Monday, March 2, 2009

Jan Karski statue

Georgetown University didn't open until noon today, because of snow, so I took advantage of the "liberal leave" policy also in effect and stayed home. My friend Cheryl cleaned off the car, so I'll be ready for tomorrow. I checked my e-mail just now and was distressed to learn that the statue of Jan Karski (1914-2000) on campus has been vandalized. This from the Office of Student Affairs to the members of the University community:

Today we were notified that the Copley Lawn statue of former professor Jan Karski was vandalized with paint. The statue remembers a scholar, teacher and human rights advocate who was part of our community for 40 years. As you may know, Professor Karski risked his life escaping communist Poland during World War II and went on to provide information to the Allied powers about the Holocaust. This statue symbolizes many of the values central to our community, including commitments to academic excellence, interreligious understanding and justice and human rights.

We write today to underscore that acts of vandalism and intolerance such as this have no place in our campus community and to encourage that anyone who may have information related to this incident please contact the Department of Public Safety at (202) 687-4343. While we do not know the motivation of the person or persons who painted the statue, nor whether or not they are members of the University community, we recognize the importance of statues and sacred spaces on campus and hope that all such symbols and places are appropriately respected.Despite today's inclement weather, the Office of Facilities Management has worked promptly to remove most of the paint and restore the statue to its proper state. As always, the chaplains of Campus Ministry are available to speak with any concerned persons.

Life-sized statues of Dr. Karski were installed at Georgetown University (in 2002) and at the Polish Embassy in New York City (in 2007). The identical sculptures depict him playing chess - he was an accomplished player and died at the age of 86 while playing a match against a young Polish diplomat. I have been meaning to blog about the statue for several weeks because I think it is a great way to commemorate a great man. I say Jan Karski's name aloud every time I pass by it.

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