Prof. Dr. Leslaw Cirko
Germanist, Professor of linguistics at the German Studies Institute, University of Wrocław, Poland
DAAD Scholarship 1983–1984
A telegram from Wrocław brought a decisive turning point in Lesław Cirko's path through life. "That was in autumn 1981, just before that dramatic day on which martial law was declared on Poland," remembers the Pole, who was born in 1958.
It is with concern that I observe how the importance of the German language is decreasing here in Poland.
After having graduated in German studies, Cirko became a teacher at a school in Lubin, Poland. Actually, however, he wanted to become an interpreter. The country's tense political situation concerned him deeply. Many others felt much the same. At the University of Wrocław, two assistants from the institute in Wrocław headed by the linguist Norbert Morciniec had left for the west. Morciniec recalled his former pupil, Lesław Cirko, and asked him by telegram, whether he wanted to spontaneously fill a gap at his institute.
Today, he is a professor and holds the Chair of General and Comparative Linguistics at the German Studies Institute at the University of Wrocław. He is a recognised specialist for the morphology and syntax of the German language and works Europe wide together with colleagues on projects of contrastive grammar. The two volume German-Polish contrastive grammar that he published together with colleagues has been published as a standard reference book.
The foundation stone for his collaboration with international linguistics was provided by a DAAD Scholarship he received in 1983 for a stay in Munich. At the time, politics had almost once more determined his further career. Because Cirko, who had never been a party member, was unable to produce the necessary documents for a stay abroad. Once again, Morciniec became active on behalf of his young assistant. He wrote to his colleague in Munich, Harald Weinrich, who headed the Institute for German as a Foreign Language in Munich. Weinrich's personal invitation opened the door to the west for the young scientist. "That was the happiest time of my life," recalls Cirko today. "With a childlike fascination for the unknown, I explored Germany from life's side."
Today, Cirko registers with concern the decreasing importance of German as a language of research. It seems absurd to him that an essay by a Polish German studies scholar is evaluated more highly if it is published in English than if the very same article appears in a German-language journal. The decline in interest among Polish students also tells the professor that the German language is losing its position. "In the 1990s, the German Studies Department in Wrocław was by far the largest in Europe. Since 2005 the number of students has fallen considerably." He and his colleagues are very concerned about this. They do not have a magic solution, but they continue to act as ambassadors for this language. In 2011 Cirko received the DAAD Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm Prize, which is endowed with 10,000 euros, for teaching and research in the German language.