About Beata Pawlak

Beata Pawlak was Polish journalist and writer. On October 12th 2002 she was killed on the Bali island as one of 200 victims of a terrorist attack. Every year – to honor the anniversary of her death – the Beata Pawlak Award is given to authors of publications devoted to other cultures. The Award was set up on the basis of all Beata Pawlak’s personal savings, which she had devised to this aim in her last will. This idea of the Award occurred to Beata in France, several years before her death.

Beata was a free spirit. In 1970s, she was an activist in the Cracow unit of the Student Solidarity Committee (SKS). During the martial law, she edited and published an underground newspaper. In 1984, she left for Paris where she lived for seven years working among others as a translator, night watchman, cleaning lady, checkout assistant in a supermarket, and censor in Minitel, an online service.

In France, she found a lifelong passion – Islam - which started with her friendship with an Iranian emigrant. Beata was disturbed by a contrast between anti-Islamic stereotypes in France and people she knew. Next, she tried to find an answer to the question of why Islamic bombs explode? She traveled to Muslim countries where she came across fascinating people and became acquainted with their culture and civilization. She dreamt of hiding in a medina quarter for a year and look at it through eyes of people who live there.

After Islam, she developed interest in other cultures and embarked on next journeys. She traveled to 25 countries. She visited a Buddhist monastery, the Mother Teresa’s Missionary of Charity in Calcutta, an Israeli kibbutz.... She described all she saw in her writings since this had always been another of her great passions. As a teenager, she sneaked up into the garden of her favorite writer - Maria Kuncewiczowa. As an adult, she tempted luck and diced with life to provoke new topics for her books.

Beata started her career with writing reportages. She cooperated with several newspapers: Polish emigree magazine “Contact” in Paris, “Gazeta Wyborcza” daily and “Tygodnik Powszechny” and “Polityka” weeklies. In 2001, she published a book Mammoths and Petards, i.e. What Foreigners Really Think of Poles and Poland praised i.a. by Ryszard Kapuściński. In spring 2002, just before her last journey, she completed her first novel Angel Puss, published in summer 2003. Although she kept moving all over the world, she devoted her first novel to her roots – the family circle she was brought up in.

She came to Bali after a six-month tour through Asia. We know that she reached the place of the tragedy at the last moment. She was killed by people whom she wanted to understand – Islamic fundamentalists. In her backpack left in a hotel room, Beata left a sketch of her new novel. In Poland, she left her last will.

Wojciech Załuska

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