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Rev. Andrew J. Krzesinski

ON NOVEMBER 20, 1884, I WAS BORN IN THE CASTLE TOWN of Niepolomice, near Cracow, where my parents owned a thirty-acre farm. It was near a great forest of pine and spruce where in the past the Kings of Poland had come to hunt the deer and the elk.

From childhood I was deeply impressed with nature and the universe around me, and I remember reasoning, while still very young, that if nature and the universe are so beautiful, how much more so must God be Who created them and maintains them in their perfect order.

Following my elementary education at Niepolomice, I took the eight-year course (high school and college) of the Gymnasium of St. Hyacinth in Cracow. From the beginning I found my school work very easy, especially my favorite subject, mathematics. In 1906, after passing the "matura" examinations with honors, the way to the university was open to me. But I had long since felt the call to the priesthood and so instead I entered the Grand Seminary in Cracow. After ordination in 1910, I was at first employed in parochial work; later I taught philosophy and religion in the college department of the Ursuline Gymnasium in Cracow. At the same time, I was continuing my own studies, and in 1919 received the degree of Doctor of Theology and in 1923 that of Doctor of Philosophy, both at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow. Next came postgraduate work at the Universities of Paris (the Sorbonne), London, Rome, Berlin, and Leipzig.

My first book, Reality, Knowledge and Truth in the History of Philosophy, was published in Polish in 1924 and won me the appointment as dozent of Christian philosophy at the Jagiellonian. The following January, I was invited by Warsaw University to the chair of Christian philosophy, which had been restored for me by the Polish government. Less than four years later, however, I resigned, for ideological reasons, and returned to the Jagiellonian.

In 1927, while still at Warsaw, I wrote In Defense of the Transcendent World. With but minor revisions, it was translated from the Polish and published in Paris in 1931 under the title Une Nouvelle philosophie de l'Immanence. A critique of the positivist and modernist teachings of a Warsaw professor formed the basis of my book, Positivism, Modernism and the Polish Clergy (in Polish, 1928).

My philosophical studies, begun in 1931, on Western culture as exposed to the attacks of atheistic Communism and Nazism, both of which sought to destroy its Christian ideals and built their own world domination on its ruins, I treated in a well-received vvork, Modern Culture and Its Tragedy (in Polish, 1934). I was convinced that Western culture, due to its Christian character, would not only eventually triumph, but would become a point of contact with other world civilizations and thus a much-needed harmonizing force in the world. To contribute all I could to this ideal, I entered upon an intensive study of the cultures, ethical systems and religions of the Far East. With the encouragement of my University rector and our Archbishop, I left the Jagiellonian on February 2, 1936, for the Orient to make these studies at first-hand.

My travels took me around the world and lasted a year. First I went to London where the India Office arranged with the British-Indian Government to facilitate my research by making contacts for me in Indian intellectual circles. Then, in crossing the United States, I delivered a lecture at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, on "The Critical Situation of Western Culture" which Monsignor G. Barry O'Toole, head of the Philosophy department, urged me to put into book form. From the United States I went to Japan, China, Manchuria, Indo-China, Thailand (Siam), the Malay States, Burma, India, Sikhim, Tibet, and Ceylon. In all of these countries I had frequent opportunities and ample facilities to study their social, religious and cultural ways of life. In all of them, too, the universities invited me to lecture on Western civilization; in India alone I spoke before some twenty such groups composed of professors, students, and other intellectuals. While in India I met the poet, Rabindranath Tagore, who invited me to lecture at Santiniketan College which he had founded and endowed to educate youth in the pure Hindu tradition. In his residence at Allahabad, I also met Pandit Nehru, then President of the All India Congress and later Prime Minister of his newly independent nation. He had recently returned from Russia and was strongly influenced by Communism, the true ideology and practice of which I tried to expose to him. It was at his invitation that I attended the All India Congress meeting at Tilak Nagar in South India. While there I met Mahatma Gandhi who, despite the pressure of Congress affairs, took the time to discuss problems of religious truth and the social and cultural life of India. At his suggestion, these discussions were continued at his home near Wardha some days later,
My host in Calcutta, Archbishop Ferdinand Perier, warned me that for years the bishops of India and China had in vain sought permission from Lhassa for priests to enter Tibet. "It is impossible," he said. But the English Indian government finally succeeded in securing the necessary permission for me. What I learned there was well worth all my efforts. The people of Tibet live according to Buddhist principles in every detail. Tibet is unique in the world in that probably one third of its population lives in monasteries, and that representatives of no other religion are allowed in the country.

At the end of April, 1937, I took leave of the Far East, leaving there not only many friends, but also my heart.

They form the largest part of the world's population but, despite their ancient cultures and many and splendid works of art, the majority live under the most difficult social and economic conditions; and, while deeply religious, have only sparks of religious truth. How important it would be for the glory of God and the good of humanity if these nations were in possession of full religious truth, of the highest Christian ideals! I was filled with the desire to contribute to their cultural and spiritual unity with the Christian nations. One Christian civilization among all nations, with a variety of national characteristics, all enjoying full independence and freedom, and living according to the principles of the one true religion. With this vision in my mind and heart I left the Far East.

En route home, I visited Palestine and Egypt and again London. Laden with the riches of my researches, I arrived back at the Jagiellonian in September, 1937.

Some of the fruits of my travels appeared in Researches on Far Eastern Culture (in Polish, 1938), The Problem of the Catholic Missions in the Far East (id., 1939), and in two other books.

To do the work I wanted on Far Eastern and Western cultures, I needed a better understanding of culture in America, particularly in the United States. In June of 1939, I had everything ready for a visit to the United States but, unfortunately, I delayed starting until September. By then World War II had broken out, in fact, Cracow was already surrounded by the German army. Amid bombing and machine gunning, I eventually made my way to Lithuania (already overridden with Soviet spies), then through Latvia and Esthonia to Sweden whence I sailed to the United States, arriving in New York on October 14, 1939.

Since then I have lectured on the Far East at Pennsylvania and Columbia Universities and have been visiting professor of philosophy at Laval University, Quebec, Montreal University, and Fordham.

Due to my hasty and hazardous flight from Poland, much of my Far East research materials were left there, and as a result I have so far been unable to write my work contrasting Eastern and Western cultures. However, since coming here I did have published Is Modern Culture Doomed? (Devin-Adair, 2nd ed., 1944), a French edition of which appeared in Montreal the following year. Fides of Montreal also published Christianity's Problem in the Far East in 1945, with a French version following in 1946.

During World War II, I thought that an expose of Nazism in the light of Western culture was called for and so I had published in Boston in 1945 National Cultures, Nazism and the Church, The Religion of Nazi German~y, and Nazi Germany's Foreign Policy'.

The injustices to Poland of the Yalta agreement evoked Poland's Right to Justice (Devin-Adair, 1946). That same year my defense of Poland's western frontiers appeared under the title Poland, Germany: a Lasting Peace? (DevinAdair) .

To comfort and strengthen the suffering Polish people I wrote for them, in Polish of course, these four books: In Defense of Poland, Amid the Bombs and Fires, The Individual Action in Saving Poland, and The Congress of the American Poles.

I have long been interested in the problem of mental health. Due to the pressures of life here, it is a particularly acute problem in the United States, and so I was happy to be able to act as an observer with the Psychology Department and Psychiatric Institute of Columbia University through the years 1950 to 1953. I hope soon to complete my work on the results of this experience.

Up to the present I have written some thirty books and about eight hundred articles. My knowledge of twenty languages has proven very helpful to me.

On January 30, 1950, I became an American citizen.

I would be grateful to God if He grants me the time and energy to realize my complete program.

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