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Past-Time Lover: Ludwik Lazarus Zamenhof

Updated Tuesday, 9 February 2021
This article is part of a collection produced for Valentine’s Day. Who would you select for your Valentine from these iconic figures from history? 

Profile of Ludwik Ludwik Lazarus Zamenhof

Likes: tolerance, peace, languages
Dislikes: prejudice, cultural misunderstanding, nationalisms of any kind
Nickname: ‘Doctor Hopeful’
Age: 156
Personality traits: idealism, endeavour, perseverance

A bit about me:
I am from Bialystok, Poland. I grew up bilingual, thanks to my parents who raised me in both Russian and Yiddish. My city, in those days, resembled the Tower of Babel, populated with people from diverse ethnic backgrounds, who spoke so many different languages and dialects: Yiddish of course, but also Polish, Belarusian, German, Russian, Tatar… Unfortunately, very much like in the biblical story, they were unable to understand each other, divided as they were, by their respective languages.

I became a physician but I have always been interested in languages. As a boy, I managed to learn a few with the help of my father. He taught me French and German. Later on, I learnt some English and even got into some Lithuanian and Italian. Alongside modern languages, I also studied classical languages such as Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic, while at school. I am, in fact, passionate about languages!

Where I grew up, on the Polish-Russian border, racial and national conflicts were common place. It caused me much sadness and frustration to witness cultural misunderstanding, prejudices, and even deep hatred developing between various ethnic groups. I understood it as being the negative consequences of people’s inability to communicate outside their own linguistic group.

Something had to be done to overcome the linguistic barrier. So, using my knowledge of several European languages, I created a new, neutral, easy to use language, as a tool for universal communication: a language that could transcend national divides and unite people beyond their cultural differences. A language that would not belong to me, or to any nation in particular, but that would belong to anyone who chooses to use it. Who knows, perhaps one day, this could contribute to preventing wars…

I called it ‘Lingvo internacia’ (international language), but people preferred to call it Esperanto, in reference to my pseudonym ‘Doktoro Esperanto’.

I am looking for:

Someone with whom I could dream of a better, more egalitarian world. Someone, who, like me, would “imagine all the people, living life in peace”.

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one! I really hope someday, you’ll join me and the world will live as one! 

Does Ludwik speak your language? Cast your vote!

This article is part of a collection produced for Valentine’s Day. Who would you select for your Valentine from these iconic figures? See the collection and cast your vote by going to Past-Time Lover.

Illustrator: Neil Arnold


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