Facts and comments

Facts and comments regarding the William’s deJong-Lambert article presenting a profile of Professor Szczepan Pieniążek

In 2007, William deJong-Lambert published an article entitled: „Szczepan Pieniążek, Edmund Malinowski, and Lysenkoism in Poland” (East European Politics and Societies, vol 21, No.3, pages 403–420). This article became available on the internet only a few weeks after the death of Professor Pieniążek (the Professor died  July 1st, 2008). In the heading, the author writes that: „Szczepan Pieniążek was among the foremost supporters of Lysenko in Poland and directed an institute in Skierniewice that was the centre of Michurinist research in Poland.”

The truth is that Prof. Szczepan Pieniążek was fascinated by Lysenko’s personality, and that, in the beginning, he did accept his theory and even propagated it for a few years (probably until 1955) in numerous articles and brochures, as well as in lectures delivered at different institutes, etc.
Prof. Pieniążek clearly admitted this in his memoirs (Pamiętnik Sadownika p. 159, Warszawa 1997, reprinted in 2000. Ed. Fundacja Rozwój SGGW, Warszawa, Poland), saying that “if someone would like to analyze my existence I may tell him that being in favor of Lysenko theory was the darkest page of my life.”  However, there are many pages in a human life, and to be impartial one should analyze all of them.

deJong-Lambert has not been impartial in portraying the personality of Prof. Pieniążek and the role of the Research Institute in the development of fruit growing science in Poland. The whole text written by deJong-Lambert has the character of a sensational story, but, out of 17 published pages, as many as ten (404, 405, 406, 407, 408, 409, 415, 416, 419)  simply present a summary of Pieniążek’s memoirs, as  first published in 1997.

A historian should interpret history according to the facts. The facts concerning the first years of the Reasearch Institute were presented to deJong-Lambert during his meeting in June 2007 with several employees working for the institute since its establishment in 1951, and some others employed years later. Professor Pieniążek was a great personality, and able to admit what mistakes he made during his lifetime. However, deJong-Lambert cannot correct his unjustified opinion on Prof. Pieniążek and the Research Institute. We consider his article as  libelous, because it neglects Prof Pieniążek fantastic life-achievements.

It is definitely not true that the Research Institute of Pomology was the centre of Michurinist research in Poland, as was suggested by deJong-Lambert. The Institute was founded by the Ministry of Agriculture in Skierniewice in 1951; Prof. Pieniążek became its first director, and guid it until his retirement in 1983.
The first research program put forward by Prof. Pieniążek as early as  1949, included the following targets: introduction of new apple cultivars from the USA, chemical fruit thinning, regular bearing of apples, and elimination of intercrops from orchards. There was no Michurinist research in the program. The results of the research for the years 1951– 1956 were summarized at the International Conference held in Skierniewice in 1956 with the attendance of 15 scientists from Eastern countries and the same number from Western countries. The well-known English scientist, Prof. L.C. Luckwill,  afterwards published an article in „Nature,”  describing the development of fruit research in Poland, in the years 1951–1956. We regret that deLong-Lambert did not notice the research program of that period and the  events following.

Prof. Pieniążek opened the world to young Polish scientists, and opened their minds by sending them abroad during his directorship, mostly to the USA, but also to England, France, Belgium, Sweden, and other “Western countries.” Within his “private” cooperation with the Church of the Brethren, which started in 1948 (suspended for some time during  cold war period), about 1,100 scientists (not only from the Research Institute of Pomology, but also from other Polish institutes and universities) were sent to the USA, usually for  one year of training at American universities and fruit farms. Several Americans also came as exchanges to Poland. The name of Prof. Pieniążek opened the doors of prominent universities and research institutes all over the Western World. In 1983, Prof. Pieniążek was awarded a Ph. D., honoris causa, from Bonn University regarding his achievements in fruit science. Professor Pieniążek was also awarded by French medal. In the presence of Polish political authorities, he expressed his special thankfulness. Considering where the medal comes from, and referring to the political system we had at that time, in regarding the possible changes foreseen he said: “the Cloister will last longer than the Prior.” It was a far-sighted speech.  We have no political regime, and from a far distance, we see that Prof. Pieniążek also contributed to our freedom.

For all those who knew Professor Pieniążek, he will always be a great man, one who cannot be judged by the standards of William deJong-Lambert. Prof. Pieniążek was a noble man, a guiding light for many of us, and we will always defend his good name.

Research Institute of Pomology and Floriculture employees.

Poland, Skierniewice 2008