I am greatly saddened to report that the ESSA webmaster, Martin Podolak, died tragically young of cancer on February 15, 2022.
Martin was born in 1977 in Herning, Denmark, and grew up in Hamburg-Altona, Germany. He held joint German and Danish citizenship. He spent a year in Russia in 1995–96 on an exchange program while in high school, attending a Russian school, completed gymnasium in Hamburg with certification in Russian and English language, and then worked for a year at the AFS Intercultural Programs student exchange service, including six months in Moscow. At the AFS, he initiated a volunteer program for German teenagers to participate in social and environmental projects, and worked on strengthening volunteer organizations set up under a German-Russian partnership. From 2000-2004 he attended Hamburg University, majoring in Slavic languages and literatures, and East European studies. He completed his bachelor degree in 2012 at the University of Copenhagen, with a major in Russian language and culture and a minor in English translation studies. In 2013-14, he studied translation, Russian language, and linguistics on an independent basis at the Moscow State University for Linguistics. In 2014, he completed the 37th International Summer Seminar in Bulgarian language and culture at the University of Veliko Tŭrnovo in Bulgaria; in 2015 he completed the 53rd Summer Seminar in the same at Sofia University. He received an M.A. degree in 2016 from the University of Copenhagen in Russian linguistics and translation, with a second specialization in Bulgarian. He completed certification as a teacher of German as a second language in 2020.
Beginning in 2011 until 2022, Martin served as the designer, editor and webmaster for the Danish Portal for East European Studies (https://oesteuropastudier.dk/en/). He served as the webmaster for the Bulgarian Studies Association beginning in 2015, and, beginning in 2016, as the ESSA webmaster, while also working since 2019 as a German language instructor for refugees at the WillkommensKulturHaus, run by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ottensen, Germany. He was also a highly-trained IT specialist, and, of particular interest to medieval Slavists, he was the editor of the Slavic Diachronic Dictionary Server, on historical linguistics, which contains c. 140,000 headwords (https://ordbog.oesteuropastudier.dk/index.php).
On the recommendation of the president of the Bulgarian Studies Association, ESSA officers hired Martin in 2016 to set up a new website for the ESSA and move it to a new server so that it would no longer be hosted by H-Net, which did not permit online payment of dues. Martin designed and instituted what is now the ESSA website, at https://earlyslavicstudies.org, for a modest flat fee of $200. He created the current design and look of the website, re-established the online dues payment system, and initiated and set up the member password and log-in systems for pages that are available to members only.
We were very surprised and touched by Martin’s generosity when, after setting up the ESSA website, he offered to maintain it indefinitely for us, on a completely volunteer basis. During his tenure as ESSA webmaster, from 2016 up to the time of his death, he regularly updated announcements, added the latest Newsletter issue to the website, added links to related websites, and answered e-mails from ESSA members who had misplaced their website passwords, always very swiftly, collegially, and cheerfully. He proposed many innovative ideas for the website, which we welcomed, including the member log-in system so that the website could make available minutes of the annual ESSA meeting and other documents that were not public.
In 2021, during my last year as ESSA president, Martin informed me of his terminal prognosis, but insisted on continuing to manage the website as long as he was able. He spent much of his last year transfering the website files to ESSA President Cornelia Soldat, so that she and her husband could take over as webmasters when he no longer could do the job. He was in the process of writing a manual for Cornelia explaining, among other topics, how to use the Joomla toolkit that the website requires, when he died.
Martin was a remarkably generous and dedicated colleague, whose work for the ESSA was motivated by his keen life-long interest in Slavic studies. Although I never met him in person, even on Zoom, working with him by e-mail over the four years I served as president was always a great joy. I miss him greatly and am in awe of his courage and strength.
If you are curious about Martin’s scholarly work in Slavic studies, his publications are still available at present at his personal webpage (https://podolak.net/en/studies/publications), and his c.v. is at https://podolak.net/de/lebenslauf. You may also be interested in the story of his Scandinavian great-grandparents’ immigration to Brooklyn, New York in 1916, and then their re-immigration from the U.S. back to Denmark after the 1929 U.S. stock market crash (https://podolak.net/en/a-brooklyn-tale; written in German).