Obituary: Louis-Christophe Zaleski-Zamenhof

Louis-Christophe (Ludoviko Kristoforo) ZALESKI-ZAMENHOF (born 23 January 1925 in Warsaw, died 9 October 2019 in Paris) was a doctor of civil and marine engineering with a specialty in prestressed concrete. He was the grandson of  L. L. Zamenhof, and the son of  Adam Zamenhof and Wanda Zamenhof, née Frenkiel; he received his given name in honor of his grandfather Ludoviko Zamenhof, creator of Esperanto. He was an Honorary Member of the Universal Esperanto Association.

He studied at the Warsaw Polytechnic 1946-49, graduating in civil engineering, and subsequently receiving a doctorate in the technology of prestressed concrete. In 1959 he moved to Paris and continued his professional career in France and beyond, designing buildings on both sea and land. His other professional contribution was as a teacher in the Architectural School in Paris and in the Milan Polytechnic. He published numerous articles and books in his field. After retirement in 1993 he continued work as a consultant, attended scientific conferences, and also participated in Esperanto congresses. In 1949 Ludoviko Kristoforo Zaleski-Zamenhof married Krystyna Tyszka, who bore two daughters: Hanna (1953) and Margaret (1958). He had two grandchildren, Klementina Zamenhof-Zaruski and Pierre-Louis-Antoine Lebard. In Paris he lived with his wife Juliette, née Sekrecka. He spoke French, English and Esperanto, but Polish in the home. He held French and Polish citizenship and was an honorary citizen of Bialystok.

In 1934 Ludoviko expressed a desire to participate in the World Congress of Esperanto in Stockholm. His parents declared that to attend an Esperanto congress without knowing the language would miss the point. Helped by his aunts  Zofia Zamenhof and Lidia Zamenhof he embarked enthusiastically on learning and mastering the international language. In this way, his new role as a kind of “Little Prince” at Esperanto congresses began. He became an object of interest for congress participants: in Stockholm  – 1934, Rome – 1935, Vienna – 1936, and Warsaw – 1937, where he addressed the congress on behalf of the Zamenhof family. In September 1939, German planes bombed Warsaw. The house at Królewska Street 41, where the family lived, was completely destroyed. Ludoviko was 14 years old at the time.

In the final phase of his long career in engineering, Dr. Zaleski-Zamenhof proved a pioneer in the construction of prestressed concrete platforms to extract oil from below the sea-bed. For many years he lectured at the Architectural School in Paris. He was also a visiting professor of marine construction at the Milan Polytechnic and also lectured from time to time in other countries, including the Polytechnics in Gdansk and Bialystok, Poland.

In 1987 Warsaw, as the “cradle of Esperanto,” was the right place to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the international language. The 72nd World Esperanto Congress in that year in the Polish capital proved the largest in the history of the Esperanto movement. It attracted six thousand participants, in addition to around one thousand visitors who came from the Soviet Union and other so-called socialist countries without formally registering as congress participants. The executive director of the Universal Esperanto Association, Simo Milojević, succeeded in finding seven members of the Zamenhof family, from various countries, who came as honored guests, among them Louis Christophe Zaleski-Zamenhof and his wife Juliette. As grandson of the creator of Esperanto, as a Warsaw native, and as a world renowned builder of “artificial islands”, he proved particularly attractive both to journalists and to congress participants.

Louis C. Zaleski-Zamenhof, reappearing in the movement after a twenty-year absence, remained firmly attached to it. He helped popularize the international language and its ideals through his interviews in the mass media. He also met frequently with Esperantists, as was reflected in the film “Śladami Dziadka” (A Grandfather’s Footsteps) on Polish Television. The film shows him in various locations associated with his grandfather Ludoviko Zamenhof.

Bialystok was a frequent goal of his visits to Poland. In the year 2000 he accepted a symbolic diploma attesting to the fact that his grandfather Ludoviko Zamenhof received first place in a ballot for “The Citizen of Bialystok in the Twentieth Century”.  In 2007 he was named an honorary citizen, along with fourteen others, among them Józef Piłsudski and Lech Wałęsa. He several times visited Bialystok as a member of the Zamenhof Foundation in connection with construction of the Zamenhof Centre.

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