Marek Kotanski was one of these few people who made a real change in lives of many. His death in the car accident in August 19, 2002 brought a pain not only to his family but to all these people who found a better life because of him. He was 60.
Kotanski became known suddenly at the end of the 70s and in the beginning of 80s. It seems that he was desperately trying to get through to the mass media and he caught a right moment. In the beginning of 80s time many known Polish personalities of culture and liberal press were either banned from the official circulation or withdraw voluntarily from the public life in the protest against military law and the oppressive government. Kotanski was shocked by poor results of the rehabilitation of drug addicts in the hospital where he worked as a psychologist. He was aware of the new therapeutic methods. He decided to make a difference. Many people questioned his actions - how is it that we talk about drug addicts while innocent people are still imprisoned for their political views. Does he not try just to turn our attention from the real problems?
As a matter of fact, drug problems were kept secret before "Kotanski's time". We heard about drug problems in Western Europe and in the USA, but apparently this problem did not affect Poland and the Eastern Block. The reality was very different and the fact that Kotanski was not only talking about it but also helping addicts was an important change. Thanks to the mass media, Kotanski was able to attract public attention. Kotanski knew how to touch people's hearts and knew how to talk to the political establishment. His name became publicly known so he was able to establish centers for drug addicts. The drug addicts centers were called "Monar". Kotanski kept a strict discipline among the patients. Not everybody could keep up to his discipline, but those who could are thankful to him for it. Now, there are over 30 centers of Monar in Poland.
Kotanski was still not ready to settle down. He established the centers for HIV-positive people. When the political system collapsed and people were free to express their views Kotanski's actions caused unpredictable and negative results. Some people, mainly farmers who were living nearby his centers for people HIV-positive or drug-addicts, protested against such neighborhs. In some cases the centers had to be moved somewhere else.
The socio-political changes brought also another problem - homelessness. In 1991 Kotanski organized free baths for people living in Central Railway Station in Warsaw. Presently there are over 100 shelters for homeless (called "Markot"), for abused women and single mothers with children, established by Kotanski.
Kotanski's newest idea was a Center of the Mutual Help where people help each other. The Warsaw's Center consist of a house for homeless, 2 houses for eternally ill, 4 houses for drug addicted, hospital for homeless, house for political refugees, kindergarten for retarded children, and a health care center for prostitutes.
Recently he developed international cooperation. Monar's centers were established in Ukraine and Russia.
Kotanski organized a spectacular action - the chain of pure hearts. Young people from all over Poland were holding their hands to make people aware of the danger of drugs and any other addictions.
Kotanski was loved, but he was hated sometimes also. He cursed, he was hot-tempered. But even people who disagreed with him are admitting that his service to other people was remarkable and it would be very difficult to replace him. He was able to do things that seemed to be impossible. He had charisma, charm, and also energy and stubbornness which helped him to get things done. This was not an easy task in the economical crisis of 80 and 90s. He was a man with a vision.
Hopefully, another Kotanski-like character will be found, otherwise it could be difficult to keep all these centers going on.