Gerard Ciolek, Tatra Mountains,
Poland, mid 1950s, by an unknown photographer. See also other photographs.
|Gerard Antoni Ciolek was born on 24 September 1909 in Wyznica (aka Vyzhnytsia, Wischnitza, Wiznitz), a small town in Bukovina territory of the Austro-Hungarian empire (now Western Ukraine). His Polish parents, Adolf and Ludwika (nee Melz, aka Meltz), were landless, impoverished nobility (i.e. landless 'szlachta') from Galicia and Bukovina. His father was a high-ranking official at the Austrian Tax Office, first in Kuty, then in nearby Wyznica, in the Carpathian ranges. Following the end of World War I, and the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire, Wyznica was incorporated in 1918 into Romania. Consequently, in 1921, the Cioleks and their children: Gerard and Irma (b. 1911), left Bukovina for the newly established Republic of Poland, and settled in the southern city of Lublin. There Gerard attended school, joined the local Boy Scouts section ("Harcerstwo"), and practiced sport (track and field, kayaking, skiing, and hikes in the Carpathian mountains). In 1929, on graduating from the Stanislaw Staszic Lycee in Lublin, Gerard Ciolek embarked on tertiary studies in the country's capital, Warszawa. Initially he intended to take up drawing and painting (especially 'en plein air' watercolours) at the Warszawska Akademia Sztuk Pieknych (Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts). Eventually, however, he chose to study architecture at the Politechnika Warszawska (Warsaw Technical University). Architecture, in his view, was an ideal discipline as it enabled equal interaction with art, nature, and people. In the mid-1930s Gerard Ciolek was a research assistant to professor Oskar Sosnowski (1880-1939) at the Politechnika, a man under whom he deepened his studies on Polish folk architecture, and the conservation of architectural heritage.|
Around 1937 he developed an interest in the history and design of parks and gardens. He was also interested in town-planning, regional planning, and in the harmony between human settlements and their fragile ecologies.
In June 1939 he married Regina (1917-2005), daughter of Tadeusz Najder (d. 1919) and Emilia Pollak (d. 1920), members of an extensive family of aristocrats, landowners, railway and sugar refinery engineers, doctors, and businessmen from Kiev and south-western Ukraine, which was then part of the Russian empire. The family, over the preceding decades, brought together Polish, Austrian, German, Czech, Latvian, Moldavian, and Armenian heritage. The family and its world became almost completely annihilated during the Bolshevik Revolution of the 1917, and the subsequent Civil War in Russia.
In September 1939, during World War II, Gerard Ciolek served in the Polish Army as a Second Lieutenant (2Lt) in an air-defence unit in Wilno. Between 1940-1944, during the Nazi and Soviet occupation, he lived in German-held Warszawa where he joined the Armia Krajowa (Polish Home Army). For his pseudonym, while in the Resistance, he chose 'Biala': his clan's ancient battle-cry. He was a lecturer in architecture and town planning at the underground (i.e. proscribed by the Nazis) Politechnika Warszawska. In early 1944 he obtained a doctorate from that university for his research on the effect of the physical environment on the forms of villages and folk architecture in Poland, Belarus and Ukraine. In August-September 1944 he took part in the Warsaw Uprising, where he was in charge of the defence of the Biblioteka Krasinskich building (The Krasinski Library), and took part in the battle for the SS-held PASTA skyscraper). Following the defeat of the uprising he was interned in POW camps in Pomerania, and near Luebeck, in northern Germany. After the end of WWII in Europe, and a brief service with the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade (SBS) stationed in Belgium and north-western Germany, he returned to war-devastated Poland in December 1945. He was reunited with his wife and the first their three children, Krzysztof Oskar (1940-1953) in Olsztyn.
In 1946 the family returned to Warszawa. Between 1946 and his death in 1966 Gerard Ciolek was a lecturer at the Institute of Architecture at the Politechnika Warszawska. In 1946 he headed the Nature Conservation and National Culture Preservation division of the Ministry of Culture and Arts. From 1948 onwards he was also professor of Urban Planning and Landscape Design at the Politechnika Krakowska (Krakow Technical University). In the early 1950s he designed (together with Anna Gorska, Jan Chmielewski, Jedrzej Czarniak i Jerzy Mokrzynski) a tourist chalet in the Tatra Mountains, the 'Schronisko Gorskie PTTK w Dolinie Pieciu Stawow Polskich' (opened in 1954).
During those 20 years of work in Krakow and Warsaw he taught students at both universities, supervised some 14 PhD dissertations, worked on the reconstruction of over 100 historical parks in Poland (including the monumental parks of Arkadia, Baranow Sandomierski, Krasiczyn, Lubartow, Nieborow, Rogalin, and above all, of the Royal Park in Wilanow), was a member of the State Council for the Nature Conservation (Panstwowa Rada Ochrony Przyrody, PROP), as well as served on the Boards of Directors of the Tatra Mountains National Park (TPN), and of the Pieniny Mountains National Park (PPN), and wrote more than 60 research papers and books. He is best known for his ground-breaking work: Ogrody Polskie (Gardens of Poland), published in 1954. In 1958 his manifold achievements in teaching, research, design, conservation, and planning were awarded the Knight's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta
(Krzyz Kawalerski Orderu Odrodzenia Polski). A few years years later, in 1965 he embarked on two of his largest projects yet: a history of monastic architecture in Poland over the past 1,000 years; and an encyclopaedia of world gardens and garden design. However, he died the next year, without ever completing the work. These, and other unpublished research materials have been catalogued and archived as the Teki Ciolka (Ciolek Files) at the Krajowy Osrodek Badan i Dokumentacji Zabytkow (KOBIDZ) (National Heritage Research and Documentation Centre), now Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa (NID) (National Heritage Board of Poland) in Warszawa.
Gerard Antoni Ciolek died on February 15, 1966 while skiing in the Tatra Mountains, in Zakopane, Poland. He was survived by his wife Regina, and by their two younger sons, Tadeusz Maciej (since 1972, T. Matthew) (b. 1947) - an anthropologist and information architect, and Tomasz Pawel (b. 1949) - an architect and designer.
On 27 January 1989 Zarzad Glowny Stowarzyszenia Konserwatorow Zabytkow (The Office of the Association of Conservators of National Monuments) (SKZ) in Warszawa established the "Nagroda im Gerarda Ciolka" (Gerard Ciolek Prize) to be awarded biannually (from 1990 onwards) to persons with outstanding achievements in the field of conservation and protection of monuments of nature, culture, and history.
The Prize medal's obverse (L) and reverse (R) The Prize's winners: 2002 - Aleksander Böhm, Krakow.
2004 - Zbigniew Myczkowski, Krakow.