Benedykt Polak award for Wojciech Kołątaj

At the Łańcut Castle a ceremony was held on 23rd October 2021 to present one of the Benedykt Polak Awards to Dr. Eng. Wojciech Kołątaj, a long-time employee of the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology in Cairo.

The Benedykt Polak Award has been awarded annually since 2015 to two laureates, a Pole and a foreigner, in recognition of their exploration and research achievements on land, at sea, in the air and in space. The Chapter of the Award was appointed by the Polish Branch of The Explorers Club, the Municipality of Łęczyca, the County of Łęczyca and the Warsaw Scientific Society. This year three main prizes and one honorable mention were awarded because last year, due to the pandemic, the award-giving ceremony did not take place.

One of the main awards went to the architect Wojciech Kołątaj, who from the early 1960s to the last decade of the 20th century took part in the work of many Polish and foreign archaeological expeditions in Egypt and Sudan. He worked as an architect at the PCMA Research Station in Cairo from 1966 to 1972, and participated in the unprecedented international UNESCO campaign to save ancient Nubian architectural monuments in Egypt and Sudan. His first work in Egypt was the reconstruction of the Ptolemaic Portico at the Temple of Hatshepsut in Deir el-Bahari. He led the PCMA expedition in Kom el-Dikka, Alexandria in 1966–1972. Thanks to his work, the monumental edifice of the Imperial Thermal Baths and the reconstructed ancient theater can be admired there today.

The laureate’s laudation was delivered by Prof. Adam Łukaszewicz, and PCMA was represented at the ceremony by Dr. Zbigniew E. Szafrański. This is not the first award for Dr. Eng. Kołątaj; in 2017 he was honored with the prestigious Professor Jan Zachwatowicz Conservation Award of the General Conservator of Monuments and ICOMOS for outstanding achievements in the field of research and conservation of monuments.

The award is given by the Chapter chaired by Prof. Stanisław Rakusa-Suszczewski, and its vice-chairman is Prof. Mariusz Ziółkowski, President of the Polish Branch of the Explorers Club. This year, the Chapter also awarded a Turkish researcher, Dr. Hacer Topaktaş Üstüner, who studies the relationship between the Republic of Poland and Ottoman Turkey, and a linguist and historian from the University of California at Berkeley, Professor David Frick, who studies the cultural and religious diversity of Poland in the times of the Second Polish Republic. A certificate of appreciation was also awarded to archaeologist Maciej Grzelczyk of Jagiellonian University in Krakow, the discoverer and researcher of cave art in Tanzania.