“I exist not to be loved and admired, but to love and act. It is not the duty of those around me to love me. Rather, it is my duty to be concerned about the world, about man.”
― Janusz Korczak, Warsaw Ghetto Memoirs of Janusz Korczak
How I met Korczak before I met Korczak
I was ten, riding a bus with another hundred kids and group leaders to my first “Nasz Dom” camp – a Summer Korczak camp in Russia, founded in 1993 by Irina Demakova and the local Korczak community. There was a green flag with a four-leaf clover in the back of the bus, just like the one in the Korczak’s orphanage. I knew nothing of the clover, or Korczak. All I knew was that I was scared and lonely – it was my first time away from my parents ever. However, I was scared and lonely only for the first minute or two. After that, one of the group leaders picked up a guitar, and instantly leaders and children started to sing. I was home.
Since then, I pretty much never missed another Summer camp. Gradually, the camp “Korczak education” started to show. By the time I turned 18 I already knew Korczak’s biography, could recite many of his quotes, read some of the books about him, knew what rights children have and what rules Korczak’s orphanages practiced. Nevertheless, I am glad I met Korczak even before I gained all this knowledge. I believe that experiencing how child-adult relationship work in the camp, especially from a position of a child, helped me feel the spirit of Korczak before I knew him.
As a child in the Korczak camp, I felt that my opinion was valued. I felt like I had rights that were respected. I felt like I had my opportunity to shine, in my own way, my own situation of success, and I was the one who got to decide what it was. Like the real Korczak system, the camp placed emphasis on children self-governing themselves, equality for all Nasz Dom members, respect for one another, and allowing children to discover their potential. I truly believe every Nasz Dom camper falls in love with Korczak and his teachings. At least I know I did.
First, this love led me to become one of the volunteer group leaders in the camp. Now I got to be the one to help children in my group feel the spirit of Korczak. Eventually, my involvement with the Korczak movement in Moscow grew, and besides being a group leader in three Summer camps and two winter camps, I participated in organizing Nasz Dom, attended several conferences, acted as a board member for Youth Korczak Center, and did many other things. Korczak became an essential part of my life. Because of that, when in 2012 I followed my husband to the USA for education, I did not want to leave my Korczak fever behind.
Somehow I heard about Janusz Korczak Association of the USA. Without hesitation, I contacted Mariola and offered my help. Soon, I ended up managing association’s Facebook page, which I still do today. Being a full-time student and working at the same time is hard, so I do wish I had more time and energy to invest in our little Facebook page. However, I do appreciate Mariola letting me make this little contribution and stay closer to Janusz Korczak’s movement through it. I am convinced, that the USA, like any other country, is in need of Korczak’s ideas and vision. I admire the members of our association and their passion for spreading these ideas and putting them to life through practical, real-world projects that benefit children in this country and abroad. I believe that together we can do great things and let other people meet Korczak through us, even before they formally meet him.
I studied computer science at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT and am currently employed at Microsoft Corporation in Redmond, Washington as a software engineer. My favorite book about Korczak is the famous The King of Children: The Life and Death of Janusz Korczak by Betty Jean Lifton. Anna can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.