Dariusz Popiela Named Winner of 2021 POLIN Award

November 30, 2021

It is with immense pleasure that we learned that the great friend of the ASPJ, Dariusz Popiela, has been named as the winner of the 2021 POLIN Award, presented at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. This honour, awarded annually since 2015, is presented to people or organisations whose activities protect the memory of the history of Polish Jews and who contribute to the shaping of a common future, mutual understanding and respect.

The Award jury acknowledges those  who have demonstrated important, extraordinary activity which has made a significant impact on the social awareness of the history of Polish Jews and on building Polish-Jewish relations.

Polish champion kayaker, Dariusz Popiela, is the founder of the “People, Not Numbers” project, which researches the names of Holocaust victims who are buried in mass graves inside cemeteries and elsewhere. Monuments are then erected bearing the names of these victims, so that their memory will live on.

Through his efforts, more than 5,000 Holocaust victims from Krościenko nad Dunajcem, Grybów, Czarrny Dunajec and Nowy Targ have, thus far, been commemorated by name. The Award jury recognised Dariusz’s incredible energy to act and to inspire others to become involved in this project. For many years, Dariusz has also co-organised anniversary commemorations related to the Jewish history of his home town of Nowy Sącz.

The “People, Not Numbers” project also holds meetings with young people in schools, during which the history of the local community is presented. It conducts educational trips to the Extermination Museum at Bełżec, where young people learn the tragic history of the former inhabitants of their town, and then schools and their students become patrons of their local monument-memorial site.

Dariusz also searches for matzevot and for items left behind by Jewish inhabitants. With the cooperation of and dialogue with local communities, it has been possible to recover tombstones, which have been spent decades in backyards outside of cemeteries. These matzevot undergo specialist restoration and are then placed inside cemeteries.

Dariusz Popiela is a Beijing Olympian, a nine-time Polish Champion (last title in 2021) and multiple medalist of the World and European Championships in kayaking.

The ASPJ sincerely congratulates Dariusz. This honour is well-deserved!

COVID notwithstanding, we hope to welcome Dariusz to Australia in 2022 to deliver the 2022 ASPJ Oration,
and to screen the Australian premiere of his film “Edge of Light”.

Watch this video to learn about this year’s POLIN Award nominees.

Source: POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.