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Once imprisoned, now free

Pavel Pustelnik

March 19, 2013 | 7:47 am

The poetry of Naftali Herz Kon was finally released from the imprisonment of the Polish Archives.

In January this year I was exploring complicated happenings around the poetry of Naftali Herz Kon. The poet was accused of espionage and all his archives were confiscated in the early 1960s (Read more here). A battle between the courts and Kon’s daughters Ina Lancman and Vita Serf took years. When it was finally decided that the State Archive should return the property to the inheritors, procedural issues aroused.

Today, finally the poems are free. - First we got through all the formalities. The Director of the Archives read aloud the operative part of the judgment, which put the Archives under an obligation to return the literary estate. It was an extremely emotional moment. The daughters cried and I was on the brink too as the emotions got to me after such a prolonged battle – says prof. Tomasz Koncewicz, who was working on Kon’s issue. Indeed, it was a long battle set in the realities of slow Polish courts, which seemed to miss the whole point and did not understand who absurd the whole situation was. - It is hard to believe but to get the literary estate back to their rightful owners I have written more than 1000 pages of interventions, pleadings, statements… You name it! – says Koncewicz, passionate about the problem.

When we met with prof. Koncewicz in January this year he was sure that one day the poetry would be returned. Even though, we started to plan a poetry evening consisting of a broad historic background of the story, readings of the poems both those then available and those that would be “set free”. There was hope in his voice, but nobody could be sure when the issue will be solved. – During the commemorative evening with the poetry of Kon on 7th of March at the Center of Rabi Schorr in Warsaw I even quipped that that all this would make up decent novel “Lost in the Archives”. – prof. Koncewicz says today. – I make fun of all this now but I will never forget that 6 months ago the mood was much more somber and I was desperate – he adds.

It was not easy to predict what is hidden in the boxes imprisoned in the Archives. Everyone was expecting poems, but as we see now, there is much more. - There is some amazing content hidden in the Kon’s papers. Apart from the priceless poetry, there are intimate letters, notes and photographs. One document, which is most symbolic, is the original of the Kon's release order from gulag in the fifties! – says prof. Koncewicz who had a chance to assist in receiving the documents.

- All in all it was a wonderful and fulfilling day for all of us. The case is a powerful proof that justice and dignity stand for something after all – Koncewicz sums up.

Now the documents need to be ordered with great care. They were kept in the Archives for over 50 years. When Koncewicz first saw the files in 2010 they were covered with dust. It was obvious that nobody was touching them, perhaps the lawyer was the first one since the 1960’. Lancman and Serf are planning to translate the documents to English and Polish.

All photographs related to this text courtesy of TT Koncewicz.

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Jews visiting Central & Eastern Europe frequently come with stereotypes and prejudices about the region.  In particular, group heritage and education tours for young Jews...

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