• Faithful to my Homeland, the Republic of Poland



  • Antoni Ostrasz (1929 - 1996) - remembrance on the 10th anniversary of death

               Antoni Ostrasz who died in Amman at midnight on October 9 was respected and loved representative of archeologist's community in Jordan and Middle East. He spent most of his professional activity in the Arab World, working in Egypt, Syria, Sudan and Jordan. The last 14 years of his life he devoted for excavations and archeological studies in Jerash.

               Author of the article remembering activity of Antoni Ostrasz in Jordan - Rami G. Khouri mentions first meeting with  polish archeologist in Jerash in 1982. Antoni Ostrasz had just arrived from Poland to work with Michael Gawlikowski on polish excavations. Then near the hippodrome and Hadrian's Arch were uncovered quarter of the ancient Umayyad's city and Church of Bishop Marianos from the Byzantine era.

    Soon Antoni met and married Ina Kehrberg, an archeologist who was working then with the Australian mission in Jerash. After a few years they would have their only son - Mark.

    Antoni's life and work were special combination of professionalism, diligence, personal grace and deep readiness to realization his passion, and the results speak for themselves. Antoni was great example how to fulfill job and give the highest quality effects.

    Foreign archeologists during their work in Jordan often find here minor frustrations. Antoni never allowed adversities delay his job or get him down. His philosophy was always: do the best you could with the tools which are available for you.

    Maybe it was consequence of his long term practice in Poland and the Arab World, where working conditions are not always easy as would have expected. Perhaps it was reasoned also his mature and responsibility. He was decent person and thought that setting a good personal example is the right way for deserving perform at the society.

                His colleagues from work and others, who were not inside the archeologist community will always remember his meticulous nature of his scholarship and kindness or readiness to share time and opinion. Even if he was working and somebody visited him without a prior appointment, he always found time for giving guided tour on the hippodrome at Jerash or the Ayyubid Tower on the Citadel of Amman.

    Author of the article remembers August 1996, as a last moment, when he met Antoni Ostrasz. Khouri visited then Citadel in Amman with his two sons and his sister, who was also with her three children. Antoni as usual welcomed their with great happiness and enthusiasm. "Knowing that the youngsters with us - Khouri writes - were not deeply into Medieval Arab architectural history, Antoni gave us the kid's version of the history and restoration of the Ayyubid Tower." He also briefly presented very interesting explanation of stone mansory.

    "I most appreciated his personal and scholarly diligence - says on Khouri - the day I went to visit him at the hippodrome in Jerash (...) in late autumn 1995. We had set up the appointment previously. When we had set down for a chat early that morning on two of the huge stone blocks that he was using to reconstruct the hippodrome, he pulled out sheet of paper from his notes and almost apologetically gave it to me. It was a page of handwritten notes, that he prepared for me the night before, entitled "Joradn Times/Rami Khouri, possible points of interests." Under three sections labeled A. History, B. Special Points, C. General, he has jotted down key facts that he new would be useful for the article that I would later write for the Jordan Times. At the bottom of the sheet, he had added a small biography.

    In the 16 years that I have been writing about the archeology of Jordan, this was the only time that a scholar I interviewed went to the trouble of preparing notes for me. When Antoni passed away I thought back on that episode, I realized that he had not only prepared the notes to make my job easier. He had prepared them out of his instinctive commitment to scholarly excellence and from his natural inclination to engage the world with precision and clarity."

                An important aspect of his character, which helped him to achieve so much in 14 years in Jordan was his ability to manage good relations at work.

    His aim was always accept scholar and professional tasks. He didn't allow the weakness of other people to hamper him or themselves realize work. If his colleagues were lazy, jealous, less motivated or less knowledgeable than him, he used his many years experience in the Arab World to find the way for building good relations and giving them more motivation to make the job more effective. It was the same at the professional or personal relations.

    He greatly understood importance of personal relations and creating trust and respect. He gave him and others time to achieve this. He knew that his patience finally will find the solution for the both sides. "Even in cases, which might have political and personal controversy (such as the need to preserve parts of the hippodrome that were in private hands) he worked toward his challenging goal without creating animosity.

    He has highlighted needs but didn't spark barrier or mistrust.

    He always tried to suggest compromise and positive alternatives to existing problematic situations. His sensitivity to the feelings of others - especially Jordanians and Jordan officials, was exemplary."


    Antoni Ostrasz was born on June 23, 1929 in Kalwaria, Poland. He received his higher education at the Faculty of Architecture of the Warsaw Polytechnic University. After graduating in 1954 with the degree of B. Sc., he was made a junior assistant at the Department of History of Architecture and Art at Warsaw University and after receiving M. Sc. in 1958 he was upgraded to senior assistant.

    Two years later he left to Egypt where he appointed research architect at Warsaw University's Centre for Mediterranean Archeology in Cairo. He stayed in Egypt from 1960 to 1967 and worked for both - Mediterranean Archeology Centre and Egyptian Centre for Documentation in Cairo. At the same time he cooperated with polish expeditions in Alexandria, Sudanese Nubia, Palmyra and Nea Paphos in Cyprus.

    In 1967 he returned to Poland, to prepare his PhD. D. thesis at Warsaw University. He received his doctorate in 1967. Later he had been engaged as senior lecturer at the Institute of Geography of Developing Countries at Warsaw University. He held this post for ten years. In 1977 he took also additional position as director of Postgraduate African Studies.

    In 1982 he moved to Jerash as architect of the Polish Archeological Mission on International Jerash Project.

    In 1984 he started work as expert for the Department of Antiquities on the hippodrome - the largest monument in Jerash . His work absorb him for the rest of his life.

    Antoni was loved and respected member of international archeological community and scholars in the Middle East. He was always ready for help and find some time for those who need his advice.

    He will be greatly remembered as a reliable, generous and friendly professional.

    Comp.  Dominika Mamro

    (authoress - student of Jagiellonian University in Cracow - had training at the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Amman in August - September 2006)

    September 2006

    Basis on: Antoni Ostrasz (1929 - 1996) - a remembrance and appreciation by Rami G. Khouri, The Jordan Times


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