Wednesday, September 30, 2009
"Dare to dream... something will always come of it." - Janusz Korczak
I'm supposed to pick a quote I can use as a personal motto, so that's mine. Korczak is also one of the most inspiring people I know of.
I first discovered him when I was a kid and read his novel "King Matt the First". In it instead of the traditional photo of the author, there's this:
When I was the little boy you see in the photograph, I wanted to do all the things that are in this book. But I forgot to, and now I'm old. I no longer have the time or the strength to go to war or travel to the land of the cannibals. I have included this photograph because it's important what I looked like when I truly wanted to be a king, and not when I was writing about King Matt. I think it's better to show pictures of what kings, travelers, and writers looked like before they grew up, or grew old, because otherwise it might seem that they knew everything from the start and were never young themselves. And then children will think they can't be statesmen, travelers, and writers, which wouldn't be true.
That was when I first fell in love with Janusz Korczak. But there are so many other reasons to love Korczak. He was a pediatrician who ran orphanages and worked tirelessly for children's rights. He wrote books such as "How to Love a Child" and "The Child's Right to Respect". His care for his children led him to refuse to be separated from them when the orphanage was moved to the ghetto, and he even stayed with them when they were transported to the concentration camps in Treblinka to be killed, even though he knew going with them meant his own death in the gas chambers.
Learning more about him when I was younger let me know that there were adults who continued to stick to their principles and work for the benefit of others despite extreme consequences. I was a fairly cynical teenager, and without Korczak as an example I might have never believed that someone like him could exist. I can still be a fairly cynical adult, so sometimes it helps to be reminded once again.
There's of course a Wikipedia entry about him at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ja
and there's another decent page about him at korczak.com/korczak/bio-