All countries can boast that they are renowned for having famous people either born, or raised in their country. In Poland, this is not boasting - it is a fact of life. Poland is considered the birthplace and home for some of the most famous people. None of the people mentioned below were born famous. Each person had to distinguish themselves amongst their peers, amongst their competition, and amongst the world in general. While there are significantly more famous people, the following are some people that the world may or may not be familiar with.
The first is Marie Sklodowska-Curie who achieved international recognition in Paris for her scientific discoveries. Along with her husband-Pierre Curie, she began a search for the source of radioactivity and discovered two highly radioactive elements: radium and polonium. For her outstanding discovery, she became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in 1903. But that wasn't the end of her achievements. The continuity of her work on radioactive elements resulted in her winning another Nobel Prize in 1911 for chemistry, for isolating radium and studying its chemical properties. Weird as it may sound, though, her extraordinary discoveries contributed profoundly to the understanding of radioactivity but not only to that. Marie Curie died due to leukemia, a disease which is now known to be caused by exposure to the penetrating radiation. Call it irony or not, but she died from the radium that made her famous.
Poland has made a major contribution to the international music scene as well. One of the most renown figure who holds a prominent place in the 18th century era is Fryderyk Chopin- one of the greatest composers and pianists of all times. Chopin, the most significant representative of the Romantic period, is said to be called " The Mozart of Romanticism "- a genius of harmony and simplicity. Hailed in his homeland as a child prodigy, who would sit and play on his piano first thing after getting out of the bed in the morning, started performing in public as a teenage boy. Later in his life, he contributed enormously " to the establishment of a Polish national style in music, and exerted a great influence on the development of European piano music" (Poland Eyewitness Travel; 2001,2007). Although he was born in Zelazowa Wola, Poland, he was also among those who emigrated to a foreign country due to political situation, which in his case was Paris, France where he made a career as a performer, teacher and composer. During his short but prolific life, he composed a large number of polonaises, mazurkas, etudes, preludes and many more. He died young, at the age of 39, from tuberculosis. To honor his dying wish, his heart was brought back to his homeland - Poland where it lays in one of the churches in Warsaw.
Contemporary poetry also has a special place in Polish literature. One of the most recently acclaimed writers is Wislawa Szymborska- a great poet, essayist and translator. Long cherished by the Polish nation, she achieved international recognition after becoming the 1996 laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature. Often described as a modest and shy figure, she obviously reflects her personality in her works, making them sensual and intellectual, tender, feminine and human. She is also known for employing literary devices such as irony, contradiction, paradox, which transport her creativity into a different dimension. She is believed to turn everything into golden poetry. Among her great collections we can find: "Koniec i Poczatek" ( 1993, 1996 ), "Ludzie na moscie" ( 1986 ), "Poezje wybrane" ( 1983 ), "Wielka Liczba" ( 1976 ) and many more. After her distinction " for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality", Czeslaw Milosz ( her Polish literary contemporary ) said: "The high ranking of Polish poetry has been confirmed."
Poland has revolutionized the world in the field of film making as well. Who doesn't know Roman Polanski- an Academy Award winning film director, writer, actor and producer of Polish origins? He started making first movies during his study at the film school in Lodz, Poland, which gained him considerable recognition. In these first years of his career he was considered a brilliant person on the verge of genius. Later in his life, though, his tumultuous personal life ( brutal murder of his pregnant wife Sharon Tate, rape of a 13-year old girl ), caused the media to focus on that instead of his film making. Despite all this, Polanski is believed to have created an amazing body of work. Best-known for films such as "Chinatown" ( 1974 ), "Tess" ( 1979 ), "Rosemary's Baby" (1986), and "The Pianist" (2002), he established himself as a major Polish filmmaker.
Last but not least, Poland is also a widely recognized country thanks to our Pope John Paul II. Born as Karol Jozef Wojtyla in Wadowice, Poland, he reigned as Pope from 1978 until 2005. In the years of his pontificate he spoke against such issues as: war, abortion, racism, materialism and many more. He was a strong advocate of spreading love and peace all around the world. As a Pope he traveled extensively, touching hearts of millions of people by appearing to be one of them, the most down-to-earth human being ever. In addition to his lifelong devotion to the study of theology, he wrote numerous best-selling works including: "Pilgrimage of Peace" ( 1980 ), "A Year with Mary" ( 1986 ), "The Jeweler's Shop" ( 1992 ). He died in 2005 after fighting a long battle with Parkinson's disease, leaving the whole world in mourning and at the same time establishing himself as The Holy Father, always to be remembered.
The word famous is often used lightly, however, when applying that term to the people mentioned above, it seems inappropriate because they have done so much more. They have left their imprint on Poland, and on the world. Unlike each of them, their work and their legacy will not meet an untimely death. Their contributions will live on well into the future, and will continued to be used and studied by students, teachers, and the world in general.