Please bear with me for what is a somewhat unusual contribution.
A quarter of a century ago, I met one of the most influential persons in my life. Professor Andrew S. Ehrenkreutz taught Islamic history at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and had been assigned as the academic advisor for my master's program. It was in his seminars, and in conversation with him, that the idea for my doctoral thesis was first formulated and developed.
Andrew was born Andrzej Stefan Ehrenkreutz in then Polish Wilna (present-day Vilnius, a town that has belonged to a surprisingly high number of countries during his lifetime). He fought the Germans in Poland and France in 1939/40, became a POW, and spent the rest of the war as a farm-hand in rural Germany. After the war, he went to England - like many of his generation, he did not countenance going back to communist Poland where his father, a famous law professor, had been charged and killed by the NKWD in 1945. After receiving his Ph.D. from the renowned SOAS in London, he went to the US, became a professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and finally retired to Australia where his son, his only child, lived. Despite his age, he visited Poland annually in the 1990s after the country had become free again, and on the long journeys from Australia frequently stopped by our home in Germany for a few days. So our friendship continued and expanded, and Andrew and my father, too, because of their similar background and experiences, developed a deep mutual appreciation during those visits.
The strong Polish-German connection with Andrzej - the first person from Poland I ever met - anticipated, and perhaps even paved the way for events that took place after Andrew could no longer come to Europe and which resulted in my now solidly mixed Polish-German family with a "second home" on the Polish Baltic Sea coast. In a way, the course of my life after leaving Ann Arbor has taken me closer to Andrzej, his experiences, and his home country, while we were physically becoming more separated.
Andrzej was a great Mensch, in the full sense of both words. He has had a determining influence on my own life, both academically by turning me into a historian of the Crusader States, and even more so by his example of great-heartedness, good-will and gentleness despite a life that would have given much justification for bitterness and resentment against other human beings, or even nations. In both, he has been and still is an inspiration for me, and emulating his attitude of kindness and intellectual rigor is the ideal I aspire to.
Andrzej passed away in Australia on 6 April 2008. I feel that I, and humanity, are poorer without him. I wish Andrew peace and rest with God in the better world he has passed on to.
Among my most prized possessions is a photograph of Andrew, taken from a newspaper in the 1980s. Sometimes pictures capture the character, and the essence, of a human being – this is one of them, in my eyes. It shows Andrew in a typical pose combining sharp intellectual enquiry, and human decency:
For a long time, this picture has adorned my office wall. With a view to the continuing decay of the black-and-white newspaper photograph, and upon the news of Andrew's death, I decided to approach our resident artist Born T. about creating an artistic drawing of the picture.
We quickly agreed on a black-and-white pencil sketch. Here is the result, which captures very well the original pose.
The drawing will find its place next to the picture of my father on our living-room wall.
But rummaging through Born's gallery during our discussion process, I was also much intrigued by two colored ink drawings I found there:
So we agreed on an additional colored drawing of Andrew in burgundy red ink. (The choice of color is also reminiscent of a well-known Polish song about one of the venerated moments in Polish history, the sacrifice of the Polish II Corps at the battle of Monte Cassino in 1944 … "Cerwone maki na Monte Cassino").
While processing the picture file, I discovered that the colored drawing also looks very good in shades of gray:
I think Born has done wonderful renderings of the original picture. From now on, his work for me will be inextricably linked with my memory of Andrzej Stefan Ehrenkreutz.
Many Thanks, Born T., and requiesce in pace, Andrzej.