Sunday, April 5, 2009

Janusz Korczak The Pawnshop is Life Tutor to children

Orphanage at Krochmalna

I have learned much from reading this passage. Henryk could not conceive why his father could not surmount his disease, that is he could not conceive the physical dimensions of his father's disease. The bills and debts piled up and the ideal world of the drawing room, its china and fine paintings were pawned to pay for that institution's care of his father.His father's cloak was pawned and he raised the money to redeem it, but alas, the cloak was gone and sold to another. This was the paradigm of life, the pawnshop. You pawn your ideals for comfort or survival and they can never be retrieved. Selling of the "soul" is a final and irretrievable act. His ideals however were stuck to him like impenetrable glue. He was prepared in "the tutoring phase" when he tutored children almost just a child in chronological years.

To visit Tworki, one had to take the Warsaw-Vienna train to the small town
of Pruszkow and then hire a horse and wagon for the remaining two miles over
muddy, rutted roads. The nurses were kindly Polish nuns, but Henryk seems to
have been mortified bv the "condescending" smile of the psychiatrist attending
his father. The boy could not understand why his father couldn´t pull himself
together and return home to his family.
Over the years that Jozefwas
institutionalized, the medical bills piled up faster than his wife could find
the means to pay them. One by one the paintings and fine china began to
disappear to the pawnshop. Everything that had stood firm in the drawing room
-that spoke of eternity- was now up for sale. Once, Henryk and his sister saw
their father´s cloak in a pawnshop window. It looked so familiar as it hung
there that it might have been in the hall of their apartment waiting for its
owner to come along and take it to the courthouse or on a stroll to the café.
They decided to say nothing to their mother, but to save their pennies and buy
it back as a surprise. But by the time they had scraped together enough money,
the coat was gone. "The pawnshop is life, " Korczak would write. "What you
pawn-ideals or honor for comfort or security-you´ll never retrieve again." He
would make it a point to possess only the essentials, and to arrange life so
that he could hold on to those few things he needed
In order to help
support his family, Henryk began tutoring the children of wealthy friends and
acquaintances. He never forgot the humiliation of being addressed by some of the
mothers in language reserved for servants or his surprise at seeing himself in
many of those overprotected rich boys who were pale from being indoors all day
and flabby from lack of exercise. He soon devised a technique for putting them
at ease. He would arrive with a briefcase and unpack it slowly, letting them
examine each object and ask questions about it. Then he would mesmerize them
with a fairy tale or two before leading them into less enchanting realms
ofgrammar, history, and geography. He discovered in the process that he liked
working with children-and that he was able to forget his own anxieties while he
concentrated on theirs.

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