Unknown Photography of Władysław Bartoszewski

Mateusz Szczepaniak / English translation: Andrew Rajcher, 6 September 2017
A few weeks ago, POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews received the scan of a photograph from Mr Michał Urzykowski. It came from his family’s archive and was of students at Warsaw’s Towarzystwo Wychowawczo-Oświatowe “Przyszłość” (The Humanist High School of the Roman Catholic “Future” Educational Society). To date, the existence of this photograph, from 17th March 1938, was unknown and probably shows a sixteen year old Władysław Bartoszewski.

The discovered photograph

The Towarzystwo Wychowawczo-Oświatowe “Przyszłość” High School (The Humanist High School of the Roman Catholic “Future” Educational Society) was located, before the war, at 17 Śniadeckich Street in Warsaw. This was the school where, in 1939, Władysław Bartoszewski matriculated.

“Stanisław Kulik, the grandfather of my wife, Katarzyna Kulik-Urzykowska, attended this school, We are attempting to construct a family history on the basis of shreds of information, since all the report cards were burned in the Warsaw ruins. We’re not sure if Władysław Bartoszewski appears in the photograph, so we’d like to have it confirmed. An important motivation for this is the huge respect we have always had for Mr Bartoszewski”, Michał Urzykowski wrote.

The discovered photograph has “17.III.1938” written on the back. It is probably Władysław Bartoszewski in the first row, first from the left. The hand on his left shoulder belongs to Stanisław Kulik. Comparing this photograph with others in POLIN Museum’s collection confirmed the speculations of Katarzyna Kulik-Urzykowska’s family – the photograph shows individuals close to Władysław Bartoszewski, who appear in many other photographs.

The photo identification. Władek Bartoszewski?

Howoever, doubt arises froma caption on a postwar copy – “Matriculation Class”. That information does not correspond with Bartoszewski’s life history, which states that he matriculated a year later. In all probability, this is an issue relating to school reforms which Bartoszewski describes in his book Życie trudne, lecz nie nudne (A Hard Life, But Never Boring):

“Eight-year high schools were replaced by four-year high schools which, upon completion, bestowed the so-called ‘mała matura’ (Small Matriculation). There were also two-year comprehensive senior high schools which were a little more specialised […] or three-year vocational schools. This reform was implemented year after year in a way such that, temporarily, both systems operated side-by-side in the same school. Still, after finishing year two of the eight-year high school, we went to the first year of the new type of high school. Older friends continued to study in each year of the eight-year high school and, in accordance with the old system, they matriculated”.

Through Marcin Barcz, Władysław Bartoszewski’s long-term assistant, we turned to Stefan Meissner regarding this matter. His brother, Jan, was in the same class as Bartoszewski. Eyesight problems prevented him from conclusively confirming the identities of the people in the photograph. However, he presumes that it is his brother who is in the second row on the photograph, third from the left, and that amongst the students is their teacher, Mr Szczypiorski.

“In all probability, no one is still alive. Only those in the photograph could explicitly identify the individuals. I still think that it is a valuable of photograph Władysław Bartoszewski’s matriculation class”, Marcin Barcz said.

We have added this valuable item, from the archive of Katarzyna Kulik-Urzykowska’s family, to Władysław Bartoszewski’s story on our website.

Michał Urzykowski added: “We’re glad that the photograph has been given a new life and that, in this way, we’ve been able to add a brick to your organisation’s project”.

» The story of Władysław Bartoszewski

Read the story of Righteous Among the Nations


School documents concerning Władyslaw Bartoszewski, found in 2018 by Marcin Barcz in the State Archives in Milanówek, and a postwar copy of Stanisław Kulik’s matriculation cerrtificate, confirm that they were students, at the same time, at the “Pryszłość” Towarzystwa Wychowawczo-Oświatowego Senior High School in the 1937/1938 school year. However, Stanisław Kulik matriculated one year earlier than Władysław Bartoszewski, i.e. in May 1938. It was therefore possible that they sat in the same classes and so were immoratalised in the same photograph.

We thank Marcin Barcz, a longtime assistant to Władysław Bartoszewski, for his help in confirming the identity of people appearing in the photograph. We also thank Michał Urzykowski and Katarzyna Kulik-Urzykowska for making this valuable piece of memorabilia available.

Watch the account from POLIN Museum’s collection