Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of my father, Dr. George Lenczowski.
This is a significant milestone for me, because of everything that my father did to inspire in me a passion for international affairs and the defense of America and Western civilization. The intellectual and moral/philosophical influences he had upon me lie at the heart of so much of what I have tried to do in building The Institute of World Politics.
My father was born of Polish parents in St. Petersburg, Russia. His father had been studying at the St. Petersburg Institute of Technology, which was one of the foremost academic institutions at the time, even for Poles, who had lost their independence a century beforehand to the partitions by the three surrounding empires: Russia, Prussia, and Austria-Hungary. Most of Poland had been gobbled up by the Russians, and it made some sense for a Pole seeking advanced education in science and engineering to study in the empire’s capital city.
Two and a half years later, after my grandfather had secured his first job in Russia, the Bolsheviks overthrew the weak democratic order under the Provisional Government. As people with higher education and who were working for private enterprise, members of my father’s family were considered “class enemies” by the Bolsheviks. So, to save their lives, they took the few possessions that they could carry, and escaped to Poland, which then won its independence at the end of World War I.
My father earned a law degree in Poland and a doctorate of laws in France. He joined the Polish diplomatic corps, and was stationed in Tel Aviv in pre-war Palestine. He fought the Nazis as a member of the Polish Army in North Africa. During the war, his parents were arrested by the Nazis in Warsaw and were murdered in Nazi concentration camps. My father was reassigned to the Polish diplomatic mission in Tehran in time for the conference of the Big Three – Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin.
He met and married my mother there, who had just escaped from two and a half years imprisonment, also as a “class enemy” in the Soviet Union. When the Yalta Agreement was signed, where Roosevelt and Churchill consigned Central and Eastern Europe to communist domination, my parents came to America.
Having lost his parents to national socialism, and having lost all his family possessions twice to international socialism, my father was particularly sensitive to to the fragility of civilization. Indeed, he could see very clearly how politics can take radically ugly turns in places where one might not normally expect it.
He eventually became one of the founders of Middle East studies in America, and taught political science and international relations at the University of California at Berkeley. He wrote some of the pioneering works on oil and great power conflict in the Middle East, all the while concerned about the security of the United States and the Free World. He and my mother never forgot the cause of human rights within the Soviet empire.
My father’s commitment to the cause of freedom and to protecting the dignity of the human person lay at the heart of his newfound patriotism for America, and his concern for the defense of Western civilization.
His spirit lives on in our efforts at IWP, and may his immortal soul rest in peace.
What a man George, what a man. I miss him so. George will always be one of my heroes.
Bruce forwarded this to me. It is an extraordinary story in the midst of major 20th Century events. All the best to you!
Amen. Thank you for sharing Dr. L. Your father’s spirit lives on in you.
Wonderful story John. Thanks!
John, noblesse oblige. You follow the footsteps of this wonderful MAN. He would be (as he always was) very proud of you. When he passed away, we felt a great emptiness in our family. Thanks for remembering him!