Stories that Move
In May 2019 I joined a Stories that Move professional development seminar for teachers in ToruŇĄ, Poland, and was delighted to discover that my countryman Stefan Teofil KosiŇĄski was one of the life stories featured in the online tool.
KosiŇĄski ‚Äď who was from ToruŇĄ ‚Äď is the only documented Polish victim of Nazi persecution under Germany‚Äôs paragraph 175 anti-gay laws. I am a Polish teacher-librarian with a post-graduate degree in Totalitarianism, ¬†Nazism and the ¬†Holocaust, Gender Studies and Knowledge about Culture. I had learned of KosiŇĄski‚Äôs story when I was working with records collected by the USC Shoah Foundation during a teachers‚Äô seminar at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. The discovery led me to create a lesson plan based on a popular song for children ‚Äď¬† ‚ÄúKto w Toruniu mieszka‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ (Who lives in ToruŇĄ‚Ä¶), which I used at the technical school where I work. I also joined forces with the Stowarzyszenie Inicjatyw NiemoŇľliwych Motyka from ToruŇĄ, an organisation that promotes dialogue based on tolerance and equality, to put together a city-based game aimed at popularising KosiŇĄski‚Äôs life story.
Since then, local Pride organisers and one of the actors from ToruŇĄ‚Äôs Teatr Wilama Horzycy ‚Äď Tomasz Mycan ‚Äď have adapted Lutz van Dijk‚Äôs book about KosiŇĄski, Damned Strong Love, into a play. KosiŇĄski‚Äôs living relatives were invited to the first performance and there is talk of it becoming part of the theatre‚Äôs regular programme.
Another positive initiative in ToruŇĄ is being coordinated by the LGBT+ rights organisation Pracownia R√≥ŇľnorodnoŇõci Stowarzyszenie Na Rzecz Os√≥b LGBT. They preserve KosiŇĄski‚Äôs story by finding and highlighting traces of it around the city; they also helped find KosiŇĄski‚Äôs grave.
In all, I am very happy that KosiŇĄski‚Äôs story has been put back on ToruŇĄ‚Äôs social map.
Unfortunately, antidiscrimination classes in Polish schools, especially ones that focus on LGBT+ issues, are very often blocked; any that do take place are usually viewed rather negatively by the teachers, headmasters and the students. I have experienced such attitudes towards my own projects. I find it especially upsetting, knowing that the lack of tolerance leads to frequent acts of peer discrimination and even suicides.
I believe, however, that thanks to Stories that Move and through youth-orientated work based on stories like KosiŇĄski‚Äôs, a young guy who walked the same streets as today‚Äôs young people, we will be able to raise the awareness of a younger generation.back to top