Ryszard Kapuscinski: A Worlds Reporter

Autor:David Dastych
Źródło:Canada Free Press

„Why am I a writer? Why have I risked my life so many times, come so
close to dying? Is it to report the weirdness? To earn my salary? Mine
is not a vocation, it’s a mission. I wouldn’t subject myself to these
dangers if I didn’t feel that there was something overwhelmingly
important–about history, about ourselves–that I felt compelled to get
across. This is more than journalism.”

–Ryszard Kapuscinski interview by Bill Bufford („Granta Magazine”).

 Rick, why did you have to die yesterday, only 74, while Augusto
Pinochet could die at 91? Do you know he died on December 10, 2006: on
Human Rights Day? We don’t miss him at all, but we all shall miss you.
Your loving wife, Alina, who was so kind and wrote letters to me in
prison in the 1980s, your daughter (whom I never met)–she lives in
Canada, hundreds of your friends, of whom I am a humble friend of yours
and an admirer of your unique personality and of your books for 45
years, since your first collection of journalist reports with a very
strange title „Busz po polsku” (The bush, Poland’s style) published
in  1962, when I was in America. But, first of all, poor people in
the whole world, in Africa, Latin America and Asia, people of all human
races will miss you, as you were their best advocate, who took them out
of the negligence and oblivion, the man, who told the 20 percent of the
world’s well-to-do nations that there was still 80 percent of the poor,
sometimes sick and hungry human beings to be considered and helped.
Yes–humans, not just statistical 'units’.

Do you remember how we were discussing about China, twenty years ago
(now you remember all, in heaven!)?. Then I told you about my strange
encounter with a million of poor, badly smelling and all dressed in grey
dungarees young Chinese, shouting in support of Mao Zedong in the
Tiananmen Square in Beijing, and about hundreds of corpses scattered in
Wuhan after a military charge. In 1967, China was a 'chaos under Heaven’
and in 1986, when we were talking, it was emerging from poverty and
dictatorship to be hit again by a massacre of students and passers-by in
the same huge Beijing square on June 4, 1989. At that time I was still
in a communist prison, but already happy and rejoicing the victory of
Solidarity in the first Polish half-free elections held on the same day.
Twenty years ago, you told me that China would become one of the
leading world powers. And there it is.

Rick, you have told a Polish reporter (I don’t recall when): „My main
ambition is to show Europeans that our mentality is highly Euro-centric,
and that Europe, or rather part of it, is not unique in the world, but
that it is surrounded by an immense, ever increasing diversity of
cultures, societies, religions and civilizations. Life on this planet,
where there are more and more interconnections, demands awareness of
this fact and adjustment to radically new global conditions.” And on
some other occasion you said: „I write from on the move. I am not an
inventor. I don’t describe any imagined or purely personal world. I
describe the world that really exists.”

This world, you described for almost 50 years, was not a safe place.
Our journalist colleagues and also your friend, well known to
me–Professor Wiktor Osiatynski – remembered in a TV chat yesterday that
you had witnessed 27 revolutions in many parts of the world, and you
had personally reported on 12 wars. I also know, from you, that four
times you were captured and walked to death. Polish Radio remembered
your description of how a person feels being brought to be shot. You
told how one’s body becomes 'detached’ and 'impersonal’, like a piece of
wood. Did I tell you how some mafia thugs wanted to shoot me in the
woods, in the early 1990s? I went with them (there was no choice but to
obey them) and I thought of my whole life, I was calm and stiff, I
couldn’t speak and my reactions were like in a dream. You have known
this, haven’t you?

But there are things that survive beyond the human life. Your books and
other writings, recordings of your voice and face in lectures and
interviews, also your thoughts, which are body-less but circulate freely
among people. You once said: „any kind of creative work requires
concentration and solitude. People who write poetry [and you did that
too, Rick] or paint pictures [you preferred to take photos] do it alone.
And if that’s how we understand getting to know the world, then while
traveling you also have to be alone.” „Who goes with you on your
journeys”–somebody asked. „My thoughts and no one else”–you answered.

Rick, the good thoughts and remembrances of all of us will accompany
you on your last journey. Mine and Sophie’s, too. So leave this Earth in
peace, leaving to us your noble thoughts, perfect writings and noble
deeds. Excuse me, if I wouldn’t come to your funeral. You know I broke
my back twelve years ago and hardly can walk. Other friends will throw
lumps of dirt into your open grave, in my name. But when the sun will
melt snow, I shall go to this lovely graveyard and I shall put flowers
and little stones on the place of your rest. Adios, Rick!