There are so many stories and images of Adrian. Here are a few that seem good to share during a public time of mourning and celebration.
Just this Saturday, driving from giving a lecture at the Parramatta campus to our staff exhibition opening at Werrington in the outer west of Sydney, I felt compelled to take a detour. I never did get to go to the Polish delicatessen and cafe on High Street, Penrith with Adrian, although we talked about it, but this Saturday, he seemed to take me there. How else to explain parking streets away on a busy Saturday and walking to Polmart, where in the 30 degree almost-summer heat, I ordered and devoured a dish of steaming perogi, polish dumplings, filled with potato and dressed with fried onion. I found bright red tins of chocolates filled with cherry liqueur – Adrian adored cherries - to present to my colleagues who curated our exhibition, the opening of which we dedicated that afternoon to our ‘dear departed’.
When I travelled to Poland a few years ago, I brought back a photograph from the Warsaw Uprising Museum of partisans in uniform, beautiful young women and men of the uprising, leaning casually back against a wall, smoking, laughing and talking. (Very few of them survived.) They remind me of him now. Always ready to fight for justice against the march of bureaucracy, and always ready to offer wise words or a reassuring smile or hug to colleagues and friends, Adrian was a true ‘comrade in arms’.
During fieldwork for his PhD research, for which I had the privilege of being principal supervisor, Adrian offered dramatherapy groups for young women at school who were struggling with their emotions. He was so present, grounded and engaging, always finding just the right gesture or phrase to set the young women at ease. He worked in these groups with art therapist Hayley Froggatt, whose calm, soft energy was the perfect foil for the more mercurial Adrian. He and the girls nick-named the video camera ‘Boris’ (after an imaginary soviet spy) and thereby wove the process of recording for research purposes into the group narrative and drama. Adrian was so very funny, eliciting laughter by sending up his own accent and modelling drama exercises in an exaggerated fashion. Then he could drop into a very nuanced position as witness to struggle, to courage, and to the tiniest movement of change. We reviewed the tapes together, and I was constantly reminded how Adrian was exceptionally gifted as a clinician and unwaveringly committed to the work. He really made a difference where others had given up. (Adrian asked me to work with him as a co-author revising an article about his research, for publication. I intend to follow through on this so that his highly nuanced and skilled work with these young women is not lost and can be posthumously published and acknowledged.)
One day last year, when Adrian was staying in his beloved Blue Mountains, he asked if we could have our PhD meeting in the local drama studio of his friends. I arrived there to find Adrian in a heightened mood. It soon became apparent that this was not the right occasion to work closely on transcripts, so instead we moved to the drama ‘playspace’. As we seriously played, we began to unfold the story of his PhD. This reached a crescendo when Adrian wound a red cloth around his head and decorated me with gold bling. Transformed into a university chancellor, I solemnly conferred the PhD. “Dr Adrian Lania, you may now join the community of scholars and the academic procession.” We walked proudly in that moment – a desired future melding into the present, the birds chorusing and the scribbly gums whispering their assent.
When Adrian came to talk about his PhD just a few weeks ago, he was looking after a large and lively dog for a friend. Adrian was calm and poised, talking with great intelligence and insight about the next stage of writing his PhD. Meanwhile the dog was full of manic energy, bouncing off the walls of my office, expressing, perhaps, not only his own nervous disposition, but something of what Adrian may have been holding within. And so we abandoned the office and walked and talked alongside the Parramatta River that runs through the campus, weaving the threads of hopes and dreams through the wetland until it was time to return to a more concrete reality.
That was the last time I saw Adrian, but not the last word from him. We had organised to meet a couple of weeks later with Adrian’s other PhD supervisor, Shameran Slewa-Younan. (Who would believe it, a supervisory panel made up of ‘Sheridan’ and ‘Shameran’. Adrian, a close observer and respectful of everyone’s uniqueness, never confused us with each other, but others sometimes did.) Shameran became ill the day before the planned meeting, so we postponed the appointment, planning to reschedule after I returned from a meditation retreat. I texted Adrian to let him know. He replied “All good’.
‘All good’? Ah, Adrian, dear one, rest now; rest in abiding peace. In loving memory.
the sweetness of
new spring growth –
fly with peace and ease
Adrian was a soulmate to me. I may not have been to him, but since 2000, he has always been there, with his knife-sharp wit, his confetti of ideas, his great love of humanity and his brilliant inner child who understood children so well and could speak their language. He was a great pioneer of dramatherapy.
Adrian was stardust and wisdom, playmate and teacher, brother, friend and colleague. He swore he was not spiritual, but he sometimes played with the angels, and when I took the Virgin Mary wafer out of his Polish Christmas card, he was furious. “Where is the WAFER?” I said I thought he wasn’t religious and just got a frosty look. He was kind and compassionate, but honest to himself, so he would not suffer fools gladly. Sometimes we were all fools, but he could laugh at himself so well that he would join us in foolery. One of the things I loved about him was that he would make fun out of the times he got himself into trouble in a way I never could. I would probably ruminate for days or weeks (even in my much more outspoken seventies) when he would just toss it aside and put it down to part of life.
Adrian knew how to have fun like few people I have met. He liked practical jokes, and when he was 40 he still wanted to be Peter Pan, and never grow up, so he organised games to play jokes on us, so we could all be adolescents together. He would always find a way of bringing his friends back into the world again if we had withdrawn, or cheering us up if we were sad. His Polish bravado shook our sometimes all too Anglo-Celtic worlds.
He had brilliant ideas, and it was great to co-teach with him, because we could each shoot down the other’s ideas at any time (his ideas were usually better than mine) and neither of us bore a grudge. He was sometimes ephemeral, but I was not prepared enough for this permanent dull ache of no Adrian, the dear heart, in the world. Yet I learned so much from him and am so grateful to have known him.
I met Adrian in Sydney through his good colleague Joanna – and within minutes he felt like a friend I had known for years. I’m not someone who makes that kind of relationship easily in my personal or professional life and it says so much about who he was that this happened so immediately: about his energy, open-ness, charm and cheekiness that I came to know so well and to appreciate over the years since then. There was a freshness, vigour and candour that made you alert and extra alive when he was with you – he brought you into his care, sharpness and wit with a live, electric charge. In England he came and stayed with my partner and I, and his visits were short, sweet intense whirlwinds that echoed with these qualities. I enjoyed his rigorous off-the-wall wildness and the room always seemed extra quiet after he had left it. I am so sad and lessened by the powerful silence in my life that his leaving now has left us with. I mourn the wisdom that would have come my way in our conversations, I am cut to the heart – saddened by the deep absence of his insight and knowledge that I’d looked forward to in his to-be-completed PhD; all the students I would have met in the future trained by him; the conversations with their risky, edgy, impossibly impertinent but insightful-as-a-scalpel comments that would leave me helpless with laughter and the years of warmth and care that were so very much at his core.
Adrian was light on his feet, a sprite of sorts, with a gleam in his eye and a beautiful smile, clouded only briefly by a passing concern. That’s when he would launch himself toward you, to catch your thought, how he hated to miss you. He had a Polish-Australian character, it came naturally to him: he at times was not serious at all, and at others, too serious.
Adrian was a gentle, warm, passionate, talented soul. But he stole himself from us. Farewell my friend.
I remember the light in his eyes and his compassionate manner, wry smile ...the contained energy... and also the respect with which other students spoke of his UWS supervision group during their final year, and after graduation.
And, of course, his advocacy of drama therapy.
I remember Adrian, being so very animated and passionate about the power of performance, when he presented to our Art Therapy cohort in our first year of post graduate study in 2016 at Kingswood.
He was a true inspiration!
News of Arian’s death is very sad and distressing. Together we processed our work during a Master Class workshop provided by Shaun McNiff at the 2013 ANZATA Conference in Perth, Kinship Ties of Creativity. It was the first time that I had a prolonged conversation and close connection with him, and I was struck by Adrian’s warmth and humour. I experienced his gift as a therapist. The time was memorable and I feel so sorry for his family. Male membership in Art Therapies is sparse and his place was precious.
with a short poem
that is shifting in time
if I may
of Adrian of the past
to be with us
. . .it is
both hot and quite hot
and that is perhaps quite enough
as I do
with a warmth
it was of kindness
and being a kind
who could extend hospitality
whom he had just met
with a question
that was also something about
‘can I tell you who I am,
who we are
but who are you
in that stillness
of the big-ness of a whole
is the whole
in a life
although it was
just one dance together
and a memory
it is of two
and I remember
that it was
just with you.
(a NZ traveller who played with, and on one occasion stayed with Adrian at his home in Newtown a few years ago.)
Adrian was enormously fun. He really knew how to play and inspire playfulness. One fond memory of playing with Adrian was when I returned to Sydney after having moved interstate. I was yearning for playful connection. I locked eyes with Adrian within the play, and I remember feeling Adrian’s enormous sense of fun. He was really ‘going for it’ in the play, and connecting with him unleashed my own playfulness, with a huge “yes, let’s!”.
Adrian was enormously generous, and always looking out for how he could help his colleagues and progress dramatherapy in Australia. When I moved back to Australia, I had only just met Adrian, and he immediately offered for me to come and work with him, so I could build up my dramatherapy hours.
Adrian was enormously hard working and a leading dramatherapy pioneer in Australia. He was always ‘flying our flag’, and the dramatherapy community is forever indebted to him for his sheer ‘hard yaka’, perseverance and commitment. He was instrumental in enabling dramatherapists to be registered with the art therapy organisation (ANZATA), and for the organisation to add an ‘s’ to include all arts therapists. This is just one example of how Adrian put dramatherapy ‘on the map’ in Australia.
Adrian, I loved your playful spirit. I am heartbroken I will not be able to play with you again. Thank you for playing with me. Thank you for your selfless service to dramatherapy in Australia and for choosing us as your adopted country. We will never forget you and will always treasure you. I will be looking up for a trickster in the sky.
The loss of such a beautiful and vibrant person is deeply and sadly felt. Adrian shared such warm and welcoming creative energy and his presence in the art therapy community will be greatly missed. Adrian was a great support to me through my time on the ANZATA committee, enabling me to feel I belonged. May his soul find peace.
Adrian was an inspiration to me. He held an energy and vibrancy which I found completely uplifting. We worked together on a number of occasions and I loved how he could so effortlessly make the mundane whacky and wonderful. Together we often went off course but always got to where we needed to in the end. A testament to his creative genius. He made me laugh so so often and his passion for dramatherapy was evident in everything he said and did. Rest in peace my friend Adrian, the brightest of stars.
Even though I didn’t know Adrian at a personal level, his energy and exuberance touched and inspired me every time I came across him at Western Sydney University where I study Art Therapy. I am saddened by his loss and wish to send my condolences to his family, friends and my own cohorts who knew him well. He will be greatly missed. Love,
I did not know Adrian personally, however, I remember him at conferences and AGM’s as being a friendly, energetic, and humorous man, and a great representative for ANZATA who always spoke so passionately and wisely on behalf of our profession. I’m shocked and saddened by the news of his passing and I hope he has now found peace. My heart goes out to those who knew him well, I will be thinking of you on 3 November.
I am very sorry to hear of Adrian Łania’s passing. I remember attending a workshop facilitated by Adrian some years ago. Hearing this sad news prompted me to get in touch with you, to express my condolence to you and Sydney’s Dramatherapy community. Though I did not know Adrian well, I knew of his work and passion for Dramatherapy and the Creative Arts Therapies. I especially remember him as a compassionate man, as mentioned in the ANZACATA letter that was sent out. A big loss; Adrian will be dearly missed.
I was fortunate enough to enjoy the brilliance of Adrian across two parts of my life – the dramatherapy world and also in Sydney Playback Theatre. His playfulness and cheeky spirit will be sorely missed. Performing with him on stage was always wild as you never knew quite what character Adrian would pull out of the woodwork and present on stage. He had an incredible knack at being able to cut through to the heart of the story and add a level of depth and attunement that is a rare gift in the playback world.
Within dramatherapy….I am forever indebted to his pioneering work and flying our tiny ‘dramatherapy’ flag. He was always so giving of his time and spirit in order to ensure that dramatherapy was represented. He championed bringing some of our dramatherapy ‘greats’ to Australia so that we could all learn and connect as a community.
Adrian, I will miss playing with you and our little community is so much better for having your colourful spirit splashed all over it.
I was so so sorry to read that Adrian is no longer with us. He remains in my mind and heart as a delightful, caring and insightful man. I sense many profound informed insights from the time we met through ANZATA. He is a gentle deeply thinking and compassionate man. He was always rational, virtuous and dependable in my engagements with him. He was a fellow traveller and I am too sad to know now his beauty is now only to be experienced in memory.
My thoughts are especially with those past ANZATA and present ANZACATA folk at this full-hearted time – the feeling is beyond sadness.
Adrian wrote a chapter
Dramatherapy with adolescents lost, adrift, alien
In the sun, the sea, surf, shopping malls, the vastness of Australia.
He wrote of the One who is the Other,
Understanding them out of his own experience
Their alienation from the culture, from the values,
From the landscapes and languages of their parents’ homelands
Where was their place?
Would they always be Other?
Adrian wrote a chapter with a European style and sensibility;
Edited to Anglo-Saxon bluntness.
Yet in both styles his care and compassion,
His desire and ability to communicate with lost boys and girls.
To cast light on their lives and hopes
To lighten their heaviness and need, in the land of plenty.
To help them find themselves in a place of understanding.
Adrian’s light and his darkness met theirs and opened ways for them.
With dramatherapy they communicated.
They explored identity, justice, recognition, communication
And how to live with the immigrants’ broken dreams of a new world of tolerance and openness
Welcoming them, making them whole.
(Adrian Lania Chapter 12 Arts Therapists in Multidisciplinary Settings, 2016)
Adrian, for me, your sharp wit, cheeky humour and expressive spirit at gatherings and conferences will live on brightly in my memory. May you rest peacefully now. My thoughts go to your family and close friends in this time.
One night a few years ago, Adrian and I caught up and headed out to dinner. I specifically remember this time, as we had so much fun, but also, it was a roller coaster of the many wonderful facets of Adrian’s personality. He was different one-to-one, out of his ‘adoring public’, and I really enjoyed his company. We first walked along the beach and makes fun of everything we saw, the wonderfully proud man in his ‘budgie smugglers’ (I won’t disclose here what Adrian said!), the girls making eyes at everything that walked past, the stench of the seaweed. We then ordered a meal at the restaurant where I got the full run down on what is ‘quality’ pork and how Australian’s really have no idea what that tastes like. We discussed our dreams for country cottages (albeit for Adrian with a direct route to a party town), our love lives, children and about how lucky we were. Adrian was insightful and so passionate. We spoke of research, our respective fields, developing Dramatherapy into accredited training, and of mutual friends. Adrian shared some of his current challenges and again revealed his depth and intelligence. After dinner, we decided to continue the fun, (despite it just being the two of us), me almost old enough to be his mother, and able to cruise at only half his speed, went to a local club. Whoosh… the loud, flirty, (and sometimes intentionally obnoxious!), but always fun Adrian reappeared. After a couple of hours, I just couldn’t do anymore and decided to leave. Adrian seemed to have only just ‘hit the boards’, he escorted me outside, and we exchanged a warm hug, where, in an instant Adrian switched his attention instantly back to just the two of us.
I have only spent a few times alone with Adrian, sometimes in person, sometimes online, and our other infrequent catch-ups were mostly surrounded by others. He and I both become someone else in groups, I think we recognised this in each other.
I was aware of his recent struggles, (but sadly not to the extent of his sorrow), but I want to remember Adrian as the man who could comfortably flit in and out on a whim, brought instant sparkle to a room, and was a man with great passion and intelligence. I’ll miss you, Adrian.
Rest in peace Adrian as your pain diminishes and your true light of laughter, intellect, creativity and compassion continues to hold an eternal light in the cave of our hearts.
Adrian’s guidance, encouragement and belief in the capacity of others to achieve their goals and realise their dreams is a legacy of great integrity to leave in this world. My thoughts and love are with all of you through this time of deep sadness and loss.
Adrian jumped around in joy when I told him I was pregnant. Of course he was not the father. Hiding in a cupboard (!) because I did not want anyone else to find out, we jumped and screamed and giggled and celebrated the greatest news ever. Adrian placed his hands on my belly, spoked to the baby and proudly self proclaimed himself to be the Polish Uncle! - Adrian, thanks for being part of our performative journey, you now continue dancing in our hearts.
Adrian was more than a teacher. He was an energy to behold. His love for dramatherapy was infectious, allowing all of us to become childlike again, and fall easily into a world of play. With a mind of such brilliance and a heart of such vulnerability, may you rest easy now. Thank you my friend.
Adrian was an inspiration to so many. He had such a keen and inquisitive mind and was one of the most intelligent people I know, and he enjoyed sharing his knowledge and his love of learning which inspired others to learn, to push themselves, to stretch their own understanding of things. Adrian was a great teacher and communicator and had a way of taking his students on a journey that made them excited and enthusiastic about what they were learning.
Adrian was brave. He travelled through a lot of worlds, physically, mentally and emotionally. He settled in Australia and navigated the culture and traditions, and had a way of ‘fitting in’ while never losing his own culture or uniqueness. He travelled around the world making close friends, wonderful connections and sharing and learning about dramatherapy, theatre, and working with people in a wide variety of ways. He bravely walked through the journey of illness, sharing his struggles with others without stigma or shame and inspiring others to share openly about their own struggles with illness as well. I always admired his courage and strength.
Adrian had a wonderful sense of humour, playfulness and fun. It was impossible to spend time with Adrian without laughing, sharing something funny that had happened or just being playful.
Adrian was a wonderful performer and used his natural ability for comedy, his large capacity for empathy and his keen understanding of human nature to portray characters and situations with so much authenticity and credibility. He looked so natural in performance and in his element on the stage.
Adrian was incredibly thoughtful, caring and compassionate. He put others’ needs before his own, he loved his friends and family and had a huge capacity for giving to others.
Adrian was intelligent, funny, loving, thoughtful, inspiring, unique, honest, trustworthy and genuine. Adrian was loved. In loving memory,
Very saddened to hear of Adrian’s passing. I remember him as an open hearted generous young man with hope, ambition and dedication. His contribution to ANZATA was outstanding and always professional. I particularly remember a wonderful dance I had with him at Whitecliffe College ANZATA conference celebrations years ago, we laughed and laughed together. The news of his passing is a huge shock and loss to the creative therapies family. I hope that any of the arts therapy family feels they can reach out to the rest of us for help and a person to listen to us in times of need.
What a loss! Adrian was a caring, talented, fun and very smart and hugely creative professional, I enjoyed his work very much. I will miss him and hope he has found peace and light.
I met Adrian in 2011 when he came to me seeking a supervisor to oversee the quantitative aspects of his PhD. I had of course heard of dramatherapy but had no direct experience with it as a practitioner or supervisor. Adrian presented to me the possibility that my strict training in psychological therapies could be applied to a different theoretical stance. I learned and grew in this supervision journey, understanding that I could utilise my quantitative research training and scientific practice to respond in an open and reflexive way. For that I am truly appreciative. Rest in peace bright spirit!
I first met Adrian when I was in the ANZATA committee around 2009. This photo was taken in Singapore when I invited him and Amanda to do a series of workshops few years after.
Adrian, was one of the most open, generous and compassionate people I know. I remember how he always looked out for me and was sensitive to my feelings.I loved being around him. His vivaciousness and honesty was disarming and challenged me to think deeper and broader. He was very hardworking, very reliable and his intelligence was inspiring. Thank you Adrian for your light and love. You have been a gift to me and you are dearly missed. Rest in Peace.
I was fortunate to have met and get to know Adrian through Playback Sydney. He was always full of energy and fun but was also someone I could confide in and trust, and would always tell it like it is. He was super funny and cheeky too.
I’m shocked to hear of his passing and my love and thoughts go to his family, friends, co-workers and of course to his Playback family. Adrian will be missed!
Thank you to everyone who contributed their tributes to our Adrian. There has been an outpouring of love and appreciation for his unique spirit. We are grateful to have known him in this part of his life's journey.
Adrian – my Polish polished friend, my fellow eastern European buddy, I'll miss the fun, the dancing, and eating cherries together. Good bye beautiful white doe, mój braciszek/siostrzyczka, od twojeg siostrzyczka/braciszek.