• Faithful to my Homeland, the Republic of Poland




    The history of Polish-Arabic relations started in the 10th century, when an Arabic merchant and traveler, Ibrahim ibn Jacob, came to Poland after a long journey. He spent a long time in the court of prince Mieszko I where he found out about the state of Polans, their customs and their wars. His memoirs were written down by Bakhri in "Al Masalek waal Mamalek" His notes must have been very interesting for all Arabs, but they turned out to be a real treasure for Polish science and a great source of knowledge about our ancestors.           

     Poland used to be very fascinated by the Arab World. Juliusz Słowacki, a famous poet from the romantic period, , used to live in Lebanon for many years. His house is a popular visiting place for the Polish community in that country. Adam Mickiewicz - the best known Polish poet - was also fascinated by Middle-Eastern culture; he translated from French masterpieces of Arab literature. Some Polish scientists, who worked in France, created one of the best textbooks about geography of Arab countries.

    But one of the most important people in contemporary Polish-Arabic relations is prof. Saleh Hamarneh, a Jordanian Christian, the first Arab to study in Poland, scientists' and ambassadors' tutor. He can be easily called the first ambassador of Arabic culture in Poland. His contribution to the promotion of Polish literature among Jordanians cannot be overestimated. Prof. Hamarneh speaks highly of Poland and treats our country as his second homeland, because in Cracow, he says, he has learnt to love Jordan even more.


    Prof. Hamarneh's real passion, even as a young man, was archaeology. He dreamed about studying it, but he never assumed that he would be taught archaeology in such an exotic-for-him-country as Poland. In 1955 in Warsaw a World Youth Convention was held. Prof. Hamarneh was one of the Jordanian representatives. Afterwards these young Jordanians were supposed to go to Beijing. Unfortunately the professor became ill and was admitted to a hospital in Warsaw. There he was visited by most unsuspected guests - a delegation from the Cracow Jagiellonian University. Andrzej Czapkiewicz and Władysław Kubiak, university lecturers, offered him a job as a lecturer of Arabic language and culture at the university at the Oriental Philology Institute. "It was an extremely difficult decision for me" - prof. Hamarneh recalls - "I was supposed to go to China and my parents lived in Jordan. I decided to accept this offer under one condition". The professor agreed to teach Arabic only if he was allowed to study at the same time. "You can study until your dying day" - was the answer of an overjoyed Andrzej Czapkiewicz.

    During his first weeks, the most difficult thing for prof. Hamarneh was to learn Polish. There was no school for foreigners yet. "Who would teach me, after all, I was the first Arab student in Poland"- the professor said - "Other professors were even glad that I couldn't communicate with my Polish students in their native language, thinking that it would stimulate them to work harder on Arabic language". Young Saleh Hamarneh disliked only one particular thing about Poland - the weather: "As a newcomer from a hot and dry country, I regarded Polish cold and humidity as unhealthy". But the professor concludes that, thanks to excellent Polish cuisine, he quickly adjusted to Poland's capricious weather. However another thing was even more painful - parting with his family. But professor Hamarneh's parents understood their son's ambitions and they were happy that he could work and study at the same time, promoting Jordanian culture among Poles.


    Many years passed and professor Hamarneh was still the only Arab at the Jagiellonian University. Cracow waited until the late 60s when a young generation of Arabs, mainly Iraqis, arrived to study in Poland. After receiving his master's degree, professor got chance to work on his doctor's degree. He was teaching Arabic and simultaneously doing research on his beloved archaeology - "I specialized in Mediterranean archaeology. You see, in Poland I was taught about Jordan. At home, in Madaba, I considered myself as a humanist, an expert in Jordanian history, well, in Cracow it turned out that I still had much to learn. My friends, young scientists from the university, were showing me the city, telling me about its history and about the great people that used to walk the same paths I was visiting. Then I realized that Jordan can be proud of its history and rich culture reaching back more than 8000 years. And one has to praise the achievements. It was in Poland where I have learnt to love Jordan even more". Professor was quickly imbued with the "magical Cracowian cultural atmosphere" - as he describes it. He was a frequent visitor of theatres, cinemas and the philharmonic. Professor considers the theatre stage in Cracow as one of the best in the world.

     The professor spent a lot of time working at the university. He translated Tadeusz Różewicz's lyrics into Arabic - truly a masterpiece. He also took part - along with a team of other professor and his students - in rendering "The Book of One Thousand and One Nights" from Arabic into Polish. The professor's stay in Cracow turned out to be the most active period in his life. The time of intellectual self-development. It was in Poland where the professor learnt fluent Polish and English. The University staff came to the professor's assistance in all important scientific matters. "Professor Lewicki treated me like a son" - professor Hamarneh recalls his mentor. 


    When asked about similarities between Poles and Jordanians, the professor knits his eyebrows and answers "I think both Jordanians and Poles are great romantics. You see in our long and difficult history we used to act irrationally. The freedom of our peoples was followed by a long and bloody fight, so I guess we know how to appreciate our independence. I also think that people in our countries are very hospitable and warm-hearted towards foreigners.

    Professor Hamarneh knows how to make Polish-Jordanian relations more dynamic. "The basis is to get rid of needless prejudices and invest in a fast developing Jordanian economy. With trade connections comes culture and science. I think Poles are interested in visiting the holy places, many of which are situated in Jordan. We are interested in healthy food, cosmetics and furniture, not to mention world-class engineers and architects from Poland".

    Talking about the Polish diplomacy's influence in stabilizing the region, the professor said: "It could be difficult for Poland to take greater part in solving the problems in the Middle East. But I would like to urge my Polish friends to seek the truth and follow the justice - just like their noble ancestors". At present Poland is being recognized in the Arab world mostly through Pope John Paul II - the greatest Pole of our times. "We are grateful for his commitment to dialogue between the Christian and Islamic world, for his efforts for peace in the Middle East and aspirations for not using violence in solving international problems, especially in Iraq.

     September 2006


    Przemysław Radziszewski
    student at the Toruń University

    Print Print Share: