Petersburg, via Moscow to Yakutsk. Even though his heart was acting up, he continued to Kolyma, through the mountain ridge that this day carries the name of Czerski Mountains.  Winter found him with his wife and 11-year-old son in the Wierchnikolymsk settlement. His health was deteriorating. Temperatures were dropping below 40oC. This region is now recognized as the coldest point in the northern hemisphere. In the village of Ojmiakon, along the Indigirka River, temperatures of  -71oC ware recorded.

Map of the upper river and Indigirka Kolyma, outlined by Czerski
Source: Słabczyński W., „Polscy podróżnicy i odkrywcy”, Warszawa 1988

On 31 May 1892, despite weakening strength, Czerski, together with his wife and son took a boat down Kolyma. He carried out his research all the time, drawing maps and writing reports. He knew he was dying. In "an open letter to the Academy", he made it known, that in case of his death, the work was to be carried on by his wife. And so it was.

More than three weeks prior to the departure, during the night of 25 June, Jan Czerski died in the boat in which he was travelling.  Hs wife Maria and son Alexander buried him by the Kolyma, in what is now the village of Kolomyskoje.

Upon hearing the news of his death, his colleague from the Geographical Society, Mikhail Nikolayevich Zagoskin, said: "Only thanks to such people, knowledge can move forward".

Jan Czeski's grave in Kołomyskoje in Siberia.
Photo: Romuald Koperski and Co.

The mountain range in Yakutia was named the Czerski Mountains.  It extends from the lower reaches of the Jana River in the northwest to the upper reaches of the Kolyma River in the southeast. The highest peak of the Baikal Mountains was named the Czerski Mountain  (2588 m a.s.l.) and one of the highest peaks of the Chamar-Daban Mountains above Lake Baikal (2090 m a.s.l.) also bears his name. At the foot of the Sajanów, extends the Czerski Valley. Near Irkutsk exists the already mentioned Archaeological Site of Czerski. City of Czerski is located on Kołyma. There are also many streets named after him - in Poland, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania.

Written by: Zdzisław and Edyta Preisner
Collaboration: Monika Rogozińska


Wacław Słabczyński „Polscy podróżnicy i odkrywcy”, PWN, 1988

Zbigniew Wójcik „Jan Czerski. Polski badacz Syberii” Lublin 1986

Grigorij Revzin, Stefan Gruchała  „O Janie Czerskim” Warszawa 1954


Traveller and researcher in the cultures of Oceania. Pioneer in studies of Micronesia. His ethnographic descriptions belong to the first such detailed reports from this part of Oceania

Jan Kubary, 1873
Source: Wikimedia Commons
(after Smolińska L., Sroka M., "Great known and unknown", Warsaw 1988)

Born in Warsaw, which was then under Russian jurisdiction, in a Poland partitioned between the neighbouring states of Prussia, Russia and Austria. He studied medicine there. At the age of 17, he took part in the 1863 January Uprising against the Russians. In trying to avoid being sent to Siberia, he got fell into the snares of the tsarist secret police by accepting to work as an agent. To escape from these unfortunate connections and from the suspicion of his relatives, in 1868 he went to Berlin, and then to Hamburg, where he signed a contract with a wealthy owner of a museum specializing in ethnographic and natural history collections - Johann Cezar Godeffroy.

Kubary agreed to travel to the Pacific islands of Oceania to collect "exotic" specimens. He embarked on his mission in 1869, and from that moment became a professional collector and researcher of the world of "the islands of the southern seas." Although he visited many of Oceania's archipelagos, the it was the atolls of Micronesia that he studied the longest and most in depth: the Marshall Islands, Carolina, including the islands of Jap, Palau, Ponape, Truk.

Kubary while in Palau
Source: Wikimedia Commons
(after Smolińska L., Sroka M., "Great known and unknown", Warsaw 1988)

He spent 28 years on the islands of Oceania, returning briefly to Europe several times. He also visited Lwów (in 1875 and 1894), as well as Kraków (in 1891), then under the Austrian occupation. Having found no possibility of stabilization here, he decided to return to Oceania. Moving between the islands, he conducted ethnographic, natural and archaeological research. He compiled dictionaries of local languages and established the names of the islands according to the native nomenclature. He sketched and corrected maps. Moreover, using the knowledge gained from incomplete medical studies, he healed the islanders, thus winning their favor.

Kubary spent the last years of his life in Micronesia. He ran a plantation on the island of Ponape, where he lived with his wife - Anna Yelliot, daughter of a Methodist missionary and indigenous chief's daughter. He died on October 9, 1896, probably of a heart attack. His activity in this area is commemorated by a plaque with a bust cast in bronze.

Jan Stanislaw Kubary's contributions to the studies of Micronesia were and remain enormous. Specimens collected by him are found today in German museums in Hamburg, Leipzig, and Berlin. They illustrate the old material and artistic culture of the islanders, and belong to highly valuable objects. The same can be said about the reports he sent from Oceania to Europe. In a very precise, systematic and insightful way they describe the many aspects of the indigenous cultures. His excellent knowledge of local languages, long sojourns on various islands, and close cooperation with the locals, were the reasons why the information collected by Kubary held particular value, as it showed the Europeans the world of a culture completely unknown to them. Therefore, even today, it is difficult to imagine anyone studying the archipelagos who would not have to reach for Kubary's ethnographic reports. Although his observations and field notes did not play such a significant role in the development of social anthropology, as did the famous works by Bronislaw Malinowski, the information and documentation his notes and publications provided is nevertheless impressive. From his work emerges a picture of everyday life of Micronesian seafarers, farmers, fishermen and craftsmen, that soon after the death of Kubary, underwent rapid changes caused by colonial administration and expanding contacts of the islanders with the outside world.

Kubary's research in Micronesia was pioneering in nature. His collection of indigenous artefacts as well as precise ethnographic descriptions were the first such detailed reports from this part of Oceania, which unlike Polynesia, was rather poorly explored by European travellers. Kubary was also a pioneer of photo and graphic documentation of the architecture, local customs, daily life and the character of the indigenous society. In the beginning, he was mainly interested in local material culture: construction, sailing, local bartering tools, including the famous giant stone circles of Jap islands, burials, or tattooing. In time, his interests grew to include those cultural aspects that required a good knowledge of local languages, gaining the confidence of the locals and the ability to cohabit with a foreign environment. Thanks to these skills and his passion for research, Kubary could also penetrate the secrets of local common law, religion or social relations.

Kubary's interests were not limited, however, only to ethnography but also included natural and geographical studies. His detailed maps of the islands and atolls of Micronesia were the first cartograms to be so precisely and expertly made, and were used by numerous travellers and sailors visiting these islands many years after his death.

His scientific achievements and reports from close to 26 years on the islands of Micronesia are very little known today, and this because most were published in Germany during his lifetime, and in specialized ethnographic and museum publications what's more. Efforts made to date to bring at least some of his achievements into the present day have been futile. The only exception is a book by Konrad Wypych from 1969 titled “In the Shadow of Fe. In the footsteps of Jan Stanislaw Kubary" (Wroclaw, Publ. PTL) in which the author quite accurately reconstructs the history of Kubary's stay in Micronesia and lists the top Polish and German publications by the researcher.

Jan Stanisław Kubary is commemorated by the summit of Mount Kubari in the Finisterre range in New Guinea (1252 m above sea level), as well as one of the islands in the Ailinglapalap atoll in the Marshall Archipelago. His name was included in the Latin names of several species of birds: the Marian crow (Corvus kubaryi), the shelled fan (Rhipidura kubaryi) and the Carolingian island (Gallicolumba kubaryi).

Ailinglapalap atoll with the island of Kubary
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Aleksander Posern-Zieliński, prof. dr. hab

Kubary J., „Wyspy ciepłych mórz: Jana Stanisława Kubarego notaty z podróży po Mikronezji”, Warszawa 1997.
Słabczyński W., „Na wyspach Pacyfiku: o Janie Kubarym badaczu Oceanii”, Warszawa 1956.
Smolińska L., Sroka M., „Wielcy znani i nieznani”, Warszawa 1988.
Wypych K., „Cieniu Fe. Śladami Jana Stanisława Kubarego”, Wrocław 1969.


Archaeologist, Egyptologist, art historian, creator of the "Polish school of Mediterranean Archaeology" linking research and conservation work.

In a few words, we, his students, remember Professor Kazimierz Michalowski as a Renaissance man, sensitive to the problems of the world, a passionate researcher, tempered by military discipline and patience, one that enjoyed life to the fullest. He was a positive thinker even in the most difficult moments.

Kazimierz Michałowski in 1967
Source: Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe

Kazimierz Michalowski was born on 14th December 1901 in Tarnopol, where he graduated high school with honours.  The first significant experience of adult life for the young humanist was his involvement in the Polish-Russian war of 1920. Almost directly from the front, still wearing his military uniform, he entered the Jan Kazimierz University in Lvov, where he completed his studies in art history and philosophy in 1924.

Immediately after obtaining his university degree, he was offered the position of assistant to Professor Edmund Bulandy at the classical archaeology department of the Jan Kazimierz University. Within two years, he completed his doctoral thesis "Niobids in classical art", followed by a scholarship from the Ministry of Religious Denominations and Public Enlightenment for studies abroad. In the years 1927-1930 he stayed in several leading research centres, among them in Berlin, Münster, Rome and Paris. He attended university courses, worked in libraries and museums, publishing the results of his analytical thinking and establishing contacts with renowned scientists. He became aware, that there was a field of study in which Poland lagged far behind the highly developed European countries: the archaeology of ancient civilisations of the Mediterranean basin and its outskirts. He decided he would introduce Poland to this research.

In 1928, he participated in excavations on the Greek islands of Thasos and Delos, as a foreign member of École Française d'Athènes. He modestly called these years his "apprenticeship period", although even then, his foreign colleagues greatly respected his research skills. As proof of this, he was entrusted with publishing the stone portrait heads from the Hellenistic and Roman period, fruit of the French excavations on Delos.

In 1929, he defended his doctoral thesis, "On Doric art", becoming a full professor at the Jan Kazimierz University in Lvov. A year later he moved to Warsaw. Barely 30-years-old, he became deputy professor of classical archaeology at the Jozef Pilsudski University, and in 1933, associate professor of the same university. In 1932, his pioneering work, "Les partraits héllenistiques et romains. Exploration de Délos ", was published in Paris.  In 1936, as fellow at the Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale, the oldest foreign archaeological institute in Cairo, professor Michalowski organized French-Polish excavations at Tell Edfu, a high hill adjacent to the temple of Horus in ancient Apollinopolis Magna in Egypt. Although in total there were only three archaeological excavations, in the years 1937-1939, their importance for international Egyptology and for Polish archaeology remains unprecedented.

Professor Kazimierz Michałowski during the inspection of the sarcophagus, 1937
Source: National Digital Archives
Kazimierz Michałowski and Jerzy Manteuffel in front of the base, 1938.
Source: National Digital Archives

The stratygraphic profile of this hill presents a cross-section of the entire history of Egypt, from the moment of the formation of a pharaoh state to the Arab Middle Ages. Earlier excavations at the site belong, in their methodology, to nineteenth century archaeology: simply put, they were looking for papyri.  Professor Michalowski initiated multidisciplinary studies, which were quite pioneering for the times. Archaeological layers were systematically excavated and documented, with particular studies being carried out on groups of monuments, including those that were almost completely ignored by researchers, such as bone material from the cemeteries of different periods, or ceramic fragments with inscriptions in Arabic. Polish researchers were the authors of scientific studies and publications of numerous artefacts, so it can now be said, that the excavations in Edfu fulfilled the youthful ambitions of their leader by introducing Polish science to Mediterranean Archaeology. Thanks to them, Polish museum collections have been enriched by many unique items that initiated the classical art gallery of the National Museum in Warsaw.

The excavations in Edfu were interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. As a reserve lieutenant, Kazimierz Michalowski took part in the fighting in September 1939, ending up in prison camps, first in Oflag XVIII A in Linz, and then Oflag II C in Woldenbergu (today's Dobiegniewo).  In the latter, he organized the so-called Woldenberski University, which he led and where he lectured in Egyptology.

He was treated to a surprise during this difficult period, prepared by his rais - labour supervisor who, before the war, worked on the excavations in Edfu. One day, a parcel with dried dates sent from Egypt for mudir arrived at the camp. It was an expression of gratitude for the friendly attitude of the professor towards his Egyptian subordinates, so different from the colonial attitudes of many of the Western researchers working in the Middle East. He was to be known for his empathy toward his colleagues later as well. As the director of the National Museum in Warsaw, he would not pass through the gallery without asking one of the employees about their family problems he knew they were having.

This kind of a relationship towards the local population during excavations in the Middle East was later adopted by the students of the late Master. It often produced the same surprising results as the package arriving at Woldenberg. When in autumn of 2011, only a few months after the outbreak of the so-called Egyptian revolution, the Polish Archaeological Mission returned to Sakkar, it turned out that our area of excavations was the only one of the foreign sites on this vast Memphis necropolis where the artefacts were undamaged. The interpretation of this by the Egyptians was particularly meaningful: no one would dare touch the fruits of an archaeological mission that treats its Egyptian "brothers" so well.

Immediately after liberation, professor Michalowski began rebuilding the "school" that he barely started to create before the war. In the years 1945-1947, he was Dean of the Faculty of History at the University of Warsaw. From 1945, he was the Head of Mediterranean Archaeology, and in the academic year 1947/1948, he served as rector of the same university. At the same time he was reconstructing the Ancient Art Gallery at the National Museum in Warsaw. From 1945, he served as its director, while also holding the position of deputy director of the entire Museum. When one day a good looking woman came looking for work, he told her: "I can hire you, but only as my wife." Thus, in 1945, Krystyna Baniewicz changed her surname, and soon gave birth to two children. At the same time, the professor was taking care of his orphaned nephew, whose father, an aviation lieutenant, died three years earlier in air combat.

Michalowski also worked at the Warsaw Scientific Society, and from 1951, in the Polish Academy of Sciences. A few years later, he established a new institution at the Academy - Institute of Mediterranean Archaeology, which, as a research institution, played a major role in the further development of the "Polish school of Mediterranean Archaeology", even after the death of its creator. In 2010, it was combined with the Academy's Institute of Non-European Countries, and the result of this symbiosis is the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures. The institute's publications provide source material from Polish excavations in the regions of ancient Mediterranean cultures, in the languages of the congress. They disseminate the world over the latest discoveries made by the archaeological school created by Professor Michalowski.

Towards the end of the fifties, he picked up his fieldwork. His first post-war excavations took place at Mirmeki in the Crimea (1956- 1858).  In 1957, he returned to Egypt. Two years later, he began excavations in ancient Palmyra in Syria. In 1961, in the Sudan, has took part in the great international effort to save Nubian monuments from flooding by the Nubian Lake, the result of the construction of the Aswan dam. During the same period, he served as chairman of the Expert Committee for the rescue of the Abu Simbel temples (1961- 1970). The following years saw the map of Polish excavations in the Middle East enriched by two posts of outstanding historical ranking: Nea Paphos in Cyprus (from 1965) and Nimrud in Iraq (from 1975).

Kazimierz Michałowski at the excavations in Palmyra. Photo from the exhibition "Images", Wiesław Prażuch, Stara Galeria ZPAF, Warsaw, 1988.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Michalowski was well aware of the importance of the discoveries made by his "school".  He wanted not only the enrichment of Polish museum collections, decimated during the Second World War, bringing in new, original monuments, though this also mattered when selecting specific excavation sites. Above all, however, he was concerned with the opinion-forming importance of these discoveries, both for the international position of our country as well as for Polish science, which, through the discovery and development of new historical sources, was strengthening its position in international science. Journalists often asked him, whether Poland could afford to carry on excavations in Egypt.

- Poland cannot afford not to carry out excavations in that country - he answered.

- Poland cannot afford to dig just anywhere - he underlined.

He always focused his research on the most important centres of ancient civilization. Our colleagues abroad are still envious of this.

A turning point in the history of the "Polish school of Mediterranean Archaeology" was the creation by Professor Michalowski, in 1959, of the Polish Mediterranean Archaeological Station in Cairo. This academic centre of the University of Warsaw, named the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology after the death of its founder, now carries his name and is one of the most important points on the scientific map of Cairo, and the Middle East. Initially, it was a logistic base for Polish excavation missions; currently, it draws the international scientific and cultural elite, as well as young researchers and students from various countries, seeking to use the archival documentation, and the systematically growing library. As it was during the life of professor Michalowski, an invitation to the "Station" on Heliopolis, (Cairo district also called New Cairo, built on the ruins of an ancient centre of solar cults), to a gathering, a lecture or symposium, is considered a great honour in Egypt.

Research on Egypt of different eras is currently the backbone of the "Polish school's" curriculum.  During the professor's lifetime, it focused primarily on the period of the so-called New State (2. mid II millennium B.C.) and the Greek and Roman era. Professor Michalowski initiated Polish excavations at the temple of Hatshepsut, a women-Pharaoh in the times of the 18. Dynasty, of the upper Egyptian Deir el-Bahari, and also in Alexandria and the lower Egyptian Athribis, vast cultural centres of the reign of Ptolemy and Roman emperors. Just next to the temple of Hatshepsut, he discovered a temple built by her stepson, pharaoh Totmesa III, one of the greatest rulers of ancient Egypt. In the centre of ancient Alexandria, has uncovered a complex of monumental buildings, including the largest preserved public bath in Egypt, as well as an "amphitheatre", which later turned out to be an auditorium of the only remaining university in Egypt from Roman-Byzantium time.

On an international scale, however,  the name Kazimierz Michalowski is associated primarily with the incredible discoveries in Faras (Sudanese Nubia), where Polish excavations at the beginning of the sixties were part of the above-mentioned UNESCO action to save the monuments. The discovery of an early Christian cathedral with several layers of unique paintings on its walls was called the "miracle of Faras". A significant number of historical monuments from these excavations is now located in the National Museum in Warsaw, where a special gallery has been designed for them. Poland has become one of the most important centres of Nubian studies (Nubiology),
Nubiology a new area of Archaeology, in which students of professor Michalowski are in the lead, among others through active participation in the next action to rescue sites in Sudan, this time preceding the construction of a great dam in Sudan.

Kazimierz Michałowski at the excavations in Faras
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The excavations in Faras are connected not only with great discoveries, but also with the amazing achievements of Polish conservators. They were successful in separating the next layer of paintings and to transport them, - some to Khartoum, some to Warsaw- , assuring their further maintenance. Polish school of conservation, introduced by Professor Michalowski to the countries of the Middle East, enjoys an excellent opinion, which is not without importance for securing new excavation rights by Polish archaeologists.

The professor was often awarded for his various achievements, starting with the Medal "From Poland to its Defender" (1931), to the Commander's Cross with the Star of the Egyptian Revolution (1980). He was a member of many Polish and foreign scientific institutions, among them an honorary member of the American Institute of Archaeology (1965), and chairman of the International Committee of Archaeological and Historical Museums - ICOM (1965 - 1971), and recipient of honoris causa doctorate from several foreign universities, including Cambridge and Uppsala.

Professor Kazimierz Michalowski died on 1 January 1981 in Warsaw. The scientific school he created not only did not disintegrated after the death of the Master, but - quite the opposite - continues to develop and expand its work. The excavations, as well as conservation and research work, continue in such important sites, selected by him, as Alexandria, Deir el-Bahari, Dongola, Palmyra and Nea Paphos. His students have also broadened the profile of "Polish school" researchers by periods and areas, which have not been previously a research subject of Polish archaeologists. They include the period of the formation of Egyptian statehood in the Nile Valley (excavations in Tell Farcha in the Nile Delta), the Old State and the period of the construction of the largest pyramids (excavations in Sakkara), studies of Egyptian monasticisms in the early phase of the development of Christianity (excavations in Naqlun oasis Fajum), or the penetration of ancient traditions into culture of early Christianity in the Nile Valley (archaeological survey and rescue excavations in northern Sudan), excavations in Lebanon, Libya, Kuwait and countries of the Arabian Peninsula. Karol Myśliwiec, prof. dr hab.


Gawlikowski M., „Michałowski i jego szkoła” [w:] „Królowa Hatszepsut i jej świątynia 3500 lat później”, Warszawa 2001.

„Jeńcy wojenni w latach II wojny światowej”, Centralne Muzeum Jeńców Wojennych w Łambinowicach – Opolu, Opole 2009, str. 47–86.

Lipińska J., „Kazimierz Michałowski”, „Znak” 6, 1982.

Michałowski K., „Od Edfu do Faras”, Warszawa, Wydawnictwa Artystyczne i Filmowe, 1974.

Rezler-Wasilewska V., „Profesor Kazimierz Michałowski (1901-1981)”, „Łambinowicki Rocznik Muzealny” 32 (2009).

Kazimierz Michałowski at the gypsum cradle with the reconstructed painting from Faras in the National Museum in Warsaw, late 1960s. Harry Weinberg
Source: Wikimedia Commons


Traveller, a versatile scholar, discoverer, active in Australia, the Pacific Islands, North and South America, and in Southeast Asia

Although he discovered gold in Australia and Tasmania, knowledge was more valuable to him.

Paweł Edmund Strzelecki, around 1845
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Paweł Edmund Strzelecki was born on 20 July 1797 in Głuszynie near Poznan, on land, which as a result of the partitions of Poland, was under the dominion of Prussia. He was the son of an impoverished Polish nobleman, a tenant of German property.

He took an active part in the November Uprising in 1830 - a national uprising against Russia, then occupying other parts of Poland, which meant that one year later he had to leave his motherland. Some believe that the reason for this decision could be the fact that the father of his beloved Aleksandra Turno opposed their wedding. A passionate but impoverished young man could not make a husband for his beautiful daughter. An attempt by the pair to escape was thwarted and resulted in 23 lashes for the future discoverer of gold in distant lands.

In England, Strzelecki began geological studies, which prepared him for future activities. Two days after his 37th birthday, he arrived in New York and immediately began his journey and research in the United States. He was in Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington. He visited sites associated with Polish national heroes like Kosciuszko and Puławski. He carried out geological surveys in several states in the Appalachia, and agro technical studies on farms in the eastern states. He crossed the border to Canada near Niagara and did work in Ontario (where among other things, he discovered copper deposits), Quebec, Montreal and Toronto. He carried out ethnographic research among the Huron Indians. He also reached the Great Antilles, Cuba, and Mexico.

In early 1836, he arrived in Brazil. He examined raw mineral materials in Minas Gerais state, and at the same time conducted ethnographic observations among the local Indian, and meteorological studies in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. Following the river La Plata, he travelled southeast and arriving in Buenos Aires and Montevideo. He collected material for books on the often-despicable treatment of the local population by European colonists.

The next stage of his exploits was the trip to some of the archipelagos of the Pacific islands. On 20 July 1838, on board the ship "Fly", he sailed from the Chilean port of Valparaiso. He reached the Marquises in French Polynesia, and then Hawaii. On the island of Hawaii, he carried out the study of Mauna Loa and Kilauea volcanoes. He then returned to the south, visiting Tahiti, Gambier Islands, and the Kingdom of Tonga.

In early 1839, he spent three months in New Zealand, doing research among the Maoris. On 25 April, he arrived in Sydney. Local "Sydney Gazette", informing the readers of the arrival of the researcher, misspelled his difficult to pronounce name, identifying the Pole as "Count Traliski".  This period of his life is the best documented, and it is Australia that his name is primarily associated with, found in many geographical names. He began his research in the southern part of the Great Dividing Range (Wielkie Góry Wododziałowe) where, among others, he discovered the Snow Mountains. The highest peak of the continent that he conquered, of 2229 m, he named Kosciuszko, to commemorate the legacy of a national hero half a century before him, who also fought for the independence of Poland and the United States. "Behold the flower from the highest peak on this continent. May it always remind you of freedom, patriotism and love" - he wrote in a letter to his beloved Adyna, placing the memento in an envelope. In honour of his beloved, he named another peak in the Blue Mountains after her, Mount Adine.

He carried out studies of the fertile lands of Gipsland, discovered lignite in Latrobe valley, and first gold in Australia, in the area of Wellington and Clwydd valley. When he notified the authorities of the last discovery, they demanded that he keep it a secret in fear of social unrest and disruption of the slowly emerging new economy.

On 24 July 1840 he arrived in Tasmania, then called Van Diemen's Land, where he began his geological surveys. He discovered carbon, copper ores and gold-yielding quartz in several places. It has made a number of important observations about irrigating agricultural areas. At the end of 1841, aboard the "Beagle", he took part in a two-months expedition to the Bass Straights. After two years spent in Tasmania, has returned to the continent and travelled deep into it, reaching the source of the Murray - the largest river in Australia.

He left Australia after four years of residence and went to South East Asia. He visited the Malay Archipelago, Brunei, and then went to the Middle East. He carried out soil, meteorological, and ethnographical studies. Unfortunately, no publications or documents from that time period survived. The next stage of his journey were the   Philippines, then Guangzhou and Hong Kong. He went through Singapore and Suez on his way back to Europe, to London,

In London, he published his work "Physical Description of New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land ", which in 1846, was honoured with a gold medal by the Royal Geographical Society. Three years later, he was one of the first civilian recipients of one of the most important of British decorations - the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.

In Ireland, he earned gratitude and respect for his philanthropic and humanitarian work during the great famine. During this time he established numerous contacts with the greatest English scientists. In 1853, for his great achievements and knowledge of Earth physics, Strzelecki become a member of the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Society, acting as the British Academy of Sciences. The University of Oxford distinguished him with an honorary doctorate. Four years before his death, he was knighted by Queen Victoria, together with receiving the most distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George.

He never married. Always faithful to Adyna, he corresponded with her for a quarter of a century until ... a meeting in Paris in the mid 40s. But romantic ideals did not survive the test of reality.

Sir Paul Edmund Strzelecki died in London on 6 October 1873 and was buried there.

He asked for his documents, letters, and diary of his travels to be burned - and his wishes were complied with. More than 100 years later, his ashes were moved to the Crypt of Merit in the Church of St. Wojciech in Poznan.

Numerous geographic sites carry the name Strzelecki. The Strelecki Mountain, 636m above sea level, is located in the Growford ridge north of Barrow Creek in Australia. On the Flinders Island, a granite peak the height of 778 meters is called the Strelecki Peak. One of the periodic rivers in South Australia, at the very edge of the Sturta desert, caries the name Strzelecki Creek. His surname is also borne by the town, desert and bay, as well as living organisms: the crustacean Pleurotomaria Strzeleckiana and the trilobite Brachymetopus Strzelecki.

In 1988, in Jindabyne in the Australian Alps, a monument with the inscription: “Strzelecki Sir Paul Edmund Strzelecki 1797-1873 The Polish Explorer of Australia was unveiled”.

In 1997, the National Bank of Poland issued a set of coins to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Paweł Edmund Strzelecki's birth.

Zdzisław Preisner, dr (FI'2006, Polish Chapter of The Explorers Club)

Cooperation: Edyta Preisner


Słabczyński W., „Paweł Edmund Strzelecki. Pisma wybrane”, Warszawa 1960.

Słabczyński W., „Polscy podróżnicy i odkrywcy”, Warszawa 1988.

Strzelecki P. E., „Nowa Południowa Walia”, Warszawa 1958.

Portrait of Strzelecki from the magazine "Kłosy", 1873.
Source: www.polona.pl
Monument to Paweł Edmund Strzelecki in Jindabyne by Jerzy Sobociński, unveiled in 1988.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Commemorative coin with the image of P. E. Strzelecki
Source: Narodowy Bank Polski, www.nbp.pl
Plaque in Dublin commemorating Strzelecki's activities in Ireland.
Source: Wikimedia Commons


The Polish Chapter of the Explorers Club
The headquarters:
69 Nowy Świat Street, Warsaw, klatka (stairs) B, pokoj (room)107

The correspondence:
Polish Chapter of the Explorers Club
Krakowskie Przedmieście 26/28
00-927 Warsaw Poland


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