Krzysztof Czyzewski is a social activist, theater producer, essayist, and publisher, and the founder and director of the Borderland Foundation (Fundacja Pogranicze) in Sejny, Poland (just miles from the border with Lithuania). After graduating from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan with a degree in Polish literature, he co-founded in 1977 the now world-renowned Gardzienice Theater Company in Lublin, which collects ethnographic materials from around the world to create what they call an "ethno-oratorial song theater."
"After spending years under Communism as an underground theater director and performer with an interest in Poland's cultural traditions& he went through a personal crisis after 1989: Suddenly there was no Communist state to oppose. 'Overnight, the underground disappeared,' he said. 'Overnight, alternative disappeared. Alternative to what? Suddenly you had to take some responsibility'' (Ian Fisher, New York Times).
In 1990, called to action by the possibilities afforded by the collapse of Communism, and departing from his experimental theater past, Czyzewski committed himself to creating a model of a living civil society. He founded the Borderland Foundation as an innovative institution devoted to memorializing, rebuilding, and sustaining the rich cultural diversity in Central and Eastern Europe that was nearly destroyed by two world wars. The following year he founded the Borderland Center of Arts, Cultures, and Nations, which comprises a school, several studios, an archive, and a café. And in 1993, he founded the Borderland Publishing House (Wydawnictwo Pogranicze) as well as the magazine Krasnogruda-which is named after Czeslaw Milosz's family manor nearby (a house that the Borderland Foundation has obtained for the home of its International Dialogue Center). Czyzewski's own manifesto, The Path of the Borderland, was published in 2001.
Czyzewski's model involves a methodology based on his work in theater and involves the whole community, especially young people. Its mission is to educate them to be community builders, and one of its first principles is that in order to shape the future one must first understand the past. Czyzewski has brought the Foundation's model to regions of ethnic tension around the world-places like Armenia, Bosnia, Georgia, Indonesia, Mongolia, and Tadzhikistan-initiating cultural projects to foster intercultural and inter-religious dialogue when peaceful communication has been obstructed by current or remembered ethnic conflicts. One of the early motivations for Czyzewski's work was the war in the former Yugoslavia and especially, the conflict in Bosnia. And one of the Borderland Foundation's most significant endeavors was its establishment of an open forum for dialogue in Bosnia after the war. The Bosnian Triptych (2005), a three-part project that involved symposia and public discussion, work with children, and arts workshops, saw one of its goals as the education of a new generation of neimars-the old Ottoman term for bridge builders-and accordingly focused much of its work on the town of Mostar, on the famous 15th-century bridge there that was destroyed during the war and rebuilt, and on generating dialogue between the town's communities of Croats and Muslims.
Czyzewski participates in meetings of the European Discussion Club Gulliver in Amsterdam and the Remarque Forum in New York. As a member of its council on culture he collaborates with the Open Society Institute in Budapest.
He has lectured at Vilnius University, New York University (Remarque Institute), the New School for Social Research in New York as well as its Democracy & Diversity Summer Institute in Krakow, and the European Collegium at L'viv University.
He has been a member of the Council on Culture for the President of Poland, the Council on Culture UNESCO-Poland, the Programming Council of "Krakow 2000 - European Cultural Capital", the Adam Mickiewicz Polish-Lithuanian Council, and a member of the board of the Czeslaw Milosz Foundation in Lithuania.
Czyzewski is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, among others: award of the Foundation POLCUL (Melbourne 1992), Kultura (Paris 1996), Gabor Bethlen Award for the Man of Central Europe (Budapest 1998), Diploma of the Minister of Foreign Affairs for extraordinary service in the promotion of Poland in the world (2000), Giedymin Order for his input in developing collaboration between Poland and Lithuania (2001), and the Order of Polonia Restituta (2002)
Since 2003 Krzysztof Czyzewski has been an active member of the European Culture Parliament, bringing his authoritative voice to bear on the role of culture and the arts in Europe. In 2008 he served as Polish Ambassador to the European Commission's European Year of Intercultural Dialogue. He was appointed Artistic Director of Wroclaw - European Capital of Culture 2016 in May 2012.