Sept. 1-7, 2000
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Courtesy of the Miller Center
Wojciech Roszkowski

Historian named to Polish studies chair

By Charlotte Crystal

Wojciech Roszkowski, formerly director of the Institute of Political Studies at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, has been named as the first professor to hold the Kosciuszko Chair in Polish Studies at the Miller Center of Public Affairs. While at the center, he will conduct studies on 20th-century Polish history, politics and democratic transformation.

The Kosciuszko Chair in Polish Studies was inaugurated at the Miller Center in October 1998, after completion of a $500,000 chair endowment campaign. At that time, Lech Walesa, former president of the Republic of Poland and chair of the honorary committee for the establishment of the chair, said, "We can work together only when we know each other. Lack of knowledge causes misunderstanding, prejudice and conflict. ... From the time of [Gen. Casimir] Pulaski and [Tadeusz] Kosciuszko, the contributions of Polish ethnic groups have been part of the American cultural heritage. I believe that the chair will keep this heritage alive." Pulaski and Kosciuszko both fought with the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War, and Kosciuszko was a friend of Thomas Jefferson.

The Kosciuszko chair is made possible with the sponsorship of the American Institute of Polish Culture, led by Lady Blanka A. Rosenstiel. For the greater part of a decade, Rosenstiel worked closely with Miller Center senior scholar Kenneth W. Thompson, then the center's director, to organize a series of conferences, forums and small group discussions at the Miller Center focusing on Poland and some of the challenges facing the country as it became a democracy.

"We came to realize the similarities and differences between Poland and other Western countries, particularly the United States. What became clear to all of us was that Poland has a rich tradition of constitutional government, history, culture and economic development," Thompson said.

Roszkowski also has been a professor of history at the Warsaw School of Economics. He has held research and teaching positions at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Georgetown University and the University of Maryland. His books include Half a Century: World Political History After 1945 and Land Reforms in Central Europe after World War I. He contributes often to programs on Radio Free Europe, Voice of America and the BBC.


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