Obituary for Witold Kośny (1937-2022)
News from Dec 19, 2022
In October of this year (2022), Witold Kośny, Professor of Slavic Literatures at the Institute for Eastern European Studies at Freie Universität Berlin from 1985 to 1995, passed away.
Witold Kośny's life is closely linked to Berlin - but it seemed unlikely that he would become a professor of Slavic literature there when, after graduating from high school in 1956, he decided to study physics, chemistry, and mathematics at the Technical University. It took him four years before he decided to switch to the humanities in 1961 and take up studies in Slavic and East European history at the FU Berlin, which he completed in 1966 with a doctorate on "Das Deutsche Volksbuch vom Kaiser Octavian in Polen und Rußland". After assistant professorships in Constance and Amsterdam, among others, he returned to the Institute for East European Studies at Freie Universität as a professor in 1986 - at a time of serious change in Eastern Europe.
Witold Kośny has consistently accompanied the transformation era in research and teaching. Together with colleagues at Freie Universität, he established the Research Training Group "The Transformation of Social Systems in Eastern and Southeastern Europe since the 1980s.
He was actively involved in its first funding phase, but in 1995 he left Freie Universität to accept a call to the University of Rostock and, with great commitment, to rebuild the Institute for Slavic Studies there. Witold Kośny remained in Rostock until his retirement in 2003.
The Osteuropa-Institut last invited him in the summer of 2022, a few months before his death, to speak about his time at the OEI on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the institute's founding. Witold Kośny was already unable to participate in this conversation for health reasons. He remains unforgotten at the Institute for Eastern Europe.