Professor Janusz Kurtyka The Foundation’s Patron Janusz Kurtyka was born on August 13, 1960 in Kraków, Poland. He was a historian specializing in the Middle Ages and contemporary history. His interest in medieval studies was primarily concerned with genealogy, social elites, power structures and border regions.
In contemporary history, his work focused especially on the problems facing the anti-Communist opposition movement. In the 1980s he became involved in anti-Communist activities in Poland, particularly in the activities of the independent students’ union known as the NZS (Niezależne Zrzeszenie Studentów). Professor Kurtyka delivered lectures for the Underground Jagiellonian University, the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński Christian Workers’ University at Mistrzejowice, the State Higher Vocational School (State Higher School of Eastern Europe) at Przemyśl, and the Ignatianum Jesuit University of Philosophy and Education, Kraków. He was an associate of the Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Kraków branch of the Institute of National Remembrance. In 2005-2010 he was President of the Institute of National Remembrance and served in this offi ce until his death.
Professor Kurtyka helped to launch research on the history of the anti-Communist resistance movement in Poland after the Second World War. He was committed to the campaign to establish March 1 (the anniversary of the murder of activists of the Fourth Central Board of the Freedom and Independence in 1951) as the National Day of Remembrance for the Indomitable Soldiers. He cooperated with President Lech Kaczyński in drafting the bill for the establishment of this national day of remembrance. The choice of the date was his original idea, and he was one of the pioneers of the campaign in 2009. These endeavors were successful, and the Parliament of the Republic of Poland passed the bill in 2011. Professor Kurtyka also initiated the work of the Investigative Division of the Institute for the accountability of the Communist perpetrators for their crimes. He advocated the de-communization process of public space (streets, squares, monuments), and bringing to light the names of public fi gures who had cooperated with the Communist secret police and denounced other people.
He received several national decorations: the Commander’s Cross and Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta (2009), the Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta (2010, posthumously), the Custodian of National Memory Award (2010, posthumously), the Cross of Freedom and Solidarity (2015, posthumously) and the Ukrainian Order of Merit (2007). He died on April 10, 2010 in the Smolensk plane crash in Russia, in which the Polish government aircraft carrying the Polish delegation to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Katyn Massacre crashed, killing all on board. The incident occurred right next to the site of the Massacre, the destination to which the passengers were fl ying to pay tribute to the victims of Katyn.