My tribute to Ryszard Kapuściński

“A journey, after all, neither begins in the instant we set out nor ends when we have reached our doorstep once again. It starts much earlier and is never really over because the film of memory continues running on inside of us long after we have come to a physical standstill. Indeed, there exists something like a contagion of travel, and the disease is essentially incurable” – Ryszard Kapuściński in “Travels With Herodotus”

I’ve written several essays for this blog about women who inspire me to dream big and follow my dreams and values. Obviously, I do have male role-models, too and I’d be very happy to present them to you. Today, please let me start with the one and only Ryszard Kapuściński, one of the greatest reporters of the 20th century – in Poland and worldwide – who witnessed some 27 revolutions across the world – in Latin America, in Africa, in the Middle East. He was often called the emperor of reportage. Gabriel Garcia Marquez called him Maestro.

I don’t want to copy and paste here the Wikipedia’s extensive biography of Ryszard Kapuściński. I don’t want to elaborate on all the controversies that are connected with his biography neither. It would take much, much longer than the whole space I want to devote to this post. And still would not say it all about this genuine and genius author, photographer, poet, reporter and journalist.

And of course, I truly hope you know him 🙂

In this post, I want to share with you a few memories I have about Ryszard Kapuściński and his books.


I remember visiting the Kramerbooks at the Dupont Circle in Washington, DC some years ago (love this bookstore, a visit is a must for all the bookworms!). I was very proud to notice the whole shelf filled with Ryszard Kapuściński’s books: “The Emperor”, “The Shadow of the Sun”, “The Soccer War”, “Shah of Shahs” and many others. I approached the shop assistant and said: “How cool you sell his books!”. He replied: “Well, why are you so surprised? He was Maestro and everyone loves his writings! These books sell very well here”.

This shop assistant made my day.


I remember also the time when I moved to Warsaw to study. I came to the capital from a small town located far away from everything. This journey was very big for me, probably as big as travels to Africa or South America were for Ryszard Kapuściński. I was just about to take my first big exam with late professor Jan Baszkiewicz, a world known specialist in the field of France and the French Revolution in particular. Professor Baszkiewicz was very strict with his students. I was scared to death and full of impostor syndrome.

Once, I saw a piece of information announcing the event where Ryszard Kapuściński would meet with his fans and discuss his new book “Travels With Herodotus” near the University of Warsaw, my alma mater. I had and read this book and obviously went to the event. I saw him, the greatest of the greatest reporters. I listened to his short lecture (loved his voice!) and the conversation with the event’s host. And then I approached Maestro and said with no hesitation: “I’m on my first ever huge journey, at the university, just about to take the first exam, can you, please, Sir, wish me good luck?”. I still don’t know how I did it. Anyway, Ryszard Kapuściński wrote in my book: “Good luck at the exam, Katarzyna!”. I got the highest note 🙂

To anyone who borrowed the book later from me and still has it: hope you have good luck, too 🙂


I also remember the time when I discovered Ryszard Kapuściński. I was in my early high school. My friends knew I was a bookworm who loved to volunteer at our library and who couldn’t sit still/dreamed of travelling the world. One of them once gave “Lapidarium” – a book/a collection of Ryszard Kapuściński’s thoughts and memories. It was a perfect match – I fell in love with Kapuściński’s writings from the very first line. I read all the further parts of “Lapidarium” in one week, then I read all the other books of Maestro that were available at our library. “Imperium”, a grand reportage about the Soviet Union/Russia, was my biggest discovery. After reading this book I decided that I want to become a diplomat specialising in post-Soviet countries. My journey towards the world of diplomacy started at that very moment – turning the last page of “Imperium”. Today I work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland but my speciality is a little bit different. Have goals and remain flexible, they say!


I was recently invited to one of the Polish business podcasts called “Inna Kultura Biznesu” (“A Different Business Culture” – there are some episodes in English, like one with my fave Dorie Clark!). “My” episode will be aired in a few weeks. Kamil Zarębski, the author, wanted to talk with me about being a diplomat in these interesting times, the new kinds of diplomacy and many other issues. While preparing for our conversation, I came across an old interview with Ryszard Kapuściński. And all the memories of his books came back. If there was one thing I was to take from his writings, was the openness, kindness and friendliness we should all have to one another – especially to those that differ so much from us. In that interview, Ryszard Kapuściński underlined that building competencies for meeting others will become the biggest challenge of the 21st century. These meetings – and there will be so many of them – will construct our history and everything that we will live for further generations.

No more spoilers about the podcast!


Why am I writing all this today? I have just seen the trailer for the animated movie based on Ryszard Kapuściński’s book “Another day of life”. The book and the movie tell the story of the bloody civil war in Angola in the mid-1970s. Ryszard Kapuściński was one of the very few international correspondents who reported from this conflict. It is said that the journey to Angola was transformational for Ryszard Kapuściński – “it was a reporter that left Poland but it was a writer that returned”. This non-fiction book just had to be eventually filmed. The movie is a Polish-Spanish-German-Belgian production and was very well received in Cannes this year. It is going to hit the screens in October (in Poland) and I just can’t wait to watch it. Check out the trailer:

Now you too can’t wait to see the movie, don’t you? But first, please check Ryszard Kapuściński’s books and discover the magic of meeting others with kindness, friendliness and openness so that you grow, you learn, you experience.


No sponsored content, just private opinions.

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