Written by Magdalena Pasikowska-Schnass.
From his childhood in the Warsaw Ghetto to his tragic death in a road accident while working at the European Parliament in 2008, Bronisław Geremek faced many personal, professional and political challenges during a period of constant turbulence. A world-renowned historian, he was interested in the poor, the excluded and the marginalised during the Middle Ages, mainly working as a researcher at the Sorbonne and Warsaw University.
The Soviet army’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 marked the start of his political involvement with those opposing the communist regime. He secretly gave history lectures, spoke in defence of workers persecuted following the cost-of-living riots in 1976, and went to Gdańsk in August 1980 to support the strike led by Lech Wałęsa. Geremek subsequently became an adviser to the founder of the Solidarność trade union.
His involvement led to his imprisonment following the military coup in December 1981 and the loss of his position as a professor, but guaranteed his place in negotiations between the communist regime and the democratic opposition in 1989. As a member of the first semi-democratic parliament in the Soviet bloc, he subsequently became Foreign Minister and started the negotiations for Poland’s accession to the European Union. He was elected as a Member of the European Parliament in 2004.
His research as a historian focused on Europe as a civilisation, on questions of European identity and integration, and on civil society. Due to his historical research, he had a capacity for in-depth analysis that he used in his European political work and involvement. He concluded that a European public space was essential in order to encourage European civic engagement and awareness.
Read the complete briefing on ‘Bronisław Geremek: In search of a united Europe‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.