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Kazimierz Kwiatkowski

The monument dedicated Kazimierz Kwiatkowski.

If you visit Hot An in Vietnam, then you might notice a monument in Thran Phu street of a guy called Kazimierz Kwiatkowski. I passed it myself several times. And then I decided to look in to who this guy was. And why they erected a monument of him, right in the old part of How An.

Who was Kazimierz Kwiatkowski?

Kazimierz Kwiatkowski was born in a small village in eastern Poland called Pachole. He moved to Krakow as a young man to study Architecture, but returned to his home region after his studies to work with city planning and conservation.

His big interest was conservation. And when UNESCO started to restore historical places in Vietnam, after the war, he was named head of a joint Polish/Vietnamese mission that had the job of restoring monuments in central Vietnam. He fell in love with the country and the Vietnamese people, who called him Kazik, cause they could not pronounce his very long Polish name. He took deep personal interest to the local people he worked with. And invited several of them to his native Poland, so that they could see where he came from. That made him a very respected person in Vietnam. He lived in Vietnam for 17 years, until he passed away of a sudden heart attack in 1997.

Kazimierz Kwiatkowski.

Kazimierz Kwiatkowski at work.

It was a very dangerous job.

During the Vietnam war, thousands of boms were dropped over the country. And many of then never exploded. Especially the small cluster bombs, that even today, 45 years later, pose a danger to local rice farmers. So the UNESCO workers did not just have to restore the old houses and monuments. They had to clear the area for mines at the same time. The temple complex My Son was especially hard to clear, as this was a so called “Free fire zone” during the war. And the area is surrounded my thick jungle.

Kazimierz Kwiatkowski saved Hoi An from demolition.

Hoi An is probably the prettiest small town in all Vietnam today. And tourists flock to this little charming town, filled with small houses in traditional Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese style. But the town almost got bulldozed in the 1980’s. Hoi An was, like most other towns in Vietnam, hard hit by the war. And the local government wanted to replace the old houses with new apartment blocks. But Kazimierz Kwiatkowski wanted to restore the town. and he did endless lobbying and negotiating with the local government, who in the end agreed to let UNESCO restore the old town center of Hoi An. These days, How An is one of the most prosperous towns in Vietnam, thanks to tourism. So on the 20th anniversary of his death, the Vietnamese decided to erect a monument in the honor of the guy who made it possible for the locals today to have a living standard that is well above the average person in Vietnam. Kazimierz Kwiatkowski Saw the massive tourism potential in Vietnam himself and said to the locals that one day Hoi An would be a goose laying golden eggs for the residents.

Hoi An

Hoi An is one of the prettiest towns in Vietnam.

So if you wander visit Hoi An one day and wonder why there is a monument dedicated to a Polish guy, then I hope this little article can help to understand that.

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2 Comments

  1. Very, very interesting Claus. I sure hope to visit Vietnam one day. Thank you.

  2. I was wondering exactly this after spotting the statue there – thank you!

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