“The mare of history is a wild, untamed mustang. It is possible to jump on its back and even stay there for a while, but one cannot steer it – in the end it will always take us where we did not intend or expect to go.” This is how Karol Modzelewski interprets his own life experience in the book recommended by Maksymilian Sas in the next episode of the series #ReadwithUW.

Maksymilian Sas works as a coordinator of the Education Support Centre, the University of Warsaw. He has a degree in history and his main research interests are religious and political culture of the early mediaeval period. Sas prepares a doctoral dissertation devoted to this field. In the series “Read with UW”, he presents an autobiography of Karol Modzelewski, a professor of the University of Warsaw, whose seminars Sas attended personally.


“In his autobiography, Karol Modzelewski not only depicts his own fate, but also describes with great colour, flair and analytical insight the dynamically changing world around him. First, the reader observes the author’s childhood in Soviet Russia and growing up in the post-war Poland, ruled by the communists. Then, one learns about Modzelewski’s opposition activity, the funding and fall of the Solidarity movement, followed by the political transition of the year 1989. It is important to point out that Prof. Modzelewski wrote from various points of view: a historian, a witness and an actor of the events, which now make part of the history textbooks,” Maksymilian Sas says.




Confessions of a Bruised Rider

Prof. Modzelewski felt a special bond with the city of Wroclaw, where he lived and conducted research from the 1970s through the 1990s. Nevertheless, he always emphasised that the University of Warsaw is his Alma Mater. Here he completed his history studies in 1959 and began to work on a doctoral dissertation under Prof. Aleksander Gieysztor’s supervision. The thesis was completed in 1974.


Modzelewski’s research career was put on hold by his imprisonment in 1965, when he co-wrote with Jacek Kuroń the “Open letter to the party”. It did not stop him from engaging in student protests in March 1968, after which he was arrested for the second time. In the 1990s he came back to work at the University of Warsaw.


“As an attendee of Prof. Modzelewski’s seminars, I can say that he enjoyed and appreciated disputes with students. He found them very inspiring,” Maksymilian Sas adds.


The book “We’ll Ride the Mare of History to the Ground: Confessions of a Bruised Rider” by Karol Modzelewski was awarded the Literary Prize “Nike”.


Karol Modzelewski’s work in English

Modzelewski, Barbarian Europe, translated by Ewa Macura, Frankfurt am Main, 2015. BUW Magazyn 1353930.