CNY Inspirations: Drawing inspiration from a heritage that chose me

I agreed to do a 3 part series on inspiration for Interfaith works and syracuse.com.  This article is the first of 3 and appeared on syracuse.com here:  https://www.syracuse.com/living/2021/08/cny-inspirations-drawing-inspiration-from-a-heritage-that-chose-me.html

When my parents were divorced, I found out the man I always knew as my father was not my biological father. Over the next several years, I struggled with my very identity, so I decided to research my heritage and last name, Czarny.

This is where I first came across Zawisza Czarny. Zawisza was the famous Black Knight from medieval Poland thought of as a model for knightly virtue. He was fiercely proud of his hometown, Stary Garbów, even when away fighting on foreign shores, as I was of Syracuse when I briefly lived in Florida.

Zawisza was known for using his intelligence and tactical knowledge on superior opponents, teaching me I could overcome any obstacle with preparation and knowledge. He was also a skilled diplomat, often bringing together heads of states to reach peace accords and teaching me to find compromise where possible to avoid conflict. He argued against the religious persecution of Czech theologian, philosopher and church reformer Jan Hus despite the overwhelming thought of his allies teaching me that you must stand up for your ideals even when not convenient.

Finally, in his death is what inspired me most. While covering the retreat of his armies the king he served sent an envoy to him offering to ferry him across the river to safety, but he would leave his men behind. He refused uttering the phrase “There is no boat big enough to lift my honor,” and stayed with his men facing certain death. I remember that loyalty when dealing with those I collaborate with in every endeavor I do.

This figure from history not only inspired me but brought me closer to understanding my heritage and helped me reconnect with the only father I have ever known. I share this story with my son and daughter to inspire them as well.

Dustin Czarny, Onondaga County Elections Commissioner since 2013, is involved in a number of civic engagement initiatives.

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