The Polish scholar, Andrzej Czapkiewicz, was a specialist in Arabic and Semitic linguistics. He was born in Tarnów, on July 3, 1924, in the family of a secondary school professor. His early education was interrupted by the outbreak of the second world war. Arrested by the Gestapo for his involvement in the resistance movement in 1943, he was sent to the concentration camp in Sachsenhausen. After the liberation of the camp by the American forces in 1945 he worked his way to Italy where he joined the Polish Armed Forces. In the same year he found himself in England and it was here that he completed the first stage of his secondary education. On his return to Poland in 1947 he continued his education in Kraków and in 1948 he received his diploma at the Nowodworski Secondary School. In 1948 – 1952 he studied Arabic philology in the Department of Oriental Studies at the Jagiellonian University under the supervision of the outstanding arabist and historian, Professor Tadeusz Lewicki. In 1952 he took up the job of an assistant at the Department and it was there that he continued his academic career and received the doctor’s degree (1964) and the degree of doctor habilitatus (1975). His professorial nomination came in 1985.
In 1976, after the retirement of Professor Lewicki, Andrzej Czapkiewicz assumed the office of the head of the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Jagiellonian University. One of his most significant contributions as an administrator was the opening of the Japanese studies programme at the institute (1987), which widened the range of Oriental languages taught at the Jagiellonian University. At the same time he held the post of the head of the Department of Arabic Studies as well as the Department of Oriental Sources and Numismatics, actively participating in research conducted in both units.
Professor Czapkiewicz was a dedicated teacher and mentor. He supervised numerous M.A. theses and two doctor dissertations, willingly assisting the candidates in conquering new fields of knowledge, sharing with them his invaluable experience. He was a demanding teacher but at the same time very devoted to his students. To facilitate their studies he wrote a handbook of the Arabic language (with Ali Mekki, 1977) and published an anthology of specialist texts (with Elżbieta Górska, 1982).
The academic research of A. Czapkiewicz is recognised not only in Poland but also abroad. He is the author of six monographs, the most important being: (1) Ancient Egyptian and Coptic Elements in the Toponymy of Contemporary Egypt, 1971; (2) The Verb in Modern Arabic Dialects as an Exponent of the Development Processes Occurring in Them, 1975; (3) Arabic Idioms, 1983; (4) The Views of the Medieval Arab Philologists on Language and Its Origin in the Light of As-Suyūṭi’s “Al-Muzhir”,1988. A full list of other publications, containing articles, handbooks, translation works and reviews can be found in: Górska E. Bibliography. Works of Professor Andrzej Czapkiewicz, „Folia Orientalia” XXVIII, 1991, pp. 9-12, and Dziekan M., Poniatowski Z. A bibliography of Arabic and Islamic studies in Poland (1945-1992), Warszawa 1993. His work initiated and defined a new style of linguistic researches in Arabic studies in Poland and has been highly appreciated by international specialists.
A. Czapkiewicz participated in numerous conferences, symposia and congresses. He delivered lectures at many foreign universities and he was a member of many academic societies – among others, of the Oriental Studies Committee of the Polish Academy of Science, and of the Middle Eastern Studies Association in New York. In recognition of his merits in both didactics and research he was awarded the highest national medals and distinctions (Złoty Krzyż Zasługi, 1974 and Krzyż Kawalerski, 1983). The prize of the Ministry of Municipal Economy was rewarded to him for his cooperation with Polish architects working on the town development project for Baghdad.
On March 1, 1990 Professor Andrzej Czapkiewicz died unexpectedly from a brain-stroke that caught him in the middle of his usual activities as he climbed the staircase of Collegium Novum. His untimely death was a painful and irreparable blow to his family – two sons, Bartłomiej and Grzegorz, and his wife Maria, an arabist specializing in Arabic numismatics, who died in 1992. The whole circle of Krakow orientalists, especially his disciples and co-workers, were left without a mentor. Some of them continue his line of research in their academic careers; all remember the Professor with highest respect and gratitude.
[Based on: Górska E. Professor Andrzej Czapkiewicz (1924-1990) [in:] „Folia Orientalia” t.XXVIII, Wrocław-Warszawa-Kraków 1992, pp. 5-6, and Górska E. Andrzej Czapkiewicz (1924-1990) [in:] Złota Księga Wydziału Filologicznego UJ, eds. J.Michalik, W.Walecki, Księgarnia Akademicka, Kraków 2000, pp. 708-713]