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Last month I was invited by the Adam Mickiewicz University (AMU), which is the major academic institution in Poznań and one of the top Polish universities. My host was Dr Radoslaw Fiedler, who is the Head of Doctoral School of Social Sciences at the AMU.

I delivered a series of lectures, which were very invigorating for me since the students were curious, well informed and asked very probing questions.

The participants were not only Polish but also hailed from Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, Georgia, Japan, Ukraine and numerous other countries.

The hospitality of Dr Fiedler, his colleague and my friend Professor Przemyslaw Osiewicz, Dean Andre and Dr Piotr Baranowski, was exemplary because they made me feel at home and welcome.

AMU has been named after Adam Bernard Mickiewicz, who was a Polish poet, dramatist, essayist, publicist, translator and political activist. He is regarded as national poet in Poland, Lithuania and Belarus, as well as a principal figure in Polish Romanticism, he is one of Poland’s ‘Three Bards’ and is widely regarded as Poland’s greatest poet.

The University itself is remarkable; this was my third visit to the AMU but the crowning jewel was a visit to the Arkady Fiedler Museum, which is located in the old house of the Fiedler family in Puszczykowo near Poznań.

Arkady Fiedler (1894-1985), the grandfather of Dr Radoslaw Fiedler was a Polish writer, journalist and adventurer. He was the son of Antoni Fiedler, a well-known Poznań polygrapher and publisher. It was he who shaped the personality of young Arkady, awakening in him a passionate interest in nature.

“He taught me to love things that other people passed by indifferently,” the writer would later recall of his father.

 (L-R) Dean Andre, Przemek, the author and Fielder with a Hurricane replica. Photo: Business Recorder
(L-R) Dean Andre, Przemek, the author and Fielder with a Hurricane replica. Photo: Business Recorder

The younger Fiedler studied philosophy and natural science at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków and later in Poznań and the University of Leipzig. He served as an officer of the reserve of the Polish Army and participated in the Greater Poland Uprising of 1918 and was one of the organisers of the Polish Military Organization from 1918 to 1920. He was a War Correspondent during the Second World War and also covered the Battle of Britain, in which Polish Pilots and Engineers participated.

Arkady Fiedler was an avid traveler and made frequent trips to Mexico, Indochina, Brazil, Madagascar, West Africa, Canada and the United States, amongst other countries.

The ardent globe trotter and accomplished photo journalist authored 32 books that have been translated into 23 languages and sold over 10 million copies in total. His most famous and popular book, written in 1942, was ‘Squadron 303’ about the legendary Kościuszko Squadron fighting during the Battle of Britain. It sold over 1.5 million copies.

‘Thank You, Captain, Thank You!’ similarly recounts the war efforts of Polish sailors. He wrote books about his travels, documenting cultures, customs and natural wonders. From 1954 he published a historical adventure series for young people.

The Museum-Literary Studio of Arkady Fiedler was established on 1 January 1974. The facility is located in the old house of the Fiedler family in Puszczykowo near Poznań. Arkady Fiedler bought this villa from the state in 1946, after returning to Poland from wartime exile.

Watching the interest of his family members and friends, gave the writer the idea of creating a museum in the family villa.

Throughout 1973, adaptation works were carried out, in which the Fiedler family and friends took part, especially two: his son Marek Fiedler’s father-in-law, Feliks Skrzypczak (1912-1999), a builder by profession, who carefully renovated the old Fiedler house from 1926, sparing no sacrificial effort, restoring it to its former glory. The person who helped arrange the exhibits was the visual artist Zygmunt Konarski (1936-2004), who was a passionate creator of most garden statues.

The museum itself comprises several parts. The most imposing is a full scale replica of Santa Maria, the largest of the three ships used by Christopher Columbus in his first voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492. The mast and sails of the replica of the historic galleon were blown away in a storm but the ship stands in full majesty, attracting viewers from around the globe.

Santa Maria

 The author in front of Santa Maria. Photo: Business Recorder
The author in front of Santa Maria. Photo: Business Recorder

A second artifact is a full scale model of the Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft, which saw exemplary service during the Battle of Britain and accounted for 60% of the air victories by the Royal Air Force of which the Polish 302 and 303 Squadrons were a part of and made a valiant contribution.

It is another story that 45 Polish pilots and engineers, who could not go back to Poland after WWII ended, since it was under Soviet occupation, found their way to Pakistan and helped set up the fledgling Pakistan Air Force.

The Taliban may have destroyed the original Bamiyan Buddha statues in 2001, shocking the world but a full scale replica can be viewed in all their splendour carved into rocks at the Arkady Fiedler Museum. There is even a replica of the Giza Pyramids, which may be entered and the aura of energy felt inside. A stone bust of Queen Nefertiti; the great royal wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten adorns the austere belly of the pyramid.

Various original exhibits from North and South America, Africa and Asia — brought from numerous travels by Arkady Fiedler and his sons Marek and Arkady Radosław adorn the gardens as well as inner chambers of the museum.

Unique handicrafts grab the attention of visitors to the artistically arranged articles of different origins. These include: sculpture and ritual masks (including the famous mask with a chain, endowed — according to black beliefs — with magical power of extraordinary impact on people); tam-tams and other musical instruments; an arsenal of bows, spears and hunting blowpipes; trophies of human heads prepared by Hibar Indians.

There are also many exhibits representing the fauna of distant continents, which include the most beautiful tropical butterflies, especially the delightful, luminous Morpho from South America, the bizarre Caligo from Brazil (which reached the peak of mimicry in nature — the back side of their wings is like a repellent owl’s head), Patula Valkeri (called by the Malagasy the butterfly of death); huge tarantula spiders; scorpions; crocodiles and caimans; Viviparous predatory piranhas, thriving in a 600 liter aquarium.

Undoubtedly, an attractive display is a collection of original editions of the 32 books with copies of their translation in 23 languages and video cassettes/DVDs of the 2018 movie Squadron 303, which credits Arkady Fiedler as one of the writers.

The outdoor exhibition euphemistically named as the ‘Garden of Tolerance’ — embellishes a unique collection of exotic monuments, which besides the Santa Maria, Bamiyan Buddha statues and the Pyramid — include numerous faithful copies in a 1:1 scale of monuments of ancient cultures: a 6.5-meter tall statue from Easter Island; the legendary Sun Gate from the vicinity of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, representing the ancient Indian-Andean culture of Tiahuanaco; Aztec calendar in the shape of a great disc; a huge Olmec head from Mexico; a Red Indian totem pole from British Columbia, Canada; and a giant statue of a Toltec warrior.

Visitors to the museum are spell bound by a half-sitting, half-lying mysterious figure with a sacrificial vessel on his stomach — Chac Mool, which is a showcase of the old Mayan civilization. There is a Monument to the nineteenth-century Lakota chief, Crazy Horse, a hero of the Red Indian struggle in defence of freedom, who is remembered in legend and history as an outstanding charismatic figure. There is a Monument to the Sitting Bull, the greatest Red Indian warrior – next to the Crazy Horse – chief of the prairie Indians of the nineteenth century. One also finds the Mexican god Quetzalcoatl-Feathered Serpent and the Aztec goddess of life and death—Coatlicue.

There are a multitude of exotic treasures like the statue of Montezuma, the unfortunate ruler of the Aztecs, Christopher Columbus and Fernando Cortez, a ruthless conquistador who destroyed the Aztec state.

 The author with the statues of Montezuma and General Cortez. Photo: Business Recorder
The author with the statues of Montezuma and General Cortez. Photo: Business Recorder

In the ‘Room of Twilight’, we find intriguing puzzles like the tomb of Pacal, Mayan ruler of Palenque, discovered in the 50s of the twentieth century in the Pyramid of Inscriptions. Most of the buzz was around the lid of the Pachala sarcophagus.

In the last room we see an Indian treasury in a mountain cave. Among the valuables lies the skeleton of a soldier — this Spaniard did not manage to rob the Indians, he died miserably at the threshold of wealth.

The unusual aura of this place captivates, stimulates the imagination, draws into the fascinating circle of old cultures and for me, who has visited Museums around the globe, from the Smithsonian to Berlin, Moscow, Beijing and remote corners of the world, it was a truly enriching experience.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

S. M. Hali

The writer is a retired Group Captain of PAF, and now a security analyst

Comments

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KU Jun 22, 2023 11:25am
Very informative and interesting article.
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