Irena Sziler: Astronomy and gingerbread cookies or Kopernik/piernik


Irena-first-from-right-with-her-girlfriends-from-USA-in-Poland-Summer-2010Glam. Fashion. Lights. That’s all our world seems to revolve around, whether Ashton Kutcher’s single or if Doda’s new hit will keep up its spot in the top ten for the fourth week in a row, through all the media and mediocre methods we forget the important phenomenon, that have given us the chance to express ourselves, one in particular has left a rather impressive mark on humanity. Throughout all his science of astronomy and many other professions, the man who first claimed the sun was the center of the universe, yes, I’m talking about the one and only Nicolaus Copernicus.

In Torun every child knows who Kopernik is, they teach this in the kindergarten, because he was born there! Last summer I visited his hometown on a youth trip, organized by Polish Government for Canadian and American kids of polish origin. It astonished me to see the way that Copernicus lived as I observed his house, turned now into the museum. I was also proud to say that my grandmother had been born on the same street as him back in the day, giving me a special link to this historical site. I’d love to go visit it again and explore this fantastic town since “you learn something new every time you relook something precious to humanity”.

Born February 19th 1473, Nicolaus Copernicus was raised in a well-to-do merchant’s family having a decently ordinary childhood, even when tragedy struck, as in, the death of his father in 1483, and being put under the guardianship of his uncle, young Copernicus continued on with life while acquiring a decently profound interest in Astronomy. But education dominated over his interest, as he attended the University of Krakow and spent a decade in Italy studying law, mathematics, medicine, economy and theology. As a physician, he was treating poor for free. Later, being a canon to various chores, rev. Copernicus was observing the heavens from his mansion in his spare time. It took years to finalize his theory, about how the sun was the center of the solar system, but it was difficult to get this thought out into the open, having the Greek theory on how the earth is the center of the universe drilled in to the public’s head thanks to the acceptance and enforcement of the Catholic Church. With this dilemma, Copernicus resisted publishing his theory, along with the fear of being accused of heresy. Instead, in 1530, he condensed his theory and handed it out to some of Europe’s Scholars, where they greeted it with open arms. His work ended up being published in 1543 a few short weeks before his death.

“De revolutionibus orbium celestium” by Copernicus, has affected everything and everyone to this day. Without Copernicus; we would not have advanced so far in our studies and changed this world for the better. He can definitely inspire us young people to improve everything according to our given talent and possibility. Make us, people of polish descend proud, when we hear how today’s polish astronomers, for example young Michal Kusiak, are still discovering new planets and comets and continuing the old tradition…….

Last, but not least, thanks to Kopernik we also have the opportunity to think about pleasant things such as “piernik”i. We, the young people of today, can also help little by little starting from indulging ourselves into eating those delicious “pierniki” gingerbread chocolate covered cookies that contain a little bit of history in themselves. Piernik “Katarzynki” are made by the “Kopernik” chocolate factory in Torun, where, during our last year visit, we had several opportunities to buy, eat or even make our own pierniki.

So next time you set your mind to reading a magazine, see to it, that you thank Copernicus for giving you the knowledge about the world we live in today.

Irena Sziler

Picture: Irena (first from the right) with her girlfriends from USA in Poland – Summer 2010

Waldemar Glodek

Autor: Waldemar Glodek