Maria and Łukasz Hirszowicz Awards

Award given for activity and work devoted to the Jewish subject matter in Poland.

Wide pawelspiewak
Director JHI prof. dr hab. Paweł Śpiewak

For many years, at the Jewish Historical Institute Maria and Łukasz Hirszowicz Awards had been handed out. The last one was given in 2009. It is high time that after long break we resumed this tradition.

We are pleased to announce that on the initiative of Professor Jerzy Jedlicki and Director of the JHI Paweł Śpiewak, on 24th April, 2014 took place a meeting of the jury awarding this prize.

In 2001, Maria Hirszowicz, a Professor of Sociology, in exile in Great Britain funded the Award given for activity and work devoted to the Jewish subject matter in Poland. The prize was to be named after her deceased husband, Łukasz Hirszowicz. Maria Hirszowicz entrusted the then Director of the JHI Professor Feliks Tych with the Prize Fund. Then, he appointed a jury comprised of Alina Brodzka-Wald, Jerzy Jedlicki, Jerzy Tomaszewski and chaired by him.

In the years 2002–2006 the Łukasz Hirszowicz Award was given to:

  •  Michał Nekanda-Trepka for a documentary Ostatni świadek (Last witness)
  • Team of the „Grodzka Gate – NN Theatre” Centre for a unique contribution to the work commemorating the Jewish historical presence in Lublin
  • Daniel Kac for his literary outputin the Yiddish language
  • Barbara Engelking-Boni for founding Polish Centre for Holocaust Research at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences
  •  Bogdan Białek for commemorating in Kielce the 1946 pogrom

Maria Hirszowicz died in Paris in 2007. The activity of giving the award was temporarily suspended. Currently, the Jewish Historical Institute is resuming the Maria and Łukasz Hirszowicz Award for academic, artistic or educational achievements in the field of research or popularization of the history of Jewish historical presence in Poland and Polish-Jewish relations. The award will be given once a year by the jury comprised of: Bogdan Białek (Kielce), Grażyna Borkowska (Warsaw), Barbara Engelking (Warsaw), Jerzy Jedlicki (Warsaw), Elżbieta Neyman (Paris), Jerzy Tomaszewski (Warsaw). 

Łukasz („Gidon”) Hirszowicz, born in Grodno in 1920, just before the war left for Jerusalem to study at the Hebrew University. He studied Physics, History and the Arabic language. In 1948 he returned to Poland. First, he worked at the Polish Institute of International Affairs, Szkoła Główna Służby Zagranicznej (the Main School of Foreign Service) and from 1954 at the Institute of History PAN, where he gained a doctorate and habilitated. He specialized in contemporary history of Iran and Arabic countries. His most famous book was Trzecia Rzesza i arabski Wschód (The Third Reich and Arabic East) (Warsaw 1963). He was very erudite and a polyglot. He endeared himself to a group of loyal friends with his knowledge, humor, helpfulness and character.

Maria Bielińska-Hirszowicz, Łukasz’s wife, associate professor of sociology at the University of Warsaw, in 1968 was fired from the university along with Leszek Kołakowski, Bronisław Baczka, Zygmunt Bauman and other opposition academics. One year later, Mr and Mrs Hirszowicz left Poland.

At the beginning, Łukasz was offered a scholarship at St. Antony’s College in Oxford. Then, he took up research work and lectures at London School of Economics and Political Science. In 1972, he became the editor in chief of London quarterly „Soviet Jewish Affairs” and did this job for 20 years, turning this magazine (in 1991 renamed „East European Jewish Affairs”) into an acknowledged source of information and opinion among academic and political circles. He died in London in 1993.

Before leaving Poland, Maria’s works included: Konfrontacje socjologiczne (Sociological confrontation) (1964), Wstęp do socjologii organizacji (Introduction to the sociology of organizations) (1967). In Great Britain she taught Sociology at the University in Reading. She published The Bureaucratic Leviathan (1980), Coercion and Control in Communist Society (1986) and other works, and in Poland, thanks to regained independence, she could publish Pułapki zaangażowania: intelektualiści w służbie komunizmu (Traps of engagement: intellectuals in the service of communism) (Wydawnictwo Naukowe SCHOLAR, Warsaw 2001). In this book she made, quoting, „an attempt to reread my own ideological biography.”

Mr and Mrs Hirszowicz’s house in London was in the 1980s and 90s a haven for their friends coming from Poland and associated with democratic opposition. Inter alia, Jan Józef Lipski, Alina Brodzka, Jerzy Jedlicki imposed on their hospitality for many weeks.

The only son and heir of Maria and Łukasz, Paweł Hirszowicz, lives in London.

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