Time and again life has been trying to teach me a lesson, but I must admit that I have ben a rather slow learner. It is a lesson about the vanity of fame and fortune: what most of us, myself included, strive for day and night.
In a dream not too long ago I imagined myself walking down the corridor of a lecture hall--quiet, empty and dark--at the University of Colorado. It appears that I am a courier bearing a secret dispatch for my old mentor. When I greet him in the darkened hall he takes me to the side and says: "I am dying." Suddenly I awoke, several hours before dawn. In the stillness of the house I sat in my easy chair and gave myself over to nocturnal reflections, relieved that the dream was only a dream. But could anything have happened to my mentor?
Some time afterward I received a long letter from my mentor that described his recent trip to Europe to attend the funeral of his old tank commander, Gen. Stanislaw Maczek. Dr. Rozek illustrated the consequences of the betrayal at Yalta by recounting the General's life in exile following the Communist takeover of Poland. As I read I knew that it was not just Gen. Maczek's story he was telling me. Between the lines I could discern his own.
Some men have the gift of perseverance: the ability to stand in the face of persecution, the fortitude to endure having so much of what they cherish snatched away, the character to withstand being unjustly passed over in one's career due to differences of opinion. These are some of the qualities that my mentor, Edward Rozek, has exhibited as a teacher in the more than three decades I have known him. He has been one of my chief guides: the Virgil to my often uncomprehending Dante, who showed me the perils of the journey ahead. He is the one professor who touched my soul, who exemplified the kind of strength that may be gained through suffering and, beyond suffering, faith. If his word was his pledge, even more was his life his testimony, bearing the marks of mortal combat with Nazism in his body and moral combat with Communism in his soul.
As I reach back through the years, beginning in 1967, I can now appreciate more fully many of the lessons he set before me. Two books we read in class on the governments of Germany and Russia stood out in my mind: The Origins of Russian Communism by Nicolas Berdyaev and The Question of German Guilt by Karl Jaspers. Later, as I advanced in my studies, I came to know them as the works of "existentialist philosophers."...