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Janusz Korczak and UBC Faculty of Education

A few days ago while walking along the hallway of the UBC Faculty of Education I noticed a very special exhibit.  The exhibit drew my attention right away – a number of black and white photos featured children with a kind looking man standing beside them. The man was hugging the children as if he was protecting them… It was clear that the pictures were taken sometimes before or during WWII… Growing up in a Jewish family where the stories of WWII were not just stories of the past in a far away land, but the stories of my grandparents and their families, I have a special sensitivity to this kind of an exhibit. I had to come closer… The exhibit drew me like a magnet. And then I noticed the name of Janusz Korczack. While this man might not be well known here in Canada, I have heard about him since I was very little.  He was a Polish Jewish children’s writer, a doctor, an educator and a Human being with an “H” for a big heart and an endless courage and dedication to his children. Korczack (Henryk Goldszmit) was born on July 22, 1878 in Warsaw and he perished with his children (Jewish children he was taking care of in the orphanage in Warsaw before and ruing the war) in Treblinka in August of 1942.

I remember Korczack as the author of popular children’s books (that dealt with some difficult issues), such as King Matt the First, but I didn’t realize that behind this story is an educator who dedicated his life to children. It is not often that we hear here about Eastern European educators, especially people who had the courage to help children during such an incredibly difficult time… Then I found out (unfortunately I did it too late), that the Polish Consulate and Janusz Korczack Association of Canada have organized a conference in honour of Korczack and they dedicated a beautiful bas-relief of Korczack that will be permanently placed in the foyer of our Faculty. What a perfect location for it – as if Korczack will be watching over our students – reminding them why they decided to become educators. I am very grateful to the people who have made it happen – the Janusz Korczack Association of Canada. I also found out later that some of them are my friends and neighbours… I will tell my students a story about this amazing human being… Dziekuje bardzo for this amazing gift to our Faculty and to UBC.

Janusz Korczack.

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