(Rzeczpospolita, 23 VIII 2011)
He was born on July 16, 1928 in Olsztyn where his father,a Ph.D. in law and a diplomat, was thePolish consul. He had two first names,Maria Andrzej, but he never used the first one. During the war and some time after it, he lived with his mother and sister in their house in Rabka from where the family moved to Jelenia Góra. His interesting family affinities and his early years weredescribed by Monika Rogozińska in Rzeczpospolita on August, 22. He studied physics and geophysics in Wroclaw and Warsaw. Having become a seismologist, he worked at the Institute of Geophysics of the Polish Academy of Sciencefor about 40 years (1955-1993) contributing to the creation of a network of Polish seismological stations. He started climbing in 1950. “I went all the way as God commanded, he said in a 10-page interview for Góry(December 1997), a course for beginners and advanced, winter training, camps in Slovakia, in the Alps…”This interview had a great value to him and he often quoted it. The first course in Hala in summer 1951 was led by Stanislaw Groński.Andrzej’s instructorsat various courses includeWawa Żuławski, Jan Długosz, Andrzej Ziemilski, Jerzy Wala, Karol Jakubowski. He tasted the delights of winter in the season 1952-1953, but during the winter camp in April 1954 he still belonged (together with Andrzej Bonarski, Władysław Malinowski, Andrzej Skupińskiand others) to the “beginners”. Endowed with strength, fitness and courage, he stood out quickly. In 1953, in KołoWarszawskie he met his future wife and future actress, Anna Milewska. LeszekŁącki recalls the meetings of the thenWarsaw group of friends under the parachute tower at Pragabank of the Vistula River. As a parachute jumper, Andrzej felt like a host there.
His numerous achievements in the Tatra Mountains include the 1st Polish (and 2nd ever) winter ascent on the left pillar of the Rumanowy Summit north-east wall (April 25-26, 1956), the first winter ascent along the right pillar of the east Kacza Turniawall (April 17, 1963), the east wall of Ganek (April 6-7, 1963), and the right pillar of the Rumanowy Summit north-east wall (March 11-12, 1964). In 1959, he led the 19-day-long first winter crossing of the 75-kilometer ridge of the Tatra Mountains from the Ździarska Pass to the Huciańska Pass, without the use of shelters and supporting groups (March 27 – April 14,1959). This historical performance was achieved despite the prohibition of ZG KW, which made the participants go into trouble in the club and caused that their success had no press echo. Within the Polish Geophysical Expeditions, he climbed in Vietnam (August14, 1957 – ascent on the highest peak of Indochina, Phan Si Păng, 3,143 m) and Spitsbergen (including the 2ndascent on Hornsundtind 1,431 m, July 7-8,1958). His successes in the Alps include such outstanding achievements as the 2nd crossing of the mythical Grand Pilierd’Angleon Mont Blanc (August10-14,1965) or the winter crossing of the north wall of the Aiguille Blanche de Peutérey(March 10, 1668).
Over the time, he became famous as a talented manager of camps and expeditions. In 1969, he organized the 1st Polish expeditionto the Karakoram in which hehimself did not take part. In 1970, he led the Polish group of the Polish-Soviet expedition in Pamir-Alajana and Pamir, and at the same time he ascended his firstseven-thousander, Lenin Peak (7,134 m). Wanda Rutkiewicz,a woman who wanted to start hermountaineering career, was among the participants of this ascent. On August 26,1971, being the manager (and organizer) of the 2nd Polish expedition in the Karakoram, together with three friends, he made the1stascent on the wonderful KunyangChhish (7,852 m), the 25thsummiton the list of the highest summitson the Earth, and one of the most difficult at the same time. “The wholeTatras could be hidden under this massif,“ he used to say. This ascent, repeated only after 17 years, and on the easier way, is undoubtedly among the most glorious Polish Alpine mountaineering successes. In 1973,he was entrusted with the leadership of the 1st winter expedition in the Hindu Kush when, as the first man ever, crossed the height of 7,000 meters in winter, achieving the highest summit in Afghanistan (Backpack, 7,492 m)an hour before Piotrowski. No Alpinist hadascended so high in winter ever before. In the years 1973-1976 he graduated from the School of Alpine Coaches of the University School of Physical Education in Krakow. The subject of his thesis, which was verywell prepared, was the topography and history ascending on the main ridge of the Tatras. It is very sad that all the copies of this valuable study, including probablythe one left at the university, have been lost.
After the experience on Noszak, Andrzej became the originator and world propagator of winter Himalayan mountaineering. In 1974,he led the autumn-winter expedition on Lhotse (8,501 m) and together with Zygmunt Heinrich was the first man to cross the magical border of 8,000 metersever in winter, spendChristmas Eve at this height and reachthe point of 8,250 m (250 m were left to the very top)on December 25. In summer 1977, he led the Polish-British expedition in the Hindu Kush and participated in the 1stpassage of the famous 1600 m north wall of Kohe Mandaras (6,628 m, August 10-14). The “big wall climbing”was beginning only then in Asia. At the turn of 1979-80, he was the originator and director of the winter expedition to Mount Everest (8,848 m) culminated in a sensational 1stwinter ascent on the highest mountain in the world (LeszekCichy and Krzysztof Wielicki, February 17, 1980) and followed in spring by leading a new road along the right side of the south-west wall (peak on May 19, 1980 by Andrzej Czok and Jerzy Kukuczka). Mount Everest thus became the first eight-thousanderascended in winter, and this ascent is a real milestone in the history of Himalayan mountaineering. In connection with the screening of the film from the expedition in the “Les Carnets d’ Adventure” programme, the French press wrote: “This remarkable film was made on February 17, 1980, during the winter premiere on Everest which is the most outstanding ascent within the last15 years. This Polish expedition led by Andrzej Zawada took place among the most important dates in the history of mountaineering, just next to the successful attempts of Lachenal and Herzog on Annapurna, and Hillary and Tenzingon Mount Everest. Andrzej himselfreached then to the Southern Pass. Thanks to his persistent efforts, the Nepalese authorities have recognized winter as the third expedition season and began to issue permits to climb at this time of the year. In the season 1984-1985, he led the Polish-Canadian expedition which made the 1stsuccessful ascenton Cho Oyu in winter (8,201 m, the peak on February 12 and 15, 1985 by Maciej Berbeka and Maciej Pawlikowski, Jerzy Kukuczka and Zygmunt Heinrich). Still today, this is a very difficult and still not repeated ascend along the southern-eastern pillar. ‘Risky idea of this pillar –decision was fast!’,announced the clipping of the Slovenian newspaper Delocovering the expedition attempt of Matjaž Pečovnik (up to 7,700 m, October 27, 1984) and served on him by the undersigned on the day of leaving for the Himalayas. Once again,Andrzejgot personally involved in the worksof drawing the road, making a significant contribution in the technical preparation of the ascent. In winter 1987-1988, he led a major international expedition that attempted to achieve the second Earth Summit K2 (8,611 m) in winter but completed only the ascent to the foresummitup to the height of8,035 m of the Broad Peak (Maciej Berbekaon March6).This expedition was preceded by him in 1983 together with a Canadian, Jacques Olek, with a winter reconnaissance into the Baltoro Valley which had not attempted before in winter. At the turn of 1988 and 89 he was a sports advisor of the Belgian-Polish expedition to Everest. It was successful enough to make a winter ascent on the 4th summit of the Earth, Lhotse (8,511 m, Krzysztof Wielicki, December 31,1988), while Herman Detienne, in his Flemish book entitled “Everest” recalls Andrzej in nothing but superlatives. During the 1996-1997 and 1997-1998 seasons, he led the courageous attempts to reach Nanga Parbat which had not been achieved ever before in winter (8,125 m) while he himself,being almost a 70-year-old man,used to take sacks with equipment on his back and climbhigh up to pick colleagues a fight. The summit attack of the first expedition failed just about 250 meters under the summit. For the season 2000-2001, he planned the third expedition to this famous peak. “We need to use our knowledge of the Diamir wall”, he said to Gazeta Poznańska on December 17, 1999. “We know every gully there, every stone.” Another goal was to be K2 from the side of Xinjiang which gave greater chances. In February 2000, he prepared a reconnaissance of this wall. Sadly… Jacques Olek and DarekZaluski went instead of him, and later theytold Andrzej,who was already ill, about the expedition.
Throughout the years,he worked actively in mountain organisations, participated in meetings and was a member of various authority bodies. In the Alpine Club reborn in 1956 he served as the Secretary of ZGfor the first term, for several years he was the President of Koło Warszawskie, and also actedin the Boards of SKT. As a man of great experience and prudence, he was appointeda member of various collective bodies, committees, peer tribunals, etc. He had a remarkable ease of establishing contacts and the ability to persuade others to his ideas. Over the time, the doors of Ministers started to be open by thelegend surrounding him. But with the communist authorities he also had a bone to pick. During his college years in Rabka, for the connections with the “Fire” group he spent several weeks in the prison of the Office of Security (UB) in Nowy Targwith his friends.On February 10, 1954, he was in the teamwhich violated the then absurd borders provisions at ŻabiNiżni and was the target of the showoperation of theBorder Guard described several times. This incident caused sharp reactions ofthe club authorities including the “Resolution” and “Theses”of the Tatra Service of ZGPTTK where similar “offences” were condemned as detrimental to the good name of the “socialist Polish mountaineering.” In 1968, for the transport of the Culture publication from France, together with Maciej Kozłowski, he once again fell into the hands of people from the Interior Ministry and,as a witness, was involved in the so-called“mountaineers’trial”. During the overnight revision inhis old flat, the investigative team seized several bags of books and documents, also the mountaineering ones,which never returned to the owner. When he organized an expedition to Malubitingin 1969, he did not go to the Karakoram because the authorities refused a passport to him. In 1980, a message sent to the Pope about the winter ascent to the Everest caused, among other things, the cancellation of thealready announced meeting of the winning team with Edward Gierek.
Andrzej Zawada was the best leader of Polish expeditions and we will probably never have anybody like him. (…) He was extremely hard and had charisma.That is why he was a leader respectedby everyone.Andrzej Wilczkowski to Gazeta Wyborcza, August 26-27
Although he himself did not stand on any eight-thousander, he will go down in history as a world-class Alpinist. Let us note thatneither other giants of the Alpine scene like Rébuffat, Whillans or Bonatti had any successful ascents on anyeight-thousanders. The great Bonington was successful on one eight-thousanderonly, Everest, and in a very conventional way. Andrzej was one of the world’s experts of Alpinism and Himalaism, and when it comes to winter, he was a specialist number one. He published relations from his expeditions in Taternik, he willingly spoke on the pages of reputable foreign journals like Der Bergkamerad, AlpiRando, Vertical, or Alpine Journal. In Vertical, he reproached the French for the lack of knowledge about the mountain achievements of other nations. He was an incomparable storyteller, and his stories fascinated hundreds of listeners.He carried out a valuable activity for our propaganda of achievements, namely he worked as a journalist in radio and TV interviews, as well as articles in general magazines. He was the co-author of the book “The last attack on KunyangChhish” (1973) which the German version of entitled “Gipfelsturmin Karakorum” (1977) was illustrated richer than the Polish one. He collaborated with the publisher of the 5-volume series entitled “In the rocks and ice of the World” (1959-1974) and the collective work, “In the high mountains” (1985), hisneighbourfrom SaskaKępa, Dr Saysse-Tobiczyk. The was asked for his articles by foreign authors of the texts and album great works such as the “Everest” ofPeter Gillman,“The Best Writing and Pictures” (1993) or the publishers of Polish translations of similar books (such as “Everest” by Robert Mantovani, 1999). Akeen photographer who collected thousands of excellent slides of various mountains of the world, cared also about the film documentation of expeditions, inviting film crews to participate in them, and thanks to that a number of important and award-winning documentary festivalfilms were created, which were produced by people likeAndrzej Galiński(Kunyang), JerzySurdel (Lhotse in the winter), StanisławJaworski (Everest) and others. A large biographical film about Andrzej Zawadawas made, already during his illness, by Anna Pietraszek, as her second film story about this hero. It will be entitled“Andrzej Zawada – theLast Conversation”.
He was an honorary member of a number of mountaineering organizations, both Polish (including PZA 1986) and foreign ones, including the world’s oldest mountaineering club, the British Alpine Club (since 1987) and an elite international association, the Groupe de Haute Montagne (1998). In February 1996, he was awarded the membership of the exclusive Explorers Club (New York, 1996). For mountain activities, he was awardedfour times the Gold Medal for Distinguished Sports Achievement, in 1980 he received the Order of Polonia Restituta,as well as numerous foreign awards, including one of the highest orders of Pakistan, Tamgha-i-Imtiaz. In January 1972, he received the honorary Cup of the Minister of Foreign Affairs “for sporting achievements that have made the name of Poland famous beyond its borders”. The name of this prestigious award included what was the main motto of Andrzej’s sports activity: “to put the white and red [flag] on the unclimbed summits and fame our country in the world.”
Gifted with male beauty and personal charm, he had many supporters and friends, was the soul of social meetings and host of events, he could speak on all subjects as he was a great scholar, from quantum physics to archeology. In addition to many talents, the generous God gave him physical strength and strong health, which allowed him to do masochistic winter escapades and endurance expeditions, as these 19 cold days on the Great Ridge of the Tatras. He liked fast cars, practiced gliding and skydiving as well as water sports (had its own speedboat on the Zegrzyński Dam). So, the message of the end of January this year about a dangerous disease disclosed suddenly on the eve of the departure for rekones under K2, was a real shock to all of us. After a complicated surgery, he recovered but more due to the overwhelming force of will to live rather than through the defeating of the disease. He made several trips, wrote several valuable articles, gave a series of interviews, made a couple of brilliant lectures in the old way. This misled us for some time, and partly also himself. He made plans for autumn and next year, although his thoughts fell into a black hole sometimes. “At least, we shall not die young,” said to the writer of these words thinking ofthe common mountain friends, Heinrich, Chrobak, Czok, Kukuczka, Wanda Rutkiewicz, and many others. But fate was inexorable. Treatment did not give the expected results, a few weeks ago there was a sudden drop in feeling and on 21st August in the Banachhospital, Andrzej closed his eyes forever.
Remembering the life dynamism of Andrzej, Hanna Wiktorowskatold that “ he used to fill 6 rooms withhimself.” It should be added that he also filled a large area of Polish mountaineering, was an important part of each of us, his colleagues and friends, an advisor, trustee, mental support, source of energy, a model way of life. That is why so many things collapse with his passing away: social, club, publishing, as well as our personal matters. Bidding our Friend farewell with pain, we address heartfelt thoughts and feelings to Anna from this place, wishing her the luck turned the bad card and let her recover from the sad experience of the last few months. We also remember doctors with gratitude, Prof. Marek Krawczyk, Dr. Danuta Suchowera, the lover of the Tatras, Dr. SławomirFalkowski, who all did everything to save his life, and relieve him in suffering. He lived much longer than hispeers who died in the mountains, he had beautiful and lush life filled with veried content, and even though he lacked a year or two to sum it up,he leaves but disappears neither from the history of mountaineering nor our hearts. I wish him to sleep in pace, wrote in a telegram of condolence his Japanese friend, the President of Kyoto JACsection, Prof. Toshiaki Sakai. Yes , Andrzej has done a tremendous job and deserves a peaceful rest.