In memoriam: Józef Kwaterko (1950-2023)

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Following our “In Memoriam to Józef Kwaterko,” we received from our colleague and friend, Peter Klaus, professor emeritus of the Free University of Berlin (Freie Universität Berlin), an email thanking us for this tribute accompanied by a moving commentary on the life and work of Professor Kwaterko that we publish below. JJ 

Peter Klaus 

An excellent friend, a tireless researcher and a great specialist in Francophone studies, mainly Quebec and Haitian, left us suddenly.

Józef Kwaterko had more than one arrow to his bow and he still had many projects, including with Haiti, which had become one of his fields of work in recent years. 

Another striking feature: both his doctoral thesis and his habilitation thesis relate to Quebec literature, and the two books were published in French in Quebec by Nota bene publisher. The two publications already carry within them the seeds of his concerns as a researcher and teacher: the theory of discourse and the hybridity of French-language texts, especially in Quebec literature. He will have been a very attentive observer of the evolution of Quebec letters and their “internationalization” over the years, having worked a lot on the so-called “migrant writings”. He was thus able to contribute subsequently to directing the work of many doctoral students and other researchers towards this area of specialization.

For him, Quebec will have been a land of welcome (in the literal sense of the word), where he made many friends, and a living laboratory, he who knew how to create networks and make them grow.

When we scan the Mélanges offerts à Józef Kwaterko, published in 2020 under the title Déchiffrer l’Amérique (Deciphering America), we develop an idea of the universe in which Józef Kwaterko evolved. His countless publications, his teaching activities in Poland and abroad (especially in France and Quebec), the master’s and doctoral theses he had directed: a vast field.

Over the years he has woven an impressive network of researchers, colleagues and friends across borders and he has contributed to the Association des études francophones d’Europe Centre-Orientale (AEFECO), founded in 1992 in Pècs (Hungary) was able to take root both in Poland and elsewhere, as well as the AEEF (Association Européenne d’Études Francophes — European Association for Francophone Studies) which took over in 2002. 

Józef was very proud and he was absolutely right when he mentioned the fact of having succeeded in obtaining scholarships intended for students from Haiti who subsequently came to study Poland. It was his way of showing himself to be indebted to a country in distress after the 2010 earthquake, a country which in 2004 obtained its independence thanks also to the few hundred Polish soldiers of the French army who changed sides and are subsequently settled in Haiti.

Józef the friend will have been for many of us someone demanding and generous at the same time. The author of these lines knows what he is talking about having known Józef since 1990.

Józef, very endearing as a person, very rigorous as a teacher and researcher, will have left indelible traces of his passage.

Having hosted him several times in Berlin, where he was able to refine his habilitation thesis thanks to a grant obtained by the Freie Universität and its Institute of North American Studies, our discussions also focused on Poland-Germany relations, the Nazi era and the Shoa. Welcomed in Warsaw by Józef, he planned a visit to the Yiddish theater in Warsaw as well as a stroll through the places evoking the annihilation of the Jews of Poland, he the Jew welcoming a German. Moving!

Rest in peace, dear Józef!

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