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Noted Polish scholar on Tamil literature dies

By Surender Bhutani, IANS,

Warsaw : Joanna Kusio, a noted Polish scholar on Tamil language and literature, was found dead in her apartment. She was 49 and was single.

Her relatives found her dead when they opened her apartment last week. She was suffering from a heart ailment for the past few months and it seems she died following cardiac arrest.

She was working as a teacher of Tamil language and literature for the past 30 years at Warsaw University.

Joanna, whose friends called her Asha, was a role model for her dedication to Tamil language and literature. Her love for Tamil took her to Chennai where she spent three years to get well-versed not only with the language and literature but also with Dravidian culture and art.

She had the honour of sharing classes in the early 1980s with noted Tamil writer Indira Parthasarathy when he was a visiting professor to the Oriental Institute of Warsaw University.

“With her sudden death, Poland has lost a noble soul who had embodied the Tamilian spirit in her way of life and thinking. It is a great loss for Warsaw University where students feel let down at the hands of destiny. Had she lived longer she could have conquered many more frontiers. Teachers like Kusio are born once in a few decades,” Anna Bem, a Polish Indophile, told IANS.

Kusio was one of the pioneers who had opted to study Tamil in the late 1970s and spent her whole life in promoting, teaching and doing research on Tamil language. She helped to maintain the tradition of teaching oriental languages in Eastern Europe.

Warsaw University, where she worked, is the only institution where the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) regularly funds a visiting professor in Tamil.

It was thanks to Kusio’s efforts that the visiting Indian professors used to feel at home after their arrival in a cold country like Poland.

(Surendra Bhutani can be contacted at [email protected])