The Other Poland

May 3, 2010

It’s been some time since I posted here. My computer broke down and my time online was vastly limited. I’m slowly coming back, catching up, and thinking of new stuff.

I don’t know if people know, but I have several WordPress blogs. (Must be something with the cool WordPress themes. Whenever I can’t decide on one I begin another blog!) One of them is brand new, and it’s meant to be about the Old (First) Republic of Poland that existed up to the late 18th century.

While I’m likely to ramble around the eras, I don’t mean for it to be a blog about the 19th and 20th centuries misery, but rather an attempt to show where we, as a nation, are coming from.

There was a very long time when Poles self-governed via democratic measures, and when many of our present attitudes were created. Since our history considerably differs from that in other European countries, often our present attitudes are misconstrued when being seen via the prism of those elsewhere.

I mean to begin with general stuff, like the borders, laws, the political system etc, but, in the end, I hope to focus on the society, which should explain how we see ourselves today. I want to write about women too, and how their lives differed, about our literature and culture, and about the various historical events or the lack of them. Incidentally, I think that Poland’s history is pretty uneventful, but I want to show the reasons behind it.

The blog is partly inspired by new historiography, in Poland and abroad. The way we see history of various nations is a mixture of world histories, political ideologies, and myths. Many myths about Poland are being deconstructed now. For one, because history often serves as a kind of appeasement, justification, and inspiration. Poles needed another kind of history when they fought for their independence, and they need another one now when they’re free again and they need to self-govern rather than complain. Similarly, more and more Jewish scholars turn to the Early Modern period in Poland, because the borders are open and archives are available, and because they too want to have a richer history of their nation than the short story of the Zionist movement (a pretty marginal development when one looks at the whole).  Lithuanians, too, begin to change their mind about the period, with the May 3 Constitution being now officially celebrated in both countries. Tatars, the only ancient Muslim minority in the Christian Europe, publicise their history too.

Revisionism in the domain is not limited to Poland. There are Brits who take a Whiggish or non-Whiggish approach for example, but it’s a new thing for Poland, and in a way more fascinating, because, while in the West only people’s motives are revised, the entire shape of Europe is being changed here, as well as various nations’ role in it.

In other words, what happens nowadays is a very interesting development in the academic approach to Poland’s history, with a broader and more impartial view than what was done before. It’d be a shame to miss it!

Go to Res Publica to read more.



December 23, 2008

Gaj (Woods) lyrics: Agnieszka Osiecka, music: Marek Grechuta

Here performed by Anna Maria Jopek and Grzegorz Turnau

Words in Polish and English follow.


W splątanym gaju rąk i nóg
szepczemy słowa święte,
jak szeptał kiedyś Młody Bóg
bogini niepojętej.

Ole, ole, ole, ola, oli, bogini niepojętej.
Ole, ole, ole, ola, oli, bogini niepojętej.

W czerwonym żarze rzewnych żądz
płoniemy jak pochodnie
i opadamy w niebo, śniąc
niewinnie i łagodnie.

Cyt, cyt, cyt, cyt, cyt, cyt, cyt, cyt, cyt, cyt, niewinnie i łagodnie.
Cyt, cyt, cyt, cyt, cyt, cyt, cyt, cyt, cyt, cyt, niewinnie i łagodnie.

W żałobnym chłodzie znanych ust
szukamy pocieszenia,
słuchając jak nam stygnie puls
i mylą się znaczenia.

To nic, to nic, to nic, to nic, to nic, to mylą się znaczenia.
To nic, to nic, to nic, to nic, to nic, to mylą się znaczenia.

Dopóki demon smutku śpi,
niech żyją młode żądze.
Dopóki życie w nas się tli,
dopóki są pieniądze.

To nic, to nic, to nic, to nic, to nic, niech żyją młode żądze.
To nic, to nic, to nic, to nic, to nic, dopóki są pieniądze.

Ole, ole, ole, ola, oli, niech żyją młode żądze
Ole, ole, ole, ola, oli, dopóki są pieniądze.



In entwined woods of hands and legs
We whisper those sacred words
That were once whispered by Young God*
To his unfathomable goddess.

Ole, ole, ole, ola, olee, to his unfathomable goddess.

In the red glow of weepy wants
We flame like torches
And we decline into heaven, dreaming
Innocently and softly.

Chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp, innocently and softly.

In mournful coolness of known lips
We look for soothing,
Listening to how our pulses chill
And the meanings get confused

It’s naught,  it’s naught, it’s naught, it’s naught, it’s naught, it’s just the meanings get confused

As long as the demon of grief sleeps
Long live young desires
As long as life smoulders in us
As long as there is money

It’s naught,  it’s naught, it’s naught, it’s naught, it’s naught, long live young desires
It’s naught,  it’s naught, it’s naught, it’s naught, it’s naught, as long as there is money

Ole, ole, ole, ola, olee, long live young desires
Ole, ole, ole, ola, olee, as long as there is money

* Young God – Młody Bóg in Polish – means a virile, potent man. Czuję się jak Młody Bóg means ‘I feel I can do anything’.

Polish Spirit

December 23, 2008

Nigel Kennedy (an Englishman in Kraków) and the Polish Chamber Orchestra recorded the music of Polish romanticists: Emil Młynarski, Mieczysław Karłowicz and Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin.

This short film tells the story of the performance.

And here I imagined that the famous British violinist would speak English like a hero from a BBC costume drama. 😀

The CD i available from Amazon. Polish Spirit, indeed!

Nigel Kennedy – Polish Spirit

~ Emil Młynarski (Composer), Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin (Composer), Mieczysław Karłowicz (Composer), Jacek Kaspszyk (Conductor), Polish Chamber Orchestra (Orchestra)

Track Listings

1. Mlynarski: Violin Concerto No. 2 in D Major Op. 6
2. 1.Allegro moderato
3. 2.Quasi Notturno. Andante
4. 3.Allegro vivace
5. Karlowicz: Violin Concerto Op. 8 in A Major
6. 4.Allegro moderato
7. 5.Romanza. Andante
8. 6.Finale. Vivace assai
9. 7.Chopin arr. K. Debski: Nocturne Op 9.1 Larghetto
10. 8.Chopin arr. K. Debski: Nocturne Op. 9.2 Andante

Also in MP3 Downloads.

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