Mazel Tov to historian Dariusz Stola, the former director of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, who has been named the recipient of the 2020 Irena Sendler Memorial Award, an award presented annually by Taube Philanthropies to honor people “who have been exemplary in preserving and revitalizing Poland’s Jewish heritage.”
The Award, founded in 2008, is named for the Polish social worker who saved hundreds of Jewish children from the Warsaw ghetto during the Nazi occupation.
Stola was honored “for his visionary leadership of POLIN Museum, a sophisticated and complex world-class public institution, whose overnight success had been lauded and honored throughout Prof. Stola’s tenure, from March 2014 to February 2019.”
Stola is a historian of Poland under Communism, the Holocaust, Polish-Jewish relations, social memory, and international migrations in the 20th century. He left the museum after the Polish Minister of Culture refused to confirm him for a second term as director despite Stola’s having won a competition for the post organized by the museum’s co-founders.
Stola “has been responsible for all of POLIN’s stellar achievements, at every conceivable level,” Tad Taube, Chairman of Taube Philanthropies and Honorary Consul for the Republic of Poland in San Francisco, said in a statement May 12 announcing the award. “Through the Irena Sendler Award, Taube Philanthropies expresses our deep appreciation and friendship. We look forward to an ongoing partnership with him.”
The award announcement states:
Since it opened in 2013, the POLIN Museum has been visited by 3.75 million people, while nearly 2 million have visited the core exhibition, which opened in October 2014. Around 44 percent of these visitors come from abroad, the largest group coming from Israel, followed by the United States. Under Stola’s leadership, the museum was awarded the title of European Museum of the Year in 2016 and the EMA (European Museum Academy Award), and in 2017, it received the Europa Nostra Award, the most important award in Europe for outstanding achievement in the protection, research, and promotion of cultural heritage. According to the award, the museum “created a safe haven to engage in an intercultural dialogue, thus offering a vital lesson to today’s world.”
Previous recipients of the Sendler Award include a range of activists, scholars, and political figures:
2008: Janusz Makuch, director of the Jewish Culture Festival, Kraków; 2009: Jan Jagielski, archivist, Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute; 2010: former President of Poland Aleksander Kwaśniewski; 2011: the late Magda Grodzka-Gużkowska, who risked her life to help Irena Sendlerowa rescue Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto; 2012: eminent scholars Prof. dr hab. Maria Janion and Prof. dr hab. Jolanta Ambrosewicz-Jacobs; 2013: Hon. Bogdan Zdrójewski, former Minister of Culture and National Heritage; Hon. Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, Mayor of Warsaw; 2014: Małgorzata Niezabitowska, author and journalist; Tomasz Pietrasiewicz, director of the Grodzka Gate—NN Theatre Center; 2015: Krzysztof Czyżewski, director of the Borderland Foundation; the late Dr. Jan Kulczyk, Distinguished Benefactor of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews; 2016: Prof. dr hab. Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska, professor of Jewish and Yiddish literature at Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin; Maria Piechotkowa, renowned architect and scholar of Polish synagogue architecture; 2017: Stefan Wilkanowicz, author, editor, educator, and Catholic activist; Bogdan Białek, founder of the Jan Karski Society and Institute for Culture, Meetings and Dialogue; 2018: Norman Conard, U.S. educator who brought Irena Sendler to world notice; Ola Bilińska, Yiddish culture researcher and musical artist; 2019: Zuzanna Radzik, scholar and activist in Catholic-Jewish relations; Adam Bartosz, ethnographer and museologist.