Friday, October 03, 2008

Bogdan Zaryn

A very nice person died this week. I have known radio journalist Bogdan Zaryn for a long time and he was one of the most extra-ordinary people I ever met.

Grieving him are two children, a wife and many, many others. He was in hospital for radical surgery to help him walk again, freely. The first surgery was successful but an emergency surgery after was not. He died Friday, aged 51 years old.

Tragedy always seemed to follow Bogdan. His mother was a survivor of the Nazi’s Auschwitz. She moved to Canada after the war and that’s where she gave birth to Bogdan. Bogdan was born with bad legs, bad back, you name it. The family is not a lucky one.

But even though he was sick for much of the time I knew him, he was also one of the most positive people I ever met. And Bogdan had a special kind of charisma that everyone found irresistible

Even when people got annoyed with Bogdan - and that seemed to be quite often - they never could dislike him. In fact, the opposite. Even when you were annoyed with Bogdan, you always remembered the reasons why you were so, so fond of him.

Bogdan’s guide to journalism

Bogdan never did conventional research. While the rest of us mere mortals looked up stuff in boring old books and computers, Bogus - with typical Bogus logic - thought: why look something up in a book when you can telephone an expert and ask them? So that’s what he did. All day. Everyday. All the time.

After a couple of years of this he had a contact book that resembled a telephone directory for the entire New York State. Bogdan knew LOTS of experts.

Unfortunately, he didn’t just ring experts up. If he didn’t know something - even the most banal of things - he used to ring his work colleagues up, too. Even when they were in the room next door.

Bogdan used to single out individuals at the workplace as the target - victim - of his constant questioning. He phoned them at work, he phoned them at home. At morning, noon and night, Bogdan kept right on phoning.

He knew that he only had a limited time for their direct attention, as after a few days the poor hapless colleague would be such a nervous wreck that they would have to retire to a sanatorium to recuperate - by which time Bogdan had moved on and found himself a new victim to harass. Corridors were littered, at times, with the twitching, gibbering results of Bogdan’s ’special attention’. Some folk would be scared to answer the phone in case it was one of his questions on the other end of the line.

Bogdan was never the most technologically savvy person I ever met. The internet always confused him, a little. Once he was listening to us talking about what a god-send Google was - information in under 0.14 of a second, blah, blah. The next day he came into work and turned on the computer. And then, by reflex, he got on the telephone. This time it was to me. I was in the room next door, so I could hear his voice both on the phone and coming through the dividing wall between us. It was one of his classics.

“How do you spell ‘google’”, he shouted.

“I don’t know,” I said in prophylactic exasperation: “Why don’t you GOOGLE IT!”

It was like that all the time. He was a very hard person to refuse. That’s one reason why he was so good at getting people for an interview. People always stopped for Bogdan, no matter in what rush they were in. I have seen government spokesman being pursued by Bogdan down spiral staircases - Bogdan asking questions as the spokesman helped him get down the steps.

He could illicit the dumb quote from celebrities by asking a perfectly timed, cliché question. He once asked Edyta Gorniak: “So…who is the real Edyta Gorniak?”

Gorniak said: “Ooo, I really don’t know - there are so many sides of me!”


Bogdan had met them all. He interviewed Donald Tusk once about his Kashubian roots, before he became the current prime minister. Tusk didn’t want to speak to him in English and did the interview in Polish. But, somehow - and only Bogdan could get people to do this - he got Tusk to sing him a song in Kashubian! To my knowledge that is a world first.

Even when he was in hospital he was on the telephone the whole time, ringing colleagues up.

After the first, successful operation to help him walk again, he decided that he absolutely must get an interview with his, rather good, surgeon. For two whole days he harassed a couple of colleagues, night, day and very early morning, to get them to send him some recording equipment. Finally, they relented. So a special company car was sent to take to the hospital, not a person, but a small recording device and a microphone. I wonder if the driver made it wear a seat belt?

But you just could not refuse Bogdan, when his mind was set on you doing something for him. And that’s quite a talent he had. A people talent. Bogdan had lots of people-talent.

What a sad day Friday was. It was made all the sadder, for everyone who knew him, for the fact that Bogdan had never been happier. His operation was successful, he was moving house, he had two gorgeous young children. And then one day he went into an operating theatre and never woke up again.

The memories of him will be made up of all the mad stuff he got up to in his life, his wheezy laugh …and maybe his constant questions. But in my mind I will always remember Bogdan’s last masterpiece.

After Bogdan’s operation, the 24 hour news station - TVN 24 - got to hear about this new and risky surgery he had undergone. How they got to know about this is still a mystery to me. Maybe Bogdan rang them up? Anyway, a film crew went down to the hospital in Constancin, on the outskirts of Warsaw, and did an interview with Bogdan. It’s a moving, short piece of film, which you can see here.

I am going to miss him so much.


Unknown said...

Beetroot - nice tribute to him. A tough life taken away too early.

beakerkin said...

Decent tribute

JSH said...

We were closest buddies from the very beginning weeks of our lives, and though in recent years we lived a great distance apart, this never changed--Bogdan was my best and only lifelong friend, and I will always be in awe of his courage, and his contagious optimism. I will miss him very, very much, as I know so many others will. Thank you for posting this tribute.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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beatroot said...

I really do pity the author of the last two comments. That's the price we pay for free speech. But it's still worth it as these kind of people are very very sad and in a very small minority.

But a deep thanks for the three comments before.. especially JSH, who obviously knows Bogdan. I think we share the same type of memories about the guy.

Anonymous said...
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beatroot said...

I am going to Bogdan’s funeral on Wednesday, and I will say a prayer for every civilised being on this planet.

You will not be one of them.

Truly pathetic.

Anonymous said...

Dear author,
i've found your blog in google; i'm looking for some informations about Bogdan's funeral. I have known Bogdan for 2 years. Information about his death was a shock for me. I don't know his family that's why i'm writing to you. Could you please write where and what time the funeral will be.

beatroot said...

Bogdan's funeral and mass begins at 9.40, Wednesday. It's at

Brwinów. Św. FLORIANA. 05-840 Brwinów, ul. Biskupicka 2

It will be an extraordinary affair, in keeping with the person it is in honour of. Both catholic and Jewish representatives will be there, including Chief rabbi Michael Schudrich. Hope to see you there.

beata p said...

Thank you so much. I'be there tomorrow.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Bogdam was an awesome guy and a loving father,
Growing up in Montreal, our families’ were very close. I got to see Bogdan in Poland this past May. He seemed very happy. I then got to see him on the web after his operation in the interview where he threw his crutches (now that he could walk). He certainly seemed happy and proud.
Bogdan, you were onbe of the good guys, your smile brightened any room. We lost a good person this week.
We will all miss you! Say hi to Krul Borys for us
M from Ottawa Canada

beatroot said...

Thanks ever so much for that, M from Ottawa. The funeral today was amazing. Just as the priest said the prayers, the coffin was lowered into the ground, and then Chief rabbi Schudrich said Jewish prayers, the sun, for the first time this week, came out. Lots of people there from all over Warsaw.

Bogdan would be proud.

I would say 'rest in peace', Bogdan, but while he will be in peace he will never rest. As I write he is probably interviewing St Peter on his admitrance policy regulations...:-)

Anonymous said...
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beatroot said...

Listen, you are not going to defile this post with that kind of childish nonsense. I will just delete it. If this is how you get your kicks, then pity you. But why bother?

Anonymous said...

My fullest sympathy to Bogdan's family both in Poland and Canada. He comes from a fine family and tradition (I knew his parents well) and I am sure his legacy will continue with his two children. Ryszard from Ottawa.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tribute post and link to Bogdan's last interview. I met Bogdan in hospital in 2005 and again in 2006. Bogdan certainly had a habit of ringing up people, he once rang me by mistake!

He was great to chat with and I can say that he was instrumental in growing my interest in the Warsaw Uprising, the topic which I now study as part of my PhD. Bogdan touched many lives through his work and enthusiasm. He was an inspiration and will be greatly missed. J, Ireland

beatroot said...

Cheers, J.

Anonymous said...

Why so quiet about the death of the antifascist of the year 2003?

Simon Mol dies in hospital

Created: 13.10.2008 07:13
Simon Mol, the Cameroonian charged with intentionally infecting several Polish women with HIV, died in a hospital, Saturday night.

Last week Mol’s trial was suspended due to his ill health after being released from detention in September and transported to one of Warsaw’s hospitals. Medical staff described his condition, linked to his HIV infection, as “critical”. Reputedly M. refused to undergo medical treatment.

The public prosecutor’s office in Poland established that the Cameroonian infected over 40 women with HIV. He himself claimed that he was not aware of his condition.

He was arrested in January 2007. The trial, which began in July this year involved a total of 13 charges levelled against him – 11 in connection with intentionally infecting women with HIV, one of exposing a women to the disease, and one of possessing cold weapon without a permit. He was facing 10 years in prison.

The Cameroonian first arrived in Poland in 1999. He claimed to be a political refugee and that he was persecuted in Cameroon for publishing an article on a corruption scandal in the government. However, Polish media reported later on that his life history was to a great extent a fabrication. (jm)

Anonymous said...

We are waiting for your tribute to this criminal Beatroot.

Anonymous said...

We are waiting for your tribute to this criminal Beatroot.

Paul N. Leroux said...

I knew Bogdan back in the 60s and 70s -- we went to the same schools and grew up in the same district of Montreal (Cartierville). He had a lot of spunk; it's very sad to hear he died. And, actually, I didn't know his mom had endured Auschwitz. I have a whole new level of respect for her.


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