Samuel Djament (Stefan Drobot)        Mathematician,  born 1913 in Krakow.  Quite a few documents have been located, amongst them excerpts from Stefan's                                                                        personnel file maintained by the Polish Communist Party.

 











Stefan's official school photo 1931



High school (Gymnasium) diploma


 



                                                    CURATOR OF THE CRACOW SCHOOL DISTRICT
                                                                STATE EXAMINING COMMITTEE

                                                            
    CERTIFICATE OF MATURITY

Samuel Djament, born on the 7th of August 1913 in Cracow, in the Cracow region, of Jewish religion, completed studies at the State Gymnasium No. 7 in Cracow, named after Adam Mickiewicz, to which he was admitted as the first grader. On the 20th of May 1931, in front of the State Examining Committee, constituted by the Cracow District of Education on the 8th of April by the decree No. II-3745/31, he took an ordinarily maturity examination of humanities type. He received the following marks on the subjects covered by the exam:

        Religion:                                                                     Very good
        Polish language:                                                          Very good
        Latin language:                                                            Very good
        History and contemporary studies of Poland:                    Very good
        Physics and chemistry:                                                  N/A
        Mathematics:                                                               Very good

In addition, his annual marks in grades VII – VIII (or corresponding marks on the entrance examination to the abve gymnasium) were as follows:

        German language:                  Good                                     Voice and Music:                     N/A
        Physics and Chemistry;           Very good                              Physical education:                 Good
        Introductory Philosophy:         Good                                     Hygiene:                                Good
        Drawing:                                N/A

The State Examination Commission found Samuel Djament to be mature and ready for higher studies, and issues him this
certificate.
                                                                                                                Cracow, May 20, 1932, No. 11/31

                                                                                                                Signed by                                                                                                                 Chairman
                                                                                                                Members of the State Examination Committee

Translated by Vladimir Drobot . [Translator’s note: The entire certificate is written in one long sentence. I chopped it
up a bit for clarity.
 
Jagellonian University Diploma


 

JAGIELLONIAN UNIVERSITY
DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY
L.143/1937/38

                                                                                  DIPLOMA         
                                                  of the MASTER OF PHILOSOPHY

Mr. Samuel Djament, born on 7th of August 1913 in Cracow, completed the required courses at the Jagiellonian University in the years 1931/32 – 1934/35 at the Department of Philosophy in the field of Mathematics, and passed the following examinations:

Integral and differential calculus with an
introduction to analysis:                                                     Grade:                Very good
Analytic geometry:                                                             Grade:                Very good
Higher algebra and elements of number theory:                   Grade:                Very good
Theoretical mechanics:                                                       Grade:                Satisfactory
Experimental physics:                                                         Grade:                Good
General principles of philosophy                                          Grade:                Good
Theory of curves:                                                                Grade:                Very good
Algebraic curves:                                                                Grade:                Very good
General astronomy:                                                            Grade:                Very good
Final exam:                                                                        Grade:               Good

In addition he submitted, with the grade of Satisfactory, a Master thesis on the topic: “Mathematical theory of the struggle for survival”.

Consequently, upon the recommendation of the Examining Committee, the Faculty of the Department of Philosophy of the Jagiellonian University awards to Samuel Djament the degree of Master of Philosophy, as a proof of the completion of his studies in the field of Mathematics.

                                                                                                                                                                 Cracow, June 24th, 1938

                                                                                          Signed by the President, the Dean, and the                                                                                                                                          chairman of the Examining Committee.

Translated by Vladimir Drobot.
Translator’s comments: The scale of the grades was: Very good, Good, Satisfactory, Fail. So the committee was not too impressed with his thesis...

 
 


A blue arrow points to Stefan's caricature
 
 Caricatures

These post war caricatures of Samuel Djament (now known as
Stefan Drobot) were drawn by Polish contemporary mathematician Leon Jesmanowicz.


Dossiers              

 
A
collection of documents from Stefan’s personnel file maintained at the Wroclaw Polytechnic. These  contained information about person’s political views, attitudes, reliability, social origin (very important), religious affiliations, etc. Presumably, it often contained incriminating material, if available, for possible future blackmail. These dossiers were maintained by the Polish Communist Party (PZPR – United Polish Worker’s Party) in cooperation with the security apparatus.

                                 Translated by Stefan's son Vladimir, who also provided his perspective of the contents.

These are excerpts from Stefan’s personnel file maintained at the place he worked in Poland (Wroclaw Polytechnic). Pretty much everyone who was employed anywhere had such a dossier. Right after the war ended and the Communists came to power, such files contained information about person’s political views, attitudes, reliability, social origin (very important), religious affiliations, etc. Presumably, it often contained incriminating material, if available, for possible future blackmail. These dossiers were maintained by the Polish Communist Party (PZPR – United Polish Worker’s Party) in cooperation with the security apparatus. Without a favorable, or at least neutral, dossier any advancement was out of question. A negative content could have devastating results, including a prison term, and in extreme circumstances a firing squad. I am not exaggerating, it is estimated that several thousand of Poles were executed in the years 1946 – 1953, essentially for their political activities. Closer to home, Nata’s brother Vladimir was send to prison for five years for telling a joke about Stalin. This was in the Soviet Union not in Poland, true, but the Soviets were in complete control of Poland after the war and for many years dictated their wishes.  The goal was to make Poland in the image of Soviet Union. The entries to the dossier were mainly made by party members who were co-workers with the individual in question. The basic setup lasted essentially until the collapse of Communism in 1990. After Stalin died in 1953, the situation became a lot less draconian, executions stopped, and a nasty dossier meant a loss of a good job, at the worst. Gradually the entries in these dossiers begin to deal with the normal things: work performance, accomplishments, etc., no different from an average personnel file in the United States. But early on, it was a very serious matter.

Portions of Stefan’s dossier came into my possession in a peculiar way. After Stefan died in 1998, I wrote to some people in the Wroclaw mathematical community informing them of what happened. They remembered Stefan very fondly and a decision was made to publish his obituary. Two of his former students, Waclaw Kasprzak and Roscislaw Rabczuk, were charged with the job of writing it up. They contacted me regarding some information about Stefan, mainly about his activities in the United States, his publications, etc. There was a fair amount of correspondence between us, the article was finished in the Spring of 1999, and eventually published in Wiadomości Matematyczne, the house organ of the Polish mathematical community. See the copy of the translation. It so happened that in the Summer of 1999 I went to Poland to attend a wedding, and while there I phoned Kasprzak and thanked him for his efforts. He invited me to his office, I went there, and we had a pleasant chat reminiscing about Stefan. When I was leaving, he handed me a large envelope, saying it contained interesting stuff, and told me to open it later. When I got back to the house of the high school friend I was staying with, I did open it, and discovered that it contained copies of material from Stefan’s dossier. My friend who, like my father, also worked at the Wrocław Polytechnic, told me that Kasprzak used to be a big cheese in the Communist party, and that the party still maintained these dossiers and very much controlled the access to them. This was in 1999, nine years after the collapse of the system. In fact, my friend said that he never saw a copy of a single item from his dossier or, in fact, from anyone else’s. He had no idea what kind of stuff was kept in these things. He was like a kid who discovered a wonderful toy. The material created a considerable stir; people came to visit just to take a look.

In any case, I reproduce here the copies of what I got. I have no idea if this represents the complete content, most likely it does not, but I am sure it is genuine. After such a dramatic introduction, you will find some of the stuff pretty mundane, in fact boring. Perhaps more juicy stuff was left out, but I doubt it. The bureaucracy, by its very nature, produces boring results. With millions of people to keep track of, all the dossiers will pretty much look alike, just like letters of recommendation one writes on behalf of student applying for a job: You have 3 or 4 standard templates; then you essentially fill in the name, and send it off. But, there are a couple of spicier items too.

The material contains several reports, most signed by the individual who wrote it, but there are some anonymous ones too. I reproduce a photo copy of each such report, and then provide a translation and a commentary.

Some general comments which are common to all the items.

1.        Social background, or origin. (Pochodzenie społeczne) As Frank remarked, it is a bit like the caste system in India. Every person was pigeonholed in some category, depending on the social status or the origin of the parents. I believe an official list of available categories existed, but I could not find a reference. In any case, the most desirable one was a “Worker” (Robotnik). Next was “Peasant” (Chłop) If your father was a peasant, and your mother worked in a factory, you became a mayor of a city, and that’s no joke. At the bottom was “Bourgeoisie” (Burżuazja), whatever that meant, “Nobility” (Szlachcic), and maybe “Fabrykant” (Factory owner). I am not all that well versed in this, but roughly it is correct. Somewhere in the middle was “Pracująca inteligencja” literally Working Intellectual. This encompassed teachers, doctors, office workers, university professors, and other motley crew. No distinction was made between a physician and a secretary, they were both Pracująca inteligencja. This is where Stefan fit in.

2.        I write out in full and translated all the abbreviations, in so far as I can figure them out. For example, TPPR stands for Society to Promote Polish-Soviet Friendship (Towarzystwo Przyjaźni Polsko Radzieckiej). Not doing it would obscure a lot essence of the document.



 

Item 1



Item 1a

PERSONAL CHARACTERISTIC

Citizen Professor Dr. Stefan Drobot, born on August 7th 1913. Social background: Working intellectual. In his research he specializes in the branch of mathematics that has connection with technology. In this area he is an outstanding, talented specialist, and is well acquainted with the problems involved the technical sciences. He is a very good coordinator of scientific research. He is the director of a group in the Mathematics Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences which deals with applications to technology. His leadership produced good results. He is active in promoting young leaders of science.  He is an excellent and popular lecturer as well as an expositor of mathematics. He does, however, treat his pedagogical duties in a marginal way. In his dealing with young people he is somewhat aloof, but he acts very much in a matter-of-fact and just manner. He very much values his personal independence, and is skeptical as to the need of political and social activism. He is an atheist and is not connected with any organized world viewpoint or philosophy.

Director of personal matters
Teodosia Czernik

Item 1 has a stamp in the upper left corner:
Wroclaw Polytechnic,
Personnel Department,
Wroclaw , 27 Wybrzerze Wyspianskiego Street
Document number: 83/07N/54
It is dated Wroclaw, 12 day of March, 1954

The first two items are a good example of bureaucracy in action. The items, marked 1 and 1a, are dated differently, one on March 12, 1954 and the other May 10, 1954. The content of both is identical; the second letter was verbatim copied from the first.

The second item (Item 1a) also has an extra signature, by the first secretary of the party organization in the Wroclaw Polytechnic, H. Wieszaczewski.  At that time, he was probably the most powerful person in the Polytechnic.

Comments: Pretty much straight forward assessment of Stefan. The last bit about “world viewpoint” is just a euphemism saying that he is apolitical in his views.


 


Item 2

Ministry of Higher Education and Science
                                                          

                                                          Personnel Department
                                                                     In Warsaw

In connection with an application of the president’s office to employ Citizen Dr. Stefan Drobot as an Auxiliary Professor at the currently forming Department of Mathematics at the Wroclaw Polytechnic, this letter is to certify that Citizen Drobot is a talented scientist. He is an excellent lecturer. He has several scientific accomplishments and continues to work in the field of applied mechanics. He has a positive attitude toward Polish Peoples Republic and the USSR, which he holds up as an example worthy of following. He is the first among the Polish mathematicians to publish his papers in this country in the Russian language. Very conscientious and honest. He comes from a Jewish family which suffered poverty before the war. His wife, a Russian native, has a positive attitude toward the present political reality. His 10 year old child is learning Russian. It is probable that after independence he had an attractive offer to go to the West. He did not take up this offer and remained in Poland. This information was obtained in a confidential manner from his brother Jan, who is the chief executive of Elektrymow in Warsaw. He deserves the promotion. The above was cleared with the local Basic Party Organization of the Polish Communist Party.     

Dated Wroclaw, October 5 1951,
Signed by Falka Jarmut, Director of the Personnel Department

Comments. This one is a bit juicier, especially the Janek angle. The “10 year old child” is, of course, yours truly. I was 10 in 1951. I didn’t take any special Russian lessons, aside those provided in school. It is not completely clear from the text, but I believe this was a copy of a letter sent to the Ministry of Higher Education in Warsaw, in support of Stefan getting a position at the Wroclaw Polytechnic. All such appointments had to come from the Ministry in Warsaw, and this was basically a letter of recommendation. Elektrymov is the name of the organization Janek worked for; he was actually the chief honcho in that outfit. “After independence” means after the war, when Poland regained the independence. Well, it was, from practical point of view a Soviet colony, but at least there was a country on the map of Europe labeled Poland.



 

Item 3

Dr Drobot Stefan – average talent. A large family makes it difficult for him to do research. In 1940 deported from Lwów to Stalinsk, where, during the war, held a position of a docent. Not very ambitious and has a caustic sense of humor. For the sake of a joke, he will say things which are contrary to his views. In his comments, he speaks about the USSR in a rather positive way. Carries out concrete assignments very well, however he tries to avoid them.

Wrocław, November 29, 1950

No signature.

Comments: Well that was a good one. The comments about his jokes and the sense of humor were, at the time this blurb was written, more than of passing interest. Stalin was still alive, the regime was strict, and a few years back,  Nata’s brother Vladimir, was send to prison for 5 years for telling a joke about Stalin. But Stefan got away this time with his anecdotes. The observation that he had a sharp sense of humor is certainly correct. The position of “docent” is not what “docent” means in English, at least in American English. There is a plethora of titles in Russian and Polish academia, and it is some times difficult to make an exact analogy with the American system, so let’s just leave “docent’ as it is. It is somewhere in the middle of the ladder.


 


Item 4

Heading: Committee of the Party Cell of PZPR (Communist Party of Poland)
Place and Date: Wrocław, September 3, 1952

                                                            Citizen Prof. Dr. Stefan DROBOT
                                                            Born August 7, 1913 in Cracow

                                                   CHARACTERIZATION OF PERSONALITY

Social origin: Working Intellectual (Father was an office worker). Promoted to the position of a Professor at the Wroclaw Polytechnic in 1951. Talented. Specializes in the branch of mathematics that has applications in technology. Original mind. Excellent lecturer. In his work uses examples and models from the works of Soviet professors. Propagates and translates Soviet scientific literature, and uses Soviet works as textbooks. Among the professors of Polytechnic, excels in sincere and effective work in educating the students, even to the point of visiting them in dormitories. He is very much concerned that the youth studying at the Polytechnic complete their studies in the shortest possible time, with the best possible results, and then continue on to work in their learned profession. He realizes that their work will benefit the Polish Peoples Republic. He was offered a position of a Chair of the local club of the TPPR – Society to Promote Polish-Soviet Friendship (Towarzystwo Przyjaźni Polsko-Radzieckiej) and he accepted the offer without hesitation. In this capacity he makes sincere efforts and produces good results. The totality of his activities, work, and behavior at the school indicates that he has a positive attitude toward People’s Government and toward construction of socialism in Poland, and that he personally wants to contribute to this endeavor. An atheist. Very good organizer. Generally, a very valued professor.

Signed: Eugeniusz Olko

Comments: First of all, there is a glaring spelling error in the original: 6th line from the bottom: “szczeże” should be “szczerze” (in English: sincerely). OK, what’s the big deal, we all make spelling mistakes and in these days the were no speller checkers. It is true, but somehow in the Polish culture a mistake such as this would be an indication that the person who wrote it was not too well educated. It’s sort of like Dan Quayle spelling “potatoe”, except a lot worse. It might have been a secretary, of course, who took a dictation, but the error is glaring. Had the letter been known to the “Intellectual Crowd”, so to say, lots of head shaking would take place, with a mutter “What do you expect from the peasants?”  Anyway, as far as the content of the note, his knowledge of the Russian language, acquired in Siberia, clearly came in handy. A word about TPPR – the Society to Promote Polish-Soviet Friendship. There was no Polish-Soviet friendship in the population, by en large there was hate. Poles hated Russians for centuries (and conversely), and the situation intensified tenfold after the Soviets took over. There were good reasons for it, of course. The organization was set up by the authorities to spread the Russian and Soviet culture, teach people the Russian language etc.  It was thoroughly hated and despised. Many people belonged however, since it tended to produce a positive comment in their personnel file and was not as odious as belonging to the Communist Party. It was notoriously difficult for the authorities to find anyone who would actually organize some activities at the local level. Now, Stefan spent 6 years in the Russian hinterland and knew that there are lots of good things about Russia, Russian culture, and Russian people, so he took the job when offered. I don’t think he did it solely to please the authorities, he sincerely believed that it would be good if the people of two countries to get to know each other a bit better. I sort of remember that he once arranged for a lecture by some world class Russian scientist, and had a hard time rounding up the audience. So this activity looked good to the authorities. “Peoples Government” phrase (Władza Ludowa”) is the euphemism for the Communist dictatorship, of course .


 


Item 5

Dr Stefan Drobot. After returning from the Soviet Union, where he worked as a docent at one of the higher schools of technology, he initially worked as an assistant at the Silesian Polytechnic, and from August 1 1946 as an adjunct at the Department of Mechanics at the Wroclaw Polytechnic Institute. On January 10, 1951 he assumed a position of an Adjunct Professor at the Department of Mathematics, and then was promoted to the rank of Extraordiany Professor at the same Department.  In the past few years he was the direcor of Technology Group A of the Mathematical Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

During the eight years he worked in Wroclaw, he was very active as a researcher, as an excellent lecturer, and as an administrator. His scientific papers are of significant theoretical importance, and have a wide range of applications in technology and statistics. His lecture style contributed to the development of new methods of instruction of Mathematics at the Wroclaw Polytechnic. According to the opinions of engineers, these methods produce very good results.

Prof, Drobot has also shown considerable administrative talents He is currently the president of the Wroclaw Section of the
Polish Mathematical Society, an editor of the “Mathematical News” ( “Wiadomości Matematyczne”), and finally the person in
charge of popularizing mathematics through the auspices of the Polish Mathematical Society. He also distinguishes himself as
an excellent expositor, having published several expository articles, and giving many expository talks.

Currently he is visiting DDR (East Germany) as a part of cultural exchange.


Comments. This one is unsigned and undated. The date can be surmised, the year is roughly 1954. (8 years of employment, beginning with 1946). Also, I remember his trip to East Germany, I was in the 7th grade, the last grade of the elementary school. He brought back a ball pen for me – it was an object of envy to all my class mates. Going abroad was a big deal in these days. I lived in Poland from 1946 until 1959 and was abroad only once, to Czechoslovakia. I think Stefan made three visits: Czechoslovakia – a different occasion from mine, East Germany, and West Germany. On his trip to Czechoslovakia he bought a baby stroller for the twins, these were completely unavailable in Poland at all. I pushed this stroller around a lot, with Frank and Kathy inside. In fact, I used to race it with other such stroller-pushers, and on a sharp curve Frank or Kathy would occasionally fall out of to the ground. As far as the piece itself, it is a very matter-of-fact, no mention of his religion, or a lack thereof, his sense of humor, social origin, etc. It reads like a normal, professional evaluation of a member of a department, something that can be found at any American university. The year was 1954, and the thaw was in progress.


I did not translate and/or fully explain various academic titles; the system in Poland is different from that in the United States, so just accept that he was climbing up the ladder. He never actually made to the top rung: Ordinary Professor (Full Professor here). He was slightly miffed over this.


 


Item 6

Letter of Evaluation

Prof. Dr. Stefan Drobot received his M.S. degree in 1938, and his PhD in 1947. On July 1 1946 he began his employment at the Wroclaw University and Polytechnic. He successively held positions of Adjunct, Adjunct Professor, External Professor, and Extraordinary Professor.  Beginning with October 10 1954 he is an Extraordinary Professor at the Department of Mathematics. At the same time he is the director of the Group of Applications to Technology of the Mathematical Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences. He is also a member of the editorial boards of the journals “Applications of Mathematics” and “Annals of the Polish Mathematical Society.” Prof. Drobot is an outstanding scientist; the list of his publications contains 22 items. His most important achievement is the establishment of rigorous foundations of dimensional analysis, which has a variety of important applications. Prof. Drobot is also an excellent teacher, and his views on the subject of pedagogy are highly valued by the specialists. He also knows how to involve young people in active research. Under his supervision, two young students completed their dissertation, and the third is well advanced in the process. Prof. Drobot was twice awarded a prize by the Ministry of Higher Education, as a member of the Faculty at the Polytechnic, and as a researcher of the Mathematical Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Dated: March 26, 1956
Signed: Wladysław Ślebodziński,
Chairman of the Department of Mathematics

Comments. Well, this is again a matter-of-fact evaluation of a faculty member by his immediate supervisor. The year is 1956, when the political thaw is in the full bloom. The items in a person’s dossier are written by his supervisors, and deal with research, teaching, and administration, and not by some political hack with comments about his religious preferences, social status of his parents, and political views of his wife. There the usual overabundance of academic titles, I just translated these verbatim. The full explanation of the intricacies of the academic ladder in Polish academia is beyond the scope of this note. One comment only: “Extraordinary Professor” is not the top of step, it is below “Ordinary Professor.”  One comment about Stefan having two positions: one at the Polytechnic and one at the Mathematical Institute. The Polish Government was trying hard to encourage scientific development in the country and to attract people to scientific careers. The true and tried capitalistic method was to pay the scientists more. However, they just could not set the scientists’ salaries high, that would create all sort of problems with equality doctrine and so on. (“To each according to his need and from each according to his abilities”, in the words of Lenin, I think.) In the political correctness of the day, you could not pay a professor more than you could pay a coal miner. Hence a scientific research institute was established, and most of the mathematicians had a second job being employed there. It did not entail any more work that is usually expected by a faculty member, but they got two salaries. So Stefan was, relatively speaking, well off in Poland. Ślebodziński was a good friend of Stefan. When we spend a summer in Rabka once, he was vacationing close by, and came to visit us a couple times. I remember going on a couple of day-long hikes with him and Stefan.