Letter from Jan Karsi to Zosia Kossak-Szczucka

New York, September 5, 1945

Dear Mrs. Kossak-Szczucka,

I learned yesterday from Ms. Kister that you are in London therefore I hurry to write this letter…

As you remember, I left Poland at the end of 1942. I worked a lot abroad—while I was in England and during my two visits to the United States. I was not allowed to return to Poland, because I was told I would be able to do more abroad. This was very painful for me, more so because I exerted myself for the cause. My work was mostly positive and its purpose was to inform Poles and the world about the Polish Resistance. I gather that in London you will be able to easily find about the scope and extent of my work.

I have tried to keep in touch with our homeland and my friends from work…I have sent packages from three countries to 19 people in Poland; I have sent money (A total of $2,100—two thousand one hundred dollars of my own money). At some point, I sent $150 to FOP [Front for the Rebirth of Poland], then $230, and then I begged for and received $20,000 (twenty thousand) from the late General Sikorski as a subvention.

All this time, I have been organizing my life, my work and political undertakings so that I could return to Poland. I was always thinking of you and of Renia. To me, you have always personified everything that is most valuable in Poland and in the Polish nation.

Unfortunately, circumstances have worked against us. Then I came to understand the essence of Mikołajczyk’s policy of necessity and I supported this policy. Then again, conditions were unfavorable. Because of the circumstances of Mikołajczyk’s return to Poland, because of the state of affairs abroad and because of the news from Poland, a few months ago it turned out that we chose the path of emigration, and it looks like it’s going to be a long emigration. This is against my intentions and against my instincts.

A few months ago I received intelligence through Mr. Jerzy Lerski that you and people close to you do not want me to return to Poland. This has triggered my decision.

I cannot live without a plan, without an opportunity to take action, or to live in a fantasy world. Maybe this is a fault of mine—thanks to this trait, however, I can always act with some useful outcome.

I realized that by my decision to stay abroad, I have cut off a possibility of my return for quite a long time. I know that it will be difficult for regular citizens to leave Poland—at least in the near future. The image of Renia as my future wife, whom I have not seen for almost three years, whom I did not hope to see in future and whom I had known for only few months, has blurred in my heart. I met a woman here with whom I am deeply emotionally involved, and who has all my affection and who loves me. I decided to marry her and our wedding took place two weeks ago.*

I have sent messages through all possible channels to Renia, to my family and to you so that you all know about it. I don’t know if my messages have reached you. Please help me get in touch with my close ones, please let me know how they are or pass this message further through your channels.

I would like to do everything I can (I have and will have the necessary means) to help my family and friends in Poland, and to help Renia and her family.

All my thoughts are with Poland and my all efforts will be directed towards helping Poles. I know that in my circumstances will be able to help Poles more and more. Since I cannot work in Poland professionally nor politically, I will be organizing financial assistance on this continent on a large scale (and I have faith that it will be successful) for all the people whom fate has expelled from Poland.

I do not want to go into detail because I don’t know if you disapprove of me and I don’t know if you want me to think of you as I have always thought, or if you want me to keep in touch.

This is the personal message I wanted to deliver.

Please respond to this address: 27 West 86th Street, New York, NY—Mr. J. Karski

This is all. I have to tell you that I was ecstatic when I learned that you had survived, that I think of you as the greatest person I have met in my life, and I fear your disapproval of me. I wish I could be near you to help you. I long for the news from Poland so badly.

Jan Karski

Source: Archives of Zofia Kossak Museum in Górki Wielkie

* It was the daughter of the Ambassador of Venezuela. The marriage lasted only for two years.

Interview with Jan Karski by Krzysztof Masłoń, December of 1999 (excerpts)

Putting all your missions during the war aside, you must have had some sort of political inclinations. Who did you identify with?

The only thing I had in my heart was hatred—towards Germans and Bolsheviks, that is, to those who were doing harm to my nation. I think I was a sick man at that time. I was driven only by hatred and by the desire to hurt and damage.

The power of your feelings can be seen in your memoirs from the POW camp in Radom. When West Germany became America’s ally, didn’t you feel— strange, if you will?

This was in fact the most important reason why I did not campaign for a new editions of [my book] Story of a Secret State. In the United States, Eisenhower became president, in [West] Germany Adenauer became Chancellor and [West] Germany joined the NATO. I decided that publication of this book would be destructive. I was teaching at Georgetown University and for nineteen years I had collaborated with the Pentagon in the psychological war between the West and the East. I realized then and still think that Germany is the enclave of stability in Europe. My book is indeed in its core anti-German! But what can I say? It was me at that time and there is no reason to hide it today.

Rzeczpospolita, Warsaw, July 15–16, 2000, No. 164

Excerpts from Maciej Wierzyński’s interview with Jan Karski (born Jan Kozielewski)

Another mission

The Poles faced with the Yalta Agreement

Why did Karski stay in the United States?

Karski’s Affair with the United States

Historical myths and the challenges of the future

This interview is the basis of a book, “Emisariusz. Własnymi słowami” (The Emissary. In His Own Words), Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN (2012).

National honors:
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom (U.S.A), 2012
  • Order of the White Eagle (Poland), 1995
  • Righteous Among the Nations (Israel), 1994
  • Home Army Cross (Polish government–in-exile), 1970
  • Silver Cross of Virtuti Militari Order (Polish government–in-exile), 1943
  • Honorary citizenship: Israel, 1994

Other honors:

  • UNA of U.S.A Citation of Outstanding Public Service, 1996
  • Nagroda im. Św. Brata Alberta Adama Chmielowskiego [St. Brother Adam Chmielowski Award], 1996
  • Eisenhower Liberation Medal, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, 1991
  • Pius XI Award, Anti Defamation League, 1990
  • Wallenberg Medal, University of Michigan, 1991

These institutions, organizations and cities honored Jan Karski:

  • United States Congress (during the common session of both Houses)
  • Massachusetts State House
  • New York State Assembly
  • Lodz, Poland
  • City Council of Flint, Michigan
  • San Francisco, California
  • Memphis, Tennessee
  • New Britain, Connecticut
  • Scranton, Pennsylvania
  • Lackawanna Jewish Federation
  • Holocaust Memorial Committee, Brooklyn, NY
  • Baron Hirsch Congregation and The Holocaust Memorial Congregation in Memphis
  • Jewish Community Center of San Francisco
  • American Council for Polish Culture in Washington D.C.
  • Institute of Polish Culture, Pinellas Park, Florida

Honorary degrees:

  • Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, 1999
  • University of Lodz, 1998
  • Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, 1995
  • University of Warsaw, 1991
  • Oregon State University, 1990
  • Baltimore Hebrew College, 1986
  • Georgetown University, 1983