The “Muzea, Archiwa i Biblioteki Polskie na Zachodzie” [Museums, Archives, and Polish Libraries in the West], also known by its slightly easier acronym MAB, held its annual conference in Solothurn, Switzerland in early September. Members of several MAB-affiliated institutions in Germany, France, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Canada, Argentina, and the United States assembled in this charming hillside town located on the banks of the River Aare.

This year’s 45th Annual MAB Conference was organized by the Kościuszko Museum, located in the heart of Solothurn’s old town. The Museum commemorates General Tadeusz Kościuszko (1746-1817)–the Polish statesman and American military leader who spent his last years in exile in Solothurn after the last partition of Poland–and is comprised of several rooms, including the General’s original apartment.

Photo by Christian David

Beginning on September 5 when MAB representatives began to assemble in Solothurn, the Kościuszko Museum became a hub of activity and a command center for the next few days as the conference unfolded. The host’s kitchen was happy to dispense a variety of nourishments to the weary travelers and provide copious amounts of water as the weather was sunny and exceptionally hot throughout the week.

The conference began on September 6 in the parish center of a local Catholic church, located across the railway tracks in Solothurn’s sister town, Zuchwil. The early morning session was closed to the public and covered topics relating to MAB’s operations during the past year. Later that day, a total of eleven papers were presented in an open session, beginning with PMC representative Marek Zebrowski talking about Kosciuszko as an artist and musician. Other presenters during the morning session, which was presided over by Stefan Władysiuk (Polish Science Institute and Library in Canada), included Teofil Lachowicz (Society of Polish Veterans in America), Anna Stefanicka (Piłsudski Institute, London), Fr. Robert Czarnowski (Polish Catholic Mission, Paris), Jacek Barski (Porta Polonica, Germany), Istvan Miklos Balazs (Polish Institute and Museum, Budapest).

After lunch in a restaurant nearby, the afternoon session was chaired by Marta Bryszewska (Domeyko Library, Buenos Aires) and included presentations by Jan Konopka (Kościuszko Museum, Solothurn), Stefan Władysiuk (Polish Science Institute and Library in Canada), Iwona Korga (Piłsudski Institute, New York), Jadwiga Kowalska (Archives of the Polish Mission in England and Wales), and Renata Vickrey (Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences, New York).

In the late afternoon there was a wreath-laying ceremony at the Kościuszko monument in Zuchwil, attended by the MAB conference delegates and Poland’s Ambassador to Switzerland, Iwona Kozłowska. In the evening all conference guests assembled at an elegant dinner at the Hotel La Couronne hosted by the Ambassador and Director of Poland’s State Archives (NDAP), Dr. Paweł Pietrzyk.

On Thursday, September 7, the MAB Conference moved to the H4 Hotel and the morning session presided by Iwona Korga was devoted to presentations by representatives from the National Archives, Archives of the National Remembrance Institute (IPN), the POLONIKA Institute of Polish Heritage, National Library and Department of Cooperation with Poles Abroad at the Ministry of Culture (MKiDN).

After lunch, the Conference organizers chartered a luxurious, air-conditioned bus (the weather continued to be exceptionally hot) and drove the attendees to the Swiss capital Bern, located about 45 km from Solothurn. Once there, a walking tour of the city was offered to the visitors that was followed by the 6 p.m. concert and garden reception at the residence of Poland’s Ambassador to Switzerland, Iwona Kozłowska. A piano recital by Marek Zebrowski was also offered, opening with three short piano pieces by Tadeusz Kościuszko. These were followed by polonaises and waltzes by some of his contemporaries, including Michał Kleofas Ogiński, and Maria Szymanowska. The music program ended on two of Chopin’s early polonaises, composed when he was only eight years old and published posthumously.

The MAB Conference resumed on Friday morning, September 8, with a closed session presided over by Małgorzata Kot (Polish Museum of America, Chicago). A few hours later a walking tour of Solothurn was organized and led by Radosław Pawłowski. It was followed by the official guided tour of the Kościuszko Museum given by the Museum’s Curator, Teresa Ackermann. All kinds of delicious refreshments were on hand at the Museum for several thirsty and lightly famished visitors who then headed back to their hotel for lunch.

One more fun excursion was scheduled for Friday afternoon, this time to the nearby mountain, Weissenstein. Rising 1395 meters over the sea level and part of the Swiss Jura, this mountain is famous for a spectacular view of the Alps on a clear day. It was a short bus ride from Solothurn over narrow and winding roads crossing a few sleepy villages that ended at the cable car terminus located at the base of the mountain. Getting on and off the cable cars required some attention and careful planning, but all MAB members and the organizers were safely delivered to the end of the line. Clear and refreshing air and afternoon sunshine accompanied the visitors as they hiked past an elegant mountain-top hotel and crossed several wooded glades to arrive at a secluded meadow, where a picnic with wine, cheese and crackers supplemented the lovely conversation and views.

Taking one of the last rides back down at about 6 p.m., the group was then taken to the Widder Restaurant in Zuchwil, where the MAB delegates had lunch on the first day of the conference. The evening was warm, and everyone sat at several long tables to enjoy excellent food and great wine interspersed with reminiscing about past conferences.Transported by private cars back to the hotels in Solothurn late in the evening, MAB members had a chance to pack their suitcases and depart from Solothurn on Saturday morning for their various destinations across the world.

To view a nine minute report from Polish media on the MAB Conference, click here.

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