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In Remembrance of Wiktor Osiatyński

Wiktor Osiatynski
Wiktor Osiatynski Andrew Testa/Panos for the Open Society Foundation

On April 29, Wiktor Osiatyński, a long-standing member of the Global Board and cherished member of the Open Society family since the early ’90s, passed away after a long struggle with cancer.

Osiatyński was an expert in constitutional law who coauthored the draft of the Bill of Rights submitted by then President Lech Walęsa to the Polish Parliament, as well as several provisions of the constitution adopted by Poland in 1997. He also was a leading advocate of drug and alcohol treatment, and the author of 25 books on various subjects, including constitutionalism, addiction, science, sports, and social as well as political ideas.

Recently, longtime friend and Open Society Foundations founder George Soros spoke at Osiatyński’s funeral. His remarks are reprinted below.

There is a tradition in my family against attending funerals. It was started by my father who had a great influence on me. He made it a rule not to attend any funerals during his lifetime. He even avoided his own funeral by having himself cremated. But I am ready to break with the family tradition and make an exception for Wiktor for a number of reasons.

He was one of my closest personal friends and also a close friend of my family. His death is a great loss to me, and I came here to mourn him. We shared a common commitment to the idea of the open society, and Wiktor also developed his own causes based on his own life experience. Wiktor fought for the causes he believed in, right up to his death. His illness attacked his body but his mind continued to function. You heard him on the radio until quite recently.

He had been an alcoholic in his youth and this made him acutely aware of the harm of the effects of alcoholism. It also made him a passionate opponent of domestic violence—a cause that he shared with his wife, Ewa. The two of them together established a movement which made remarkable progress not only in Poland, but also in the neighboring countries, particularly Russia. Wiktor acquainted me with these issues, and I adopted them in my foundations. I hope Ewa will carry on that work, and I will continue to support it.

I believe that Wiktor was a hero in the fight for Europe as an open society, and at a time when the open society is fighting for its survival in Europe, he should be recognized and remembered as such.

I wish to announce that I have endowed a chair for Constitutional and Human Rights Studies at the Central European University in Wiktor’s honor. I have also been asked by the senate and board of the CEU to announce that they intend to confer an Honorary Doctorate of Law on Wiktor at the commencement this June in Budapest. I hope a member of his family will attend to accept the award on his behalf.

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