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Janusz Kazimierz ZAWODNY

Born on December 11, 1921 in Warsaw, Professor Janusz Zawodny enjoyed a long and successful life. After the Second World War, General Bór-Komorowski decorated him with the Virtuti Militari War Order for his heroism during the Warsaw Uprising. Later, he was also honored with numerous other awards and orders for his activities during and after the war. In 2003 he was elected Custodian of National Remembrance by the Institute of National Remembrance in Warsaw. In 2007 he was promoted to colonel of the Polish army.

His publications are a significant contribution to the historiography of Katyn and the Warsaw Uprising. It is difficult to overestimate the importance of Professor Zawodny as a historian. He wrote hundreds of articles about Katyn and the Uprising, and in his famous book “Death in the Forest”.

Although an interest in the history of his home country was the driving force of his life, Professor Zawodny gained international respect for his aqccademic work on international relations with the publication of Man and International Relations: Contributions of the Social Sciences to the Study of Conflict and Integration in 1967. After this publication, Professor Zawodny received an honorary academic title from Oxford University in 1968 (the second in his career). He was also elected to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and in the years 1978-1985, he was a consultant to the US National Security Council.

Janusz Zawodny emigrated from Great Britain to the United States in 1948. He studied at the University of Iowa, where he received his bachelor's degree and then his master's degree in political science. In 1955, he received his PhD in political science from Stanford University. His first academic publication was a master's thesis on the mass murder of Polish prisoners of war, army, and police officers in 1940 in Katyn, on the orders of the Soviet Politburo. However, he could not title the work as he intended because of the pro-Soviet climate that prevailed in 1951 in the USA. Zawodny's promoter was sympathetic to the empirical truth presented in this work, so despite the pro-Soviet attitude in academic circles at the time, he published Zawodny's work anyway, giving it a new and deliberately deceptive title: Polish Security Strategy Between the Wars, while the original title was The Responsibility for the Katyn Forest Massacre.

In addition to Polish and English, Professor Zawodny also knew Russian and Italian. He taught political science at Princeton University, Stanford University, and San Francisco State University.

As a child he lived in a poor part of Warsaw, adjacent to the Jewish quarter, where Polish and Jewish boys bartered ham sandwiches for stuffed fish. Later, during the German occupation, his mother was beaten senseless by a Latvian sentry SS for throwing bread over the ghetto wall. Fighting in the underground in the years 1940-1944 in the rank of lieutenant, Zawodny was nicknamed Miś. He was a courier and studied in clandestine classes.

During the Warsaw Uprising he fought in the Old Town. At one point, his unit captured several German soldiers. His colleagues wanted to shoot the Germans on the spot, but Janusz did not agree to such barbarism. He wanted to maintain integrity and honesty, even when the other side did not. Long after the war, one of these German soldiers managed to find out who the young lieutenant who had saved him was and thanked him for saving his life.


In 1971, the BBC broadcast a documentary about Katyn, “The Issue Should be Avoided”, drawing heavily on the book “Death in the Forest”. The Soviet government tried, through its embassy, ​​to prevent the film from being broadcast, but failed. However, they did manage to put pressure on the Foreign Office, preventing the construction of a memorial to Katyn in Kensington (five years later it was erected away from central London, at Gunnersbury Cemetery).

Professor Janusz Kazimierz Zawodny died on 8 April 2012, in Brush Prairie, Washington, at the age of ninety.

Original Polish text written by

Wacław Godziemba-Maliszewski

Copyright:Zawodny family

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