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The Polish Heritage Society UK



The Polish Heritage Society

Marie Skłodowska-Curie bust unveiling speech by Dr. Marek Stella-Sawicki, KM Chairman, Polish Heritage Society


Marie Skłodowska-Curie bust"Ladies and Gentlemen HE Madame Ambassador, Mrs Barbara Tuge-Erecinska has been called away for personal reasons, but I would like to thank  her for her support on this project and to welcome Dariusz Łaska, Minister Counsellor and Charge d' affaires ad interim,   who will unveil this statue of Marie Sklodowska–Curie on her behalf.

Your  Worship Deputy Mayor Cllr, Chris Edge,  Mr Des Shiels CEO of Aspen Healthcare,  Professor Trevor Powles  and, Mr Roland Chojnacki, Director of The Polish Cultural Institute, Members of the Polish Heritage Society UK,  Staff of The Cancer Centre London, distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentleman, I am delighted that you can join us today  after the culmination of many months joint work with The Cancer Centre and The Polish Heritage Society to unveil this bust of Marie Sklodowska Curie.

Marie Skłodowska-Curie, the famous  Polish physicist and chemist is best known for her pioneering research work on radioactivity. She the first women to win not one but two Nobel Prizes in physics and chemistry and was also the first Person to win in two disciplines.  She was the first female professor at the University of Paris, and in 1995, the first woman to behonoured and re-buried in the Panthéon in Paris.

Born in Warsaw, Poland, Maria Salomea Skłodowska, studied at Warsaw's clandestine University and then aged 24 followed her older sister to study in Paris where she gained her degree at the Sorbonne. She met, worked with and married Pierre Curie. Their joint scientific work together with Henri Becquerel earned them 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics. In 1911 Marie Sklodowska Curie gained her second Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

It is to celebrate this unique achievement that we are all here today. Many people have regarded Marie Curie  as French but I am delighted to say that whilst a a French citizen, Marie Skłodowska-Curie was born and bred in Poland and never lost her sense of Polish identity.

She taught her daughters the Polish language and took them on visits to Poland. She named the first chemical element that she discovered – polonium, which she isolated in 1898 – after her native country. During World War I she became a member of the Committee for a Free Poland.  In 1932, she founded The Maria Skłodowska–Curie Institute of Oncology, in her home town of Warsaw, originally known as The Radium Institute.

Her achievements included a definition of the theory of radioactivity, and the first discovery of two elements, polonium and radium. Under her direction, the world's first studies were conducted into the treatment of neoplasms, using radioactive isotopes.
She founded the Curie Institutes in Paris and Warsaw, which remain major centres of medical research today.  Sadly Marie Sklodowska-Curie died in July 1934 of aplastic anemia brought on by her many years of exposure to radiation.

Her daughter Irène Joliot-Curie and son-in-law, Frédéric Joliot-Curie, would similarly share a Nobel Prize in 1935 for Chemistry for their discovery of new radioactive isotopes prepared artificially.

The Polish Heritage Society UK hope to return some ‘Polishness’ back to Marie today.

Our great thanks go to the sculptor of this beautiful bronze,Mr. Maciek Danilewicz, a resident of both Poland and USA and a cancer sufferer himself, for his enthusiasm and generousity for this project. We are delighted that he has managed to join us here in London today and are very grateful for his amazing work.

We would like to thank the Embassy of Republic of Poland, for supporting this unveiling, The Polish Cultural Institute through Mr Roland Chojnacki and his staff for helping to realise the casting of this statute.

I personally would like to thank Professor Trevor Powles for his vision in accepting and displaying this bust in such a suitable location, Mr Des Shiels of Aspen Health Care, Amanda Perkins and the Marketing department, and all the other hard working staff of the Cancer Centre London who joined The Polish Heritage Society in celebrating Marie Skłodowska Curie’s achievements which are so close to the work that they do.

Above all to everyone for allowing us to dedicate this statue to Mr Jan Felix Bujak, father of one of our founding members and whose widow is present today.

Finally, my appreciation to Hanka Januszewska, the project leader on this event for all her hard work as well as the rest of the Polish Heritage Team involved.

I would now like to invite Minister Dariusz Laska to unveil this bronze bust of Marie Sklodowska-Curie."

Dr. Marek Stella-Sawicki, KM
Chairman, Polish Heritage Society
Visiting Professor University College London

Wimbledon, Monday 26th March, 2012