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Home: Freunde Waldorf

Marked by a Century’s Destiny

(from: Waldorf Education Worldwide, pp. 96-97, Note the Copyright!)

Very little is known today of the early beginning Waldorf Education had in Poland. Before 1920 the Polish painter Jadwiga Siedlecka (1874-1950) worked in the building designed by Rudolf Steiner, the first Goetheanum at Dornach in Switzerland. After her return to Poland she founded the first Waldorf Kindergarten in around 1924 in the family home of friends.

A second attempt, also in Warsaw, was made about 10 years later. This time two friends from Bielsko-Biala founded a kindergarten which had to close after two years for financial reasons. The ensuing biographies of these two women from Bielsko-Biala are interesting. Halina Wajdzik Keiser (1907-1982) moved to Switzerland during the war and worked there as a eurythmy therapist. Anna Polanska (1907-1994) moved from Warsaw back to Bielsko-Biala where she worked in a small anthroposophical group. Later, in the 1980s, the Waldorf impulse in education and special education developed out of her work at Bielsko-Biala.

Waldorf Education up to the fall of Communism in 1989...

After the Second World War groups met in secret in Warsaw, Krakau and Bielsko-Biala to study the works of Rudolf Steiner in translations often written down by hand or later duplicated on an old type-writer. It was not opportune to make contact, so in many cases the individuals or groups knew nothing of one another. Not until the mid-1980s did it become possible to meet in public, travel abroad and receive visitors from the West. Today it is difficult to say for certain who was the first to give impetus to the Waldorf Education impulse in Poland at that time. Very many friends brought it with them from the West. From 1985/86 onwards there were groups openly studying Waldorf Education in Olsztyn, Gdynia, Warsaw, Krakau and Bielsko-Biala, while the first young Poles travelled to study it at foreign training colleges. Among the initiatives at the time were public seminars at a cultural centre in Warsaw organized by Jerzy Prokopiuk and later taken further by Ewa Lyczewska and Adam Winiarczyk. Professor Maria Ziemska was active in Warsaw, and at Olsztyn a lively exchange came about with Dutch teachers.

… and after the political and cultural turning point of 1990

For the first time since the Second World War it became possible to register associations and foundations not set up by the Polish state. Immediately in 1989 people grasped the opportunity to found school associations at Bielsko-Biala, Krakau and Olsztyn. On the initiative of Maria Ziemska the first Waldorf School was opened in Warsaw in 1992, followed by another in Olsztyn in 1994 and one in Bielsko-Biala in 1995.

One of the most important events in the development of Waldorf Education in Poland was the establishment of a training course on the education at Warsaw University. This was brought about on the initiative of Professor Maria Ziemska and Joop van den Heuvel, Netherlands, in collaboration with the Seminar for Waldorf Education in Stuttgart, Germany. This training course also incorporates the 3-year training opportunity for kindergarten teachers alongside their education studies. The year 2000 saw the beginning of the third 3-year course at Warsaw University. To date 100 participants have concluded this course successfully. There are also training courses in Krakau and Poznan.

Another important event in the development of Waldorf Education in Poland was the founding and registration of the Federation for the Promotion of Waldorf Education in Poland in 1995. This came about as the result of regular meetings of representatives of Waldorf Education initiatives in Poland. Independently of this, an association of Waldorf Kindergarten teachers also came into being under the guidance of Brigitte Goldmann, Vienna.

Authorization for the lower school

The Polish Ministry for Education has accepted the Waldorf curriculum as the basis for an alternative school type and has granted colleges of teachers permission to run primary schools of this kind. However, the reform of the Polish education system has meant that the primary school period has been reduced, so that class teachers are only allowed to teach up to Class 6. Authorization of Classes 7 to 9 as a separate school is still being sought. To attain university entrance, pupils have to attend a state lyceum after first passing an entrance exam (Classes 10 to 12).

The development of Waldorf Education in Poland has been slow and laborious. From the beginning the schools have been independent of the state and therefore owe their growth to support from active parents and private donors as well as associations and foundations. They come under fire from certain experts as well as the Catholic Church, and this has tarnished the image of the Waldorf School in the public eye.

This criticism from experts and Church circles contrasts with the positive opinion of parents who send their children to the schools and have good experiences there.

The mother of a pupil at the Warsaw school writes:
“I have noticed great changes in my daughter Agata since she entered Class 2 of the Warsaw Waldorf School. She was at a state school for Class 1, where she learnt reading, writing and arithmetic. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but there was, for example, virtually no music. I’ve always dreamt of my daughter singing, painting and drawing pictures. The school year at the Waldorf School is coming to an end, and I am delighted with the way my daughter comes home from school, plays her recorder, paints, draws, sings or plays with her glove puppets. I think this is wonderful.”

Waldorf teachers in Poland are faced with the following tasks for the future: First of all the education must be extended to cover the gymnasium and lyceum stages. Whether this will involve compromises with the state curriculum remains to be seen. Secondly it will be vital to train sufficient teachers for all classes if the schools are to continue developing. Thirdly the reservations about the education which have already been overcome at the education colleges must be overcome in wider circles as well. Many years of collaboration amongst colleagues have ensured Waldorf Education a firm place within Poland’s education system.

MARIA SWIERCZEK

Maria Swierczek
Organization and business management of various Waldorf Education establishments. Class teacher.