160 years ago Lazarj Markoviĉ Zamenhof was born, the first child of a Lithuanian Jewish family in a small town of the Russian Empire. Of course, joy was in the air, however, sorrows too. How would the life of this little, a bit fragile boy unfold in a time of struggle, misunderstanding and war?
In Bialystok, today in Poland, at that time a majority of Jews lived together with Poles, Russians, Germans and Belarussians. Even as a small boy he noticed that they often all quarrelled with each other due to misunderstandings of language. Perhaps they wouldn’t do so if they could understand each other, he mused.
At school he was a bright chap, with a specially keen interest in languages including the old classical languages Latin and Greek. He dreamed about a common language for everyone and started to make up his own. By the end of his school years, he had created a kind of universal language in which he could already communicate with some classmates. However, it needed some more years of studying and improving until it became a real communication tool.
First Zamenhof had to follow his own professional career and become a medical doctor. But finally in 1887 he published in Russian the booklet Dr Esperanto's International Language. His pseudonym soon became the name of the new language. From then on the word spread rapidly and in 1905 the first Esperanto World Congress was held in France. Here the world could see a constructed language that served for international communication very well.
For Zamenhof this language project was only a stepping stone to a much bigger idea. He wanted to unify the whole of humanity with the help of his religious/philosophical framework called Homaranismo.
He had already given away all rights to his Language. Esperanto belonged to all of humanity, it was always a means by which to facilitate improved human relations, especially beyond boundaries of race, language and culture.
Zamenhof still worked in and for Esperanto till the end of his life. In 1915 two years before his death, in a Letter to the Diplomats, he called fervently for peace and suggested a united Europe instead of national states.
He was probably more of a visionary than a dreamer. His humanitarian project has fallen into oblivion, however today his initiated language is alive and spoken worldwide in spite of all the obstacles over the years and the dominant English.
Something to celebrate!
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