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Lives of the Obscure

Matt Schudel

Here at the Washington Post, we often write about the famous and the mighty, people who altered the world in significant ways. Just in the past few weeks, we've had obituaries of congressmen (Ted Stevens and Dan Rostenkowski), an attorney general (William Saxbe) a filmmaker (Arthur Penn), entertainers (Eddie Fisher and Tony Curtis), a newscaster (Edwin Newman) and a Nobel Prize-winning physicist (Georges Charpak). Look for their obits on our archives page.

But we also make a dedicated effort to tell our readers about the less well known, the people who made their contributions to the world without much fanfare. That's the principle behind our weekly Local Life features.

It's no secret that Local Lives are among my favorite stories to do, and this week I'm especially proud to tell people about the remarkable life of Zofia Korbonski, who worked with the underground Polish resistance during World War II. She and her husband spent the entire war in Warsaw, under constant suspicion from the Gestapo, and helped preserve the independent spirit of Poland. Like so many interesting people forced from their homelands, the Korbonskis ended up in Washington, where Zofia lived for 56 years.

In a way, her determination to tell the story of Poland to the world reminds me of the dedication of Antonina Pirozhkova, the common-law wife of Russian writer Isaac Babel, who devoted her life to preserving his memory after he was seized by the Soviet secret police in 1939.

Speaking of obits of the obscure ...

... the St. Petersburg Times recently ran a short notice of the death of 48-year-old dishwasher killed by a hit-and-run driver. Not long after his death was announced, a callous reader posted the online comment stating that someone like him -- "a man who is working as a dishwasher at the Crab Shack at the age of 48" -- is surely better off dead.

The Times, which is probably the best paper in the South, assigned a reporter to find out about the life of the man killed in that hit-and-run accident. The story is a touching reconstruction of his small but honorable world and the people who knew him.

The lesson, which I hope none of us forget, is that everyone's life has value and purpose. All of us have a story to tell.

By Matt Schudel  | October 3, 2010; 3:43 AM ET
Categories:  Matt Schudel  
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Next: Dirgham Salahi, Virginia winery owner, dies


Well written and thought provoking. Every life has importance, especially the ones that get overlooked by the popular media.

Posted by: JasonGoldtrap | October 9, 2010 8:23 PM | Report abuse

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