Viktor Osiatyński is a respected journalist, a professor of constitutional law, the founder and chairman of the Board of Education in the Field of Alcoholism and Other Addictions within the Stefan Batory Foundation in Warsaw. In the 90’s he was the director of the Centre for Research on Constitutionalism in Eastern Europe, in Chicago. He has also cooperated with the University of Connecticut and the University of Siena; lectured at the universities of Columbia, Stanford, Harvard. He has been a social activist for many years.
He deals with educating people on addictions, including alcoholism, to which he publicly admits being his personal problem. He also writes books on the subject. Prof. Viktor Osiatyński is also a patient of Rehasport Clinic. During his stay in Poznan, he spoke not only about his favorite sport discipline, but also about sport injuries and the Polish health care system.
Please read on.
Andrew Grupa: Did you watch Mr. Jerzy Janowicz’s tennis tournament in Paris?
Prof. Viktor Osiatyński: – Yes, I followed it. I watched all the games apart from the final match against Ferrer, because I had been accommodated in a hotel without the station that was broadcasting the match. I read the results off my smart phone, which, may I add I do quite often.
I get the impression that now you have devoted more time to scientific work, social policy and human rights, rather than sport, which in the past was probably quite high in your ranking?
– It was not high, I dealt with the area of science, I wrote about the history of the United States but am also the author of two books related to sport, namely: ‘Wimbledon’, being about tennis, and ‘From Wembley to Munich’, being about football. Both had been written at the spare of the moment, associated with the fact that I was a journalist working in the Warsaw weekly ‘Culture’. The magazine had sent me to the England – Poland game, which was my source of League and World Cup football interest. I had written the book very quickly, something within a month from the game, but it was already too late. I thought I wouldn’t publish it anywhere, however the editor of ‘Books and Knowledge’, where I had previously worked, had had the idea that if I connected it with Munich (where the final World Cup match took place in 1974), it would be successful. I wasn’t writing a masterpiece, only describing a single match. This lady had a good understanding of the topic and intuition. The book had been published, although it didn’t make the bookstores. 80,000 copies ended up in kiosks and stations. I didn’t even get it because I was in Southeast Asia at the time. It was there that I had realized the importance of football and sport. I was in Jakarta then, often in rickshaws or taxis. I had been asked my origin quite often, due to the white color of my skin, and had answered: ‘Poland’. The response was always: ‘Holland, we know it’. They confused these countries because their territory had once been a Dutch colony. One day I was once again going by rickshaw and again someone had asked me where I was from. I answered ‘Poland’, and heard ‘Great country, Deyna Gadocha ‘. The Representation team was as famous as the Pope or Chopin.
Do you still have a passion for football?
– No, today I do not like football at all. I think that it has become a brutal sport. Sport that focuses on money. I am outraged to find nine out of ten sport pages in newspapers about football. I believe that it is we who create football fans, a monstrous worldwide sports activist category. I wish disaster stroke the discipline for it to return to its state from the 70s.
Wouldn’t you say that all professional sport is looking for money or greater social interest and therefore is moving in that direction?
– Tennis is different, it is a non-contact sport without brutality. Grandstands are changing , there is more positive emotion and fan involvement. There are no tennis clubs that promote money, fame and power of sport fans. Maybe all disciplines are prone to doping, and some are violent by nature, but football has become brutal in its environment and is a social phenomenon. Tennis is free of such behavior.
Was your Wimbledon book also inspired by a trip to London?
No, it’s simply my passion, as opposed to football. I was in Ireland at a special conference, but I wanted to see Wimbledon, and it so happened that the newspaper I was working for had sent a request for accreditation, and I had got it. I went to see the beginning of the tournament and after five days I had attended the conference in Ireland and returned to London for the rest of the tournament. In the past I had slightly been interested in tennis, however this time it had become of particular interest. Till today, I watch the games, though mostly women’s, because I have a weak eyesight and find it difficult to follow a masculine long ball, although I managed to follow Janoicz’s ball.
Did you practice sport or its theory?
– Me? I had no patience, drank booze, which clashed with the physical activity. However, I was fast in the 500 and 1000 m run at school but slow in the 60 m run. Once my gym teacher had measured my last 60 meters to the finish line, which was better than the record time of the first 60 meters. I guess I had a so slow start and needed time to speed up. This is the same feature I have with work. I do the first exercises in a book for ten days, and after some time, I manage 10 pages in one day. My life just goes slowly, slowly, then faster and faster.
That is why I kept running. My great gymnastics teacher in high school, Mirosław Żywczyk, inspired me to try free style lightweight wrestling. Of course, I do not practice this discipline today, I had played tennis, but now I cannot due to my knee and hip injury. I hope that Rehasport will help me to return to tennis .
Are these mechanical injuries or a result of time?
– The second. I am 67 years old, and for the last 20 years my knees have been calling for a break. My mother had arthritis or rheumatism, I have enthesopathies and a constant tendency of having inflammation of the joint. I think 12 years ago, American and Austrian doctors said that I had to have a right knee, left hip and left knee prosthesis.
I then went to see Prof. Kazimierz Rąpły in Otwock , who had trained mainy doctors, also those of Rehasport Clinic.
During the examination he said:
– Professor, do you have insurance?
– Yes, I do.
– with worldwide validity?
– Is everything ok?
– So don’t be surprised that the doctors recommend you all those surgeries. You have well functioning knees, please just go to our physiotherapist and she will show you the exercises I want you to be doing the next 10 years. Prof. Rąpała always kept saying the same, even if I were constantly complaining. Only a year ago, when I said that my hip hurt, he examined me, turned around and said : – Now you need to replace it . And what this guy says do something, it must be done!
And that is when you started treatment?
– I trust him, I came to Rehasportu for consultation, because someone had recommended this clinic to me. Dr. Owczarski had examined me and confirmed the professors diagnosis. So I had the surgery. The reason my tendons didn’t manage could have been due to my strong rehabilitation program or my weak patience. I walked on crutches, but probably too much, in addition I have a lot of stairs at home. Visiting other medical centers in Poland didn’t help either. After two or three months, I called the dr. Dudziński in Poznań, who once said that all these iontophoresis or lasers are not very effective. I scheduled an appointment in Rehasport Clinic. After 20 minutes the physiotherapist knew more or less what the problem was, whereas in the evening doctors Dzianach and Owczarski had precisely agreed on the location of my pain.
Now all I need is treatment. I am very happy that I have finally managed to find help. Due to the insurance that have, for the past 20 years I been to many orthopedic clinics. I had one consultation, two, then three days of rehabilitation. Without a doubt Rehasport is the best clinic, and has the best professionals. Even the way the physiotherapist spoke with me was amazing. Rafal Hejna (physiotherapist) told me that a large amount of my pain and discomfort was associated with the stitch and cut muscles. He said: just imagine that it’s winter, you are wearing a t-shirt, sweater, jacket and overcoat. Imagine you had lost a button in your jacket and someone had sewed it back on by sweing together all four layers. It’s obvious that you will feel a pulling pain, that’s why we need to separate the layers. This was a wonderful mind-mapping metaphor. Mr Hejna had advised me to do certain exercises and use cupping treatment to help pull back the muscle.
Nowadays, doctors are like magicians. They do not explain, because they do not want or do not know how to, a bit like computer specialists. All the knowledge they have, they can only share with each other, because it is simply too difficult for a regular computer user to understand the whole scope of information.
It is probably the same in politics?
– No, it’s different. Politicians either do not know how to communicate with the public or do not want to know. Some also have a feeling that they know everything best of all or have contempt for others. It’s a terrible job. One is busy from morning to night as in today’s world it is necessary to keep track of the polls. Prime
Minister Tusk, whom I appreciate and respect for leaving the purely liberated market towards social problems, did not neglected with the public, yet was simply too busy.
You had spent a lot of time in the United States. As you can compare the health care system there to that in Poland?
– We have nothing to be ashamed of. This will not sound trendy, however, I prefer the Polish health care system. Of course, I posses insurance, I am often taken care of but because I am quite popular. For instance, after promoting my last book, May 31st, I didn’t feel well. I went to a private hospital, but had not been charged for my medical visit. The lady who had performed the electrocardiogram sent me to hospital because I had a stabbing feeling and felt weak. I was admitted to the emergency ward in Bielański hospital. I waited, as there were many patients in line. Finally, my name had been called out, then they took a blood test, and carried out a 4 hour observation. An unbelievable approach – if you are ill, you are ill, must wait and be patient and not complain about it.
Generally we are not a demanding society. Sure, there are exceptions, maybe doctors would have to learn to communicate with patients differently.
I do not approve of the pharmaceutical industry in Poland. Take all those drug commercials on television and the impact of these companies on society. People have gone crazy about the free market. Even vodka can be bought at the gas station, as if it were a basic product. There are even more pharmacies than bakeries. In Copenhagen there are seven pharmacies, two of which are open on Sundays, and medicaments cost 10 times as much as here – and, may I add, it is a city almost the size of Warsaw. Somehow, people get by.
Does the system need to be changed?
– No. A completely free market is sometimes so huge that the big predators eat their prey. The essence of a country and the role of a democratic country which takes care of the interests of majority is regulating certain activities. This regulation procedure mustn’t be discriminatory. Here drug possession is a misdemeanor, whereas alcohol causes ten times higher damage.
When will you return to full fitness?
– Please ask doctors Owczarski and Dzianach, and also Mr. Hejna, my physiotherapist. I would like to return to full fitness as soon as possible, to be able to take my wife, daughter and granddaughter skiing to Italy. Later, in autumn I would like to go to ‘Biały’ because I like this place. Who knows, maybe I could aslo start tango lessons in the spring. Then I could take my wife to Buenos Aires for New Year’s Eve and dance tango there. I hope that Rehasport will help me carry out these plans.
Interviewed by Andrew Grupa