Andrew Scott, Director of the National Museum of Science and Industry, investigates the parentage of the ex Krakow Waterworks engine on 28.11.2009.
Ferdynand Ruszczyc, the Director of the Railway Museum in Warsaw, has not been having a good month. Last week he was asked to resign from his other job, director of the office coordinating the Chopin 2010 festivities. On 28th November Gazeta Stoleczna, the Warsaw supplement to Poland’s best selling daily Gazeta Wyborzca, carried an article under the headline Muzeum Kolejnictwa jak prowincjonalny dom kultury? (Railway Museum like a provincial arts centre?) which questioned Mr Ruszczyc’s approach to running the Railway Museum. Mr Ruszczyc responded by demanding that Gazeta Wyborcza print an apology and threatening the authors of the article with legal action; the next day he read in the same paper that Ludwig Rakowski the Deputy Governor of Mazowsze province has ordered an investigation into the way that the Railway Museum is being run.
Why the firestorm? Some Warsaw railway enthusiasts allege that Ruszczyc is more interested in promoting himself than the Railway Museum and that money that he has spent on art exhibitions and fashion shows would have been better spent on restoring his exhibits. The final straw for them was when Ruszczyc moved outside a small industrial locomotive that had graced the Museum’s entrance lobby for many years. The locomotive – a tiny 1920s vintage single cylinder diesel similar in appearance to the small industrial engines manufactured by Orenstein & Koppel A.G. – is the oldest such locomotive in Poland.
However, the simplistic analysis is almost certainly wrong. Under Ruszczyc’s predecessor, Janusz Sankowski, who sat in the director’s chair for 17 years, certain priceless exhibits ended up as gutted wrecks or were even cut up for scrap, while the Museum itself faded into obscurity. The popular press ignored the affairs of the Museum and the demise of its exhibits. In comparison to Sankowski, Ruszczyc has been a breath of fresh air. The Museum has been given a coat of paint. A number of special events have been held in the Museum to raise its public profile. A special educational programme has been put together for school visits. A delegation from the Museum visited the NRM in York to see how railway museums were run in Great Britain.
So why is Ruszczyc getting such a bad press? One theory that is doing the rounds – albeit there is only circumstantial evidence to back it up – is that Ruszczyc is doing too good a job. PKP has decided that it is time to dislodge the Railway Museum from its Warszawa Glowna location – a prime development site and the Museum is fighting for its survival. Ruszczyc has dug in his heels to stay at the Warszawa Glowna site, engaging Greogorz Gomula a brilliant young Warsaw lawyer, to defend the Museum’s position. He has received some useful support in his campaign from the British – Polish Railway and Industrial Heritage partnership – a pro heritage rail lobbying group – who have coordinated a letter writing campaign which resulted in letters of support for the Railway Museum from some influential supporters in Europe. These letters in turn encouraged a couple of Polish ministers to declare their support for the Museum. Connecting the dots it would appear that somebody who stands to make some big money from the Warszawa Glowna development has decided that Ruszczyc has to go.
VIPs at Smigiel. Left to right: Marek Ciesielski, Andrew Scott, David Morgan, Tomasz Strapagiel, Karol Waszczak and Gordon Rushton. The driver looks down from the open door.
Theory number two is that Krzystof Chalupinski, who has been the Museum’s Deputy Director for many years, covets the top job himself and has calculated that if Ruszczyc is disgraced, he has a good chance of landing it himself. It is certainly is true that those people who have told us their doubts about Ruszczyc also regularly talk to Chalupinski. It would also appear that Chalupinski has been conspicuous by his absence at the recent special events organised by his boss in the Museum. Perhaps, the strongest evidence that Chalupinski is playing a devious game, is his strange behaviour with respect to the Railway Heritage and Society conference recently organised in Warsaw by the British Polish Chamber of Commerce and Fundacja Era Parowozow. Adressing the conference would have been a great opportunity for Ruszczyc to face his critics and to explain his strategy for raising the Museum’s profile. At first, all boded well. Ruszczyc agreed to speak at the conference and that the Museum would make a small donation towards the secretarial costs of organising the event. The Museum was also to appear as co-organiser of the event. Mr Ruszczyz even wrote to Andrew Scott, the Director of the National Museum of Science and Industry inviting him to come to Warsaw and give a presentation. In the event Mr Chalupinski persuaded Mr Ruszczyc to renege on all his promises and all but ignore the event. Mr Ruszczyc never met Andrew Scott and all the other VIPs who specially came to Warsaw, and it was left to Paul Fox, the Deputy British Ambassador, and Tomasz Strapagiel, the Chairman of SKPL to provide the distinguished visitors with the welcome that they deserved.
It may be that neither of the two theories outlined above is true, it is also equally possible that both are true. However, one thing is certain – Mr Ruszczyc’s behaviour shocked the VIPs who came to Warsaw because they wished to help him to save his Museum and its collection.
Sources (in Polish):
Gazeta W. – Muzeum Kolejnictwa jak prowincjonalny dom kultury
Muzeum Kolejnictwa – Komunikat Dyrektora
Gazeta W. – Marszałek sprawdzi co się dzieje w Muzeum Kolejnictwa