Another Oxonian president?

24Mar10

by Szczurek

Sunday’s televised debate between Bronisław Komorowski and Radek Sikorski was a disappointment. The two contenders for the position of Platforma Obywatelska‚s nomination for president failed to establish any clear blue water between themselves. Perhaps this was only to be expected, given that both candidates were promoting a Prezydentura Lite, and wanted to distance themselves from the heavy presidential style of Lech Kaczynski. Yet there are a couple of major differences between them which Sikorski failed to exploit.

First of all, Sikorski is the only major figure in Polish politics whose English is at native speaker level. In fact it’s considerable better than the English of most native speakers. With Sikorski firmly ensconced in the Belvedere palace, our campaign against shoddy Polish to English translation might even have a chance of earning itself presidential patronage.

Secondly, having spent many of his formative years in England, Sikorski has a healthy disdain for the heavy hand of Polish bureaucracy. I particularly enjoyed the following passage in the book by Łukasz Warzecha.

Your Oxford degree hangs alongside the photograph of you and your friends from the Bullingdon Club. It is dated 3 March 1993, yet you left Oxford in the 1980s. Please explain.

These things are done rather differently in England than in Poland. Some 50% of graduates never collect their degrees. The actual degree is rarely, if ever, needed. If you say that you are a graduate of Oxford, people believe you. If necessary, the award can be checked directly with the university. It may seem strange to you, but my friends felt that collecting their degrees was behaviour not appropriate for a gentleman.

I actually have two degrees at Chobielin. The one that hangs in the manor is my MA. My BA hangs in my parents’ house. Both have the same date. By long-established custom a BA from Oxford or Cambridge is considered to be equivalent to an MA from elsewhere. After obtaining a BA you wait a couple of years, forward a cheque for fifteen pounds and you are automatically awarded your MA.

I only bothered to collect my BA because it became indispensable to my life in Poland. My first regular job in Poland was as deputy Minister of Defence. I was visited by an official from the Ministry’s HR department. He said that he had come to see me on a delicate matter and asked for a copy of my degree. He explained that it was necessary for the paperwork to be in order and that a deputy minister needed such a qualification. Luckily for me, I was able to apply for my degree by post, but I still had to wait until the following year. Degrees granted in absentia must take part in the formal award ceremony during which they lie on a table. Only then can they be mailed out to those graduates who chose not to collect them in person.

Kret tells me that Sikorski may not be trying too hard because he wants to try his hand at one or two ‚meaty’ jobs before he retires to the presidency. He may well be right!



3 Responses to “Another Oxonian president?”

  1. Uh oh, I suddenly realised Sikorski is a bit of a [snipped by Szczurek – See ‚Moderation‚].

  2. Komorowski in 2010

    Sikorski in 2020.

    Radek will be 58 in 2020 – still a good age for a president. More gravitas.

  3. Fair enough, that was an unsupported statement. I still think I should be allowed to call Sikorski a k**b without justification, but I see your point of view.

    My point was that I was rather sickened by certain phrases in the extract.

    „If you say that you are a graduate of Oxford, people believe you.” Yes they do, if you say it in the right way. This was a favourite trick of our dearly beloved Lord Archer I believe.

    „my friends felt that collecting their degrees was behaviour not appropriate for a gentleman.” What is this, 1907?

    „By long-established custom a BA from Oxford or Cambridge is considered to be equivalent to an MA from elsewhere.” Not by me it isn’t.

    That is all.


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