Wrocław commemorated the founder of UNICEF

13 May 2024
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Wroclaw, May 8th, 2024 - One of the squares in the Wrocław neighborhood of Muchobór Mały was named after Ludwik Witold Rajchman, the founder and first head of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Another Wrocław’s dwarf also appeared in the square – this time holding the Convention on the Rights of the Child. On Wednesday, May 8th, the ceremony honoring the prominent Polish social activist and the cooperation of the capital of Lower Silesia with UNICEF took place.

“This symbolism is not accidental. Wroclaw fully shares the values that UNICEF stands for: solidarity and assistance to the most vulnerable ones, in this case, children. We are proud to be the first city in the country to name public space after a distinguished Pole who was the "father" of this organization” – says the mayor of Wrocław, Jacek Sutryk.

UNICEF’s presence in Poland dates back to early years after World War II when it was providing support and supplies to Polish children for many years in difficult post-war reality. Established in 1962, Polish National Committee for UNICEF has been promoting children’s rights and monitoring the implementation of the Convention in Poland. In 2002, when Poland was recognized as a high-income country, the mission of the Polish National Committee for UNICEF was extended and since then it has been tirelessly raising funds and encouraging Polish donors to support vulnerable children all over the world. In response to the largest refugee crisis since World War II, UNICEF opened a Refugee Response Office in Poland in March 2022. Wrocław was a leading municipality in assisting refugees from Ukraine, approximately 80,000 of whom have arrived in the city since February 2022, including over 43,000 children. UNICEF and the city collaborated on an Action Plan, and UNICEF provided over 42 million PLN to support children and their caregivers with access to education and healthcare, including mental health services.  

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“I am honored by the city of Wroclaw’s initiative to mark our joint work of almost 2 years on the ground serving refugee children. We have worked tirelessly together to ensure every child is fully included in the city’s life, and their invisible wounds of war can start healing away from home, in Poland. I am very touched about the exhibition that is now presented on the Main Square and opening of the Square named after Ludwik Rajchman. Unfortunately, the world today is still far from being fit for children. 78 years after its founding, UNICEF is still active and responding to numerous crises all around the world, where children’s lives and well-being are at risk” – says Nona Zicherman, Country Coordinator of UNICEF Refugee Response Office in Poland.

Ludwik Witold Rajchman (1881-1965), Polish bacteriologist and social activist of Jewish origin, is one of those figures of the turbulent 20th century whose recognition in Poland is inadequately small compared to the role he actually played. In no other city in Poland there is a street named after him. To this day, one would search in vain for even such topographic points as a square dedicated to Rajchman.

Meanwhile, he was the initiator and co-founder of UNICEF - an organization established after World War II by the United Nations to help children worldwide. From 1946 to 1950, he served as its first chairman. "A Pole on international duty," as he used to write about himself, he directed politicians' attention to issues such as children's malnutrition and the need for mass medical examinations. Thanks to his initiative, 17 million tuberculosis vaccines were distributed worldwide in the post-World War II period. Jean Monnet, a French politician and economist, one of the founding fathers of the European Communities, the "prototype" of today's European Union, wrote about him, "few people had such a sense of the universal dimension of issues as Rajchman". 

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The new patron of the square in Wrocław's Muchobór Mały neighborhood was able to collaborate internationally with politicians from various political backgrounds and governmental models - always treating helping those in need as a higher goal. The events commemorating Ludwik Witold Rajchman in Wrocław were attended by his great-granddaughter Marta Balińska, who lives and works in France. It was a family journey for her – her great-grandfather was a cousin of Professor Ludwik Hirszfeld (1884 – 1954), a bacteriologist and immunologist, creator of the blood group system still used worldwide today, who in 1950 was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine for explaining the serological conflict between mother and fetus. Professor Hirszfeld lived and worked in Wrocław after the war, where he passed away and was buried.

“I am always touched when I return to the land of my ancestors. This visit is special for two reasons: firstly, Wrocław names a public space after my great-grandfather, but also because I have the opportunity to visit the place of work and life of his cousin, Ludwik Hirszfeld, whose memoirs I had the pleasure of translating into English. I am very pleased that Wrocław commemorates Ludwik Rajchman's achievements by naming a square after him. I hope that his contributions to the welfare of children will be duly recognized worldwide" says Marta Balińska, the great-granddaughter of Ludwik Rajchman. 

Media contacts

Monika Kacprzak
Communication Specialist
UNICEF Refugee Response Office in Poland
Tel: (+48) 604 226 866

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit https://www.unicef.org/eca/.

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