GWI History

A talk given at the IFUW (GWI) 80th Anniversary March 2000 Geneva by Elizabeth Posit, UK Federation

If you have stood in the IFUW Office and studied the portraits of Past Presidents, you must have been struck by one very austere portrait, that of Stanislawa Adamowicz. She was the President who barely reigned even though her presidency lasted 8 years. A Polish medical doctor and an academic from the University of Cracow, she was described as ‘a slight frail person who looked as though she might snap in a breeze but nevertheless showed she could withstand hurricanes’.

Within a month of becoming President in 1939, Lector Adamowicz was out of touch – and remained so for the next six years in Nazi-occupied Poland. The period around the Second World War showed the true value and strength of IFUW friendship through the Federation’s work for refugee women; for, and by, those, in occupied countries; as well as relief efforts in the post war years. Some contact was established with the President during the occupation of Poland. She was hungry, but otherwise coping. The occasional food parcel found its way to her. At the end of the war the Second Vice President Karen Koch brought Stanislawa to Stockholm to recover. Despite the Iron Curtain falling she was determined to return to Poland: commenting: ‘I don’t believe in exiles: if we who believe in freedom leave our country, it is finished’.

The first post war IFUW Conference was in 1947 in Toronto (the first IFUW Conference outside Europe). There Lector Adamowicz pledged the Federation to take a fair share in the world’s common burdens making the memorable comments: ‘our hands accustomed to using weapons are very clumsy in their attempts to collect the delicate threads of peace. Our minds concentrated for such a long time on destruction, have lost their flexibility and are moving at a very slow rate towards constructive ideas’. She recognised that flexibility of mind is one of the greatest attributes of real intelligence – something which needs nurturing if we are to enact a better future.