Jan Nowak-Jezioranski Dies

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Friday, January 21, 2005

Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, a Polish writer, journalist, legendary resistance fighter and an envoy between the commanders of the Home Army and the Polish government in exile, nicknamed Courier from Warsaw, the head of the Polish section of Radio Free Europe for a quarter of a century and an advisor to the US presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter died Thursday evening, January 20 in a hospital in his native Warsaw, Poland.

Jan Nowak-Jeziorański fought in the Polish Army during the Polish September Campaign in 1939 as an artillery NCO. He was taken prisoner of war by the Germans in Volhynia but managed to escape and returned to Warsaw. He quickly joined the Polish resistance and in 1940 became the main organiser of the Akcja N, a secret organisation preparing German-language newspapers and other propaganda material pretending to be official German publications, in order to wage psychological warfare against German troops.

He also served as an envoy between the commanders of the Home Army and the Polish government in exile and other allied governments. During one of such missions in July 1944, he arrived in Warsaw only a few days before the Warsaw Uprising broke out. During the Uprising he took an active part in the fights against the Germans and also organised the Polish radio that maintained contact with the Allied countries through daily broadcasts in Polish and English. Shortly before the capitulation of the Polish capital, he was ordered by the Polish commander-in-chief Tadeusz Bór-Komorowski to leave the city and find his way to London. He managed to evade being captured and reached Great Britain, bringing with him large quantities of documents and photos. For his bravery and his travels through the German-occupied Europe he was awarded with the Virtuti Militari, the highest Polish military medal. He also gained a nick-name Courier from Warsaw (Kurier z Warszawy), which he later used as a title of his memoirs.

After the war, Jan Nowak-Jeziorański stayed in the West, initially in London and then in Munich and Washington. Between 1948 and 1976 he was one of the most notable personalities of the Polish division of the BBC radio agency. In 1952 he also became the head of the Polish section of the Munich-based Radio Free Europe. Through his daily radio broadcasts he remained one of the most popular radio personalities, both in communist-held Poland and among the Polish diaspora in the West. After giving up his posts in 1976, he became one of the most prominent members of the Polish American Congress and headed the organisation between 1979 and 1996. He also worked as an advisor to the American National Security Agency. Through his contacts with many notable politicians in the USA, he was one of the proponents of Poland's membership in NATO (achieved in 1999).

In the 1990s, he started his cooperation with the Polish Radio and wrote a series of broadcasts titled "Polska z oddali" (Poland from Distance). Since 1990 he was also present in the Polish Television as an author of monthly programmes. In July 2002 he returned to Warsaw for good. He was an active supporter of Poland's entry into the European Union. Most of his books, published abroad as well as those published in Poland after 1989, were best-sellers and gained him even more popularity.

For his writings, he was awarded with some of the most prestigious Polish literary awards, including the Kisiel Award (1999), Ksawery Pruszyński Memorial Prize of the Polish Pen-Club (2001) and the Superwiktor award for tv personalities. In 2003 he was also awarded with the Człowiek Pojednania prize by the Polish Council of Christians and Jews for his part in the Polish-Jewish dialogue. Finally, he was made the doctor honoris causa of many Polish universities, including the Warsaw University, Jagiellonian University and his alma mater, the University in Poznań.

He died in Warsaw at the age of 91 on the evening of Thursday, 20 January 2005. He subscribed all of his archives to the Ossolineum Institute. In the reports of his death all major Polish daily newspapers referred to him as the Polish hero and one of the last moral authorities.