Oral history
History witnesses

Krzysztof Pszenicki

Interlocutor name:
Interlocutor surname:
Krzysztof Banach
Przemysław Jaczewski
Catalogue number:
Recording date:
3rd June 2016
Recording location:
Recording duration:
Recording language:
Recording copyright:
POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
March’68 Participants and Witnesses

Related places

Interlocutor biogram

Krzysztof Pszenicki was born on 20 October 1945, as Ludwik Pszenicki (soon after his birth, his father changed his son’s forename). Krzysztof is a son of Meir Wejc and Sara nee Jachimowicz. His mother came from Wieluń, from a religious family, which she had left because of the disapproval of her husband and their communist beliefs. Before World War II, his father, originating from Lodz, obtained the title a civil engineer. The Wejc Family spent the war in the USSR. Krzysztof’s father, as a sapper in General Berling’s Army, was among the first troops to enter Warsaw deserted by the Germans.

Krzysztof attended the Gottwald High School in Warsaw. As a young man, he was a member of the so-called “Walter’s Group”, and as a student, he was one of the founders of “The Club of the Contradictions’ Trackers”. In spite of chicaneries connected with the March ’68 events, he graduated from the Institute of Sociology of the University of Warsaw. On the wave of the anti-Semitic campaign, he and his parents left Poland and immigrated to Great Britain in 1969.

In Great Britain, Krzysztof Pszenicki had initially performed various jobs to earn his living and to pay for his studies. He graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science. On 1 September 1973, he started to work at the BBC. Four years later, he became the Deputy Head of the Polish Section and between 1979 and 1988, he held the post of its Head. At the end of his professional career, he served as the Executive Director of the World Service for Europe. Since leaving the BBC, he had worked as a translator and interpreter, often for the members of the governments of Poland and the United Kingdom (including all British Prime-Ministers, beginning with Margaret Thatcher). He and his wife Małgorzata nee Matuszewska live in London.

Recording circumstances description

Interview has been recorded at interviewee’s apartment in London.

Recording summary

  1. The interviewee’s parents, their residence in Warsaw, the story of Krzysztof’s name being changed, childhood, an apartment at Jaworzynska Street in Warsaw; 00:00:18
  2. The family; the interviewee’s parents’ origins, his father’s studies, his father’s participation in the September 1939 War Campaign; escape to Lvov to avoid the Nazis; escape to the Central Asia following the invasion of the USSR by the Third Reich; 00:03:09
  3. The Gottwald High School; the students of the High School; school friends, the members of the Walter Group, “The Club of the Contradictions’ Trackers”; swimming trainings: 00:06:05
  4. Sociological studies at the University of Warsaw; dissolution of the Department of Philosophy and Sociology in March 1968; inability to continue studies after the dissolution; the certificate of completing the studies issued by Prof. Maria Ossowska; problems with sitting the final exams; 00:07:40
  5. Suspension of Krzysztof’s rights as a student; work at the Institute of the Housing Development; employment of Prof. Włodzimierz Brus at the Institute who was expelled from the Technical University; 00:11:40
  6. 8 March 1968, participation in a rally at the University courtyard; participation in talks with the University chancellor; distributing the students’ declaration among the professors of the University of Warsaw: 00:13:28
  7. Decision on immigration; Krzysztof’s father’s illness; his uncle in Great Britain, and his father’s work in that country; departure from Poland via Vienna; 00:16:12
  8. The beginnings of a new life in Great Britain; difficulties in finding a job by Krysztof’s father, the interviewee’s father’s employment at the university; studies of Krzysztof’s sister in Leeds; 00:18:43
  9. First works in Great Britain; studies at the London School of Economics; the beginnings of employment at the BBC during the studies; working as a lecturer; 00:20:20
  10. Employment at the Polish Section of the BBC; becoming the Head of the Section; the progress of the professional career at the radio; leaving the BBC, BBC closing down its European Sections; 00:25:00
  11. Working as a translator; interpreting the conversations of politicians; cooperating with Prof. Bartoszewski; 00:31:00
  12. Information on the interviewee’s family and the family stories; 00:39:07
  13. Opinions and political views of the interviewee’s parents – “involvement” in the communist movement; three marriages of Krzysztof’s parents; attempts to recruit his father into the Secret Service; defending co-workers at the Railway Works Enterprise and losing job; employment at the Technical University; 00:42:22
  14. Krzysztof’s parents acquaintances, visitors and friends remembered from childhood; 00:49:25
  15. The Jewish identity – the lack of being brought up in the Jewish tradition; 00:52:20
  16. Developing the anti-communist views; access to information; reading the “Kultura” Magazine from Paris; cases of rebellion of the children of the “red bourgeoisie”; summer vacation camps organised by the Walter Group and the contact with poverty in Poland; 00:55:06
  17. The relations with the “Walter Group”; ideological foundations of the movement; ideological and social consequences of March 1968; shaping up the intellectual elites after March 1968; 00:58:25
  18. The Club of the Contradictions’ Trackers – reasons for beginning the activities; fascination with the early works of Marx; evolution of the interviewee’s own ideology and moving away from the leftist movement; 01:02:20
  19. Saying Good bye to Krzysztof’s friend’s father and even a greater determination to immigrate; institutional anti-Semitism; the rise of the anti-Semitic wave: 01:05:10
  20. Disciplinary expulsions from the University of Warsaw; the defending speech by Prof. Ossowska; the evens of the middle of the 1960s; the Secret Police’s search of Krzysztof’s parents’ apartment; the history of the portrait of “Franz Joseph” in Krzysztof’s sister’s room; 01:08:12
  21. The procedures connected with the immigration in 1968/1969; application for passport in the 1970s; preparations for the immigration; 01:12:15
  22. Krzysztof’s parents’ reactions to March 1968; his father’s illness; 01:17:14
  23. Antipathy towards Krzysztof of the older workers of the Polish Section of the BBC; introducing a new language to the radio; the circles of the Polish immigration in Great Britain; recreation of the political activities from before World War II in the “Polish London”: animosities in the Polish Section of the BBC connected with the origins of the workers; reaction of the British authorities to the 1968 immigration; 01:19:05
  24. Relations with the circles of the 1968 immigration; the contemporary Polish anti-Semitism; political sources and causes of March 1968; 01:29:30
  25. The current Polish-Jewish relations; the contemporary Polish society; 01:33:24
  26. The issue of identity; 01:38:15
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