Monthly Archives: October 2012

A spider-man :)

If you’re not very much interested in zoology, you probably haven’t heard about Konstanty Jelski, a Polish zoologist and explorer, but he’s well worth mentioning.

Konstanty Roman Jelski was born on 17th February 1837 in a small village called Lada, in today’s Belarus. His parents, Michal and Klotylda (sister of Stanislaw Moniuszko – a Polish composer), were prosperous, which allowed young Konstanty to get well educated.

Konstanty Jelski

After finishing secondary school in Minsk, for 3 years Konstanty studied medicine in Moscow, from where he moved to Kiev to study at Science and Environmental Department. Unfortunately, in 19th century’s Poland, a way to a scientific career led through one of the occupant’s university (Russian, Prussian or Austrian). It wasn’t easy to resist the forceful imposition of German or Russian culture and language, when anything related to Poland was banned. But as you know, Poles managed to live and keep their identity through 123 years of partitions. But we have great examples of how hard it is in today’s world. According to International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights 50% of Tibetans are analphabets and Chinese educational policy is called “assimilating”. We, Poles, have heard that before…

In 1858 Konstanty submitted a dissertation about birds’ tracheae and obtained a gold medal and master’s degree. He spent a few years working at Zoology Department as a keeper and in 1863 was offered a teacher position at the university, but he refused saying he wasn’t capable of such an honour. He wanted to continue his education in Germany, but he landed in… Turkey, where he made his living by colouring maps for schools.

In 1865 he went to Paris and in July on board of “Amazon” he sailed for French Guiana. You can find Konstanty’s stories from 1865-1871 in his book, which unfortunately is hard to get and it was published in Polish. But when reading it you can find out how dedicated to his work he was. I think we can easily say his work was his passion. He went through hell when he thought he would have to stay aboard while in Madeira, because “some snails’ and insects’ species are not present outside Madeira” and it was such a great opportunity to see them.

19th century postcard from French Guiana

After four years in Guiana he went to Peru, where he stayed for ten more years. From 1868 he was supported by count Konstanty Branicki from Poland (explorer and naturalist himself) who wanted Jelski to go deeper into South America to collect specimen and then send them to Poland. Thanks to this cooperation many examples of South American fauna and flora were sent to Poland and tens if not hundreds of dissertations were based on them. To give you a sample – 300 species of spiders were collected and posted by Jelski, only from Peru…

Birds’ specimen sent to Poland by Jelski

But it’s not that he concentrated only on work, apparently he wanted to marry a Peruvian woman, but I guess none of them was interested 😀 After coming back to Poland he married his cousin, Helena Korsakowna and became the curator of the Natural History Department of Academy of Learning in Krakow. The salary must have been low as he went very often to Dalmatia (today’s Croatia) or France to collect specimen and sell them afterwards to support the family budget. Apparently, if he didn’t have to waste time to earn more money he would have become even a greater scientist. He was making Chinese ink that was as good as the original one. His fruit wines were so good that people weren’t able to guess what fruits they were made of.

Many orchids were collected and sent to Poland

Konstanty was 58 at the time of his death, so still quite young. Ha had a stroke and was told by the doctor to rest in bed, but Konstanty was not the resting type, he’d always had so much to do. He had another stroke and on 26th November 1896 Konstanty Jelski died.

Konstanty Jelski was a typical 19th century’s Polish scientist – educated at foreign university, dedicated his life to science. Many young scientists (not only Polish ones) made use of specimen collected and discovered and studies conducted by Jelski in South America and he still is an acclaimed ornithologist and zoologist.

Categories: Vitae | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

An update

Wow, the last few weeks at work have been hectic. I even forgot to count down the days, and it’s only 241 days left 🙂 I’ve started my vaccinations last week and that was when I felt that I’m really going on a trip! Today’s post will be just a quick update on the Big Plan. Thanks to the lovely couple from Brazil, Edu and Cinthia (Beijos guys :)), we’ve decided to add Brazil to our list. We hosted them through Couchsurfing and I must say we “clicked” immediately. It felt as if we’ve known each other for ten years at least. They were just starting their trip in June and London was their first stop. They’re both from Sao Paolo and hopefully they’ll be home when we get there 🙂 Sao Paolo is a city where I hope to see some of the Sanguszko Collection’s exhibits. The Sanguszko family (Pogon Litewska coat of arms) is an old polish-lithuanian noble family related to Polish king Wladyslaw Jagiello (1362-1434), through his brother Fiodor. The family collection suffered a lot during the WWI so when the WWII started in 1939 Count Roman Sanguszko decided to save it. He loaded everything on trucks and from Pidhirtsi in Ukraine via Romania he got most of it to Brazil. A Sanguszko Cultural Foundation is looking after the collection now, with Count Pawel Sanguszko in charge. But don’t worry if you can’t go to Brazil – a huge part of collection is at the Regional Museum in Tarnow, Poland.

Sanguszko palace in Pidhirtsi, Ukraine

But Brazil means much more to me. It was a destination for many immigrants from Poland, mostly in 19th century. Because of nationalization in ‘30s whole generations of Polish immigrants lost their touch with the language, culture and the Old Country. Luckily from ‘80s it’s all coming back to normal. People learn Polish, go to polish churches, read polish books. Some say it’s got something to do with the Polish Pope…

The second change to our Plan is slightly bigger. We were planning to fly to Tashkent from Crimea, but instead we’ll take a ferry to Georgia. We’ll visit Georgia, Armenia (which became a first Christian country, in 301 AD, even before Roman Empire converting to christianity) and we’ll travel  through Turkey from East to West and from Istanbul we’ll take a plane to Uzbekistan.

Tatev monastery in Armenia

Another detour will take place in China.  I think I’ve mentioned Harbin before, a city in NE China founded by Poles building railway for Tsar. I didn’t know how to convince my dear wife to go there. And the solution came to me thanks to Eden Channel and a program called Wild China. The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival takes place in Harbin each year and it starts on 5th January. There are full-size buildings made of ice! They’re all illuminated and in the evening they look simply magical. I googled it, showed it to my wife and I knew she won’t be able to resist 🙂

Full-size illuminated buildings made of ice in Harbin, China

The last major change regards USA. I said we won’t go there but maybe we will… If we still have money in Mexico we’ll go to States. I found a blog of a Polish guy, who bought some old piece of junk and just drove it through States. The car, taxes, fees cost him around $1000 plus he had someone there who helped him with the formalities. We don’t have that luxury. With no high hopes I checked Avis in States. I was checking Avis in Georgia before and they wanted £600 for a car for two weeks, but in States… A new car, with the insurance, for two months… $1000 🙂 Yay!!! We’re going to America! And if I’m in States, I may as well visit my cousin in Edmonton and friends in Toronto 🙂 If we still have money in Mexico. Or if we ever get to Mexico 😀

So that’s the update. Autumn has come, soon the time will come to buy pumpkins and make some Halloween Jack-o-Lanterns. I’m going to spend long evenings reading guidebooks, because time’s running fast. Stay warm (says me, sipping hot tea with raspberries…).

Categories: RTW trip | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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