All posts by Marcin Marszalek

For the Love of Kilt and &#379upan: Scots in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

Poland and Scotland battled to a 2:2 tie in yesterday’s Euro 2016 qualifier in Warsaw. This naturally begs the question: when did the first Scots arrive in Poland? Naturally. Ok, maybe not to you, but now that you’re here, you’re about to find out!

Scots found their way to Poland as far back as 1438 when a Scottish student enrolled at the Krak&#243w Academy (the Jagiellonian University). Later, lured by economic opportunity and religious freedoms, Scottish traders settled in many towns and villages, most notably Gda&#324sk and Krak&#243w. King Stefan Batory granted Scotsmen right to free trade and also signed the Royal Grant of 1576 which assigned a district in Krak&#243w to Scottish immigrants. Half of the population of K?dainiai, a village in today’s Lithuania, was Scottish.

A “Scots Pedlar’s Pack,” which usually consisted of woolen goods and linen kerchiefs, became a well known phrase in Poland. These poorer traders developed a bit of a reputation for drunkenness, so, in other words, they fit right in.

By the 1600s, there were as many as 40,000 Scots living in the Commonwealth (although 30,000 is the more frequently given number) and by the 1640s, Scottish goods numbered about 10% of the total imports to the city of Gda&#324sk.

Many Scottish names became Polonized: MacLeod became Machlejd, MacAulay became Makali&#324ski, Cochrane became Czochran etc. Let’s not forget that Bonnie Prince Charlie was half Polish and a great-grandson of King Jan III Sobieski, you know, the guy that stopped the Turks from conquering Europe in 1683. (That’s kind of a big deal.) There are a number of villagers and districts named “Szkocja” and “Nowa Szkocja” in Poland.

Furthermore, there were a number of Scottish gentlemen named Gordon fighting at the Siege of Gda&#324skin 1577 (admittedly, on both sides). During World War II, there were a number of Polish gentlemen named Gordon who served Scotland (and this is a good moment to mention Wojtek retired in Scotland. Right, that Wojtek: the Polish soldier who also happened to be a bear. Look it up if you have to. Look up the Great Polish Map of Scotland while you’re at it, it’s pretty cool).

A number of Scots also rose to considerable positions of respect, power and influence. King Batory granted a certain John Gipson the right to retail his goods to the Royal Court. Another 8 Scots became royal courtiers to King Batory. James Kabrun (Cockburn) a wealthy Gda&#324sk merchant financed the building of a theater in the city. Robert Portius was the wealthiest man in Krosno and financed the construction of a church. Robert Gordon made his fortune from the Aberdeen-Gda&#324sk trade route and built a hospital which today is the Robert Gordon University (yes, he lived in Aberdeen but I’m including him). Scottish immigrants organized into brotherhoods and built Protestant churches (remember the religious toleration bit?) Seems they liked building things.

Moving on, James Murray was made Chief Engineer of the Polish Navy in 1620 (no Polish Navy jokes, its size might have been small, but its perseverance was great [I might have just added fule to the fire]). Another well known Scot in Poland was Alexander Chalmers (Czamer) who became a Warsaw burgher in 1673, was a leader of the Scottish immigrants, a judge and a four time mayor of Warsaw between 1691 and 1702. Finally, Jan Collison became the court painter of King Jan II Kazimierz in 1664.

Plaque on the house of Alexander Chalmers in Warsaw. Wikipedia.
Plaque on the house of Alexander Chalmers in Warsaw. Adrian Grycuk-Wikipedia.

The Scottish presence in the 17th century was so influential, Henryk Sienkiewicz, the late 19th-early 20th century novelist and a Nobel Prize laureate created the character of Hassling-Ketling of Elgin in his Trilogy (its influence on the rise of national consciousness and pride cannot be overstated). Ketling was intelligent, well-mannered and a lover of poetry. He moved to Poland and became Colonel of Artillery under Jan II Kazimierz in the 1660s. He led the defense of Kamieniec along with his best friend Micha&#322 Wo&#322odyjowski where they both sacrificed themselves by blowing themselves up in the gunpowder depot, thus fulfilling their pledge to defend the fortress to the death.

So now you have one more weapon in your arsenal for those cocktail parties.

Diamonds of the Warsaw Uprising

Upon hearing the news that Krzysztof Kamil Baczy&#324ski joined the Szare Szeregi “Grey Ranks” (the codename for the underground paramilitary Polish Scouting Association), Stanisław Pigo&#324, a historian of Polish literature, remarked: “We belong to a nation, whose fate is to shoot at the enemy with diamonds.
When Poland regained its independence in 1918, following the Treaty of Versailles which ended the Great War, or World War I, people in Poland, were, understandably, exuberant. After 123 years of foreign rule and of forced and ruthless Russification and Germanization, Poles could once again use their own language at home, let alone at school, legally. The generation of Poles born in the 1920s was to be the first generation that would live in, and discover what it means to be in, a free Poland. Instead, their adolescence and young adult lives were marked by World War II.
The young intelligentsia of that period came to be known as the Generation of Columbuses. John Paul II belonged to that generation as well as writers Stanis&#322aw Lem and Zbigniew Herbert, and W&#322adys&#322aw Bartoszewski, Auschwitz survivor, historian and politician who was instrumental in Polish-German reconciliation. But then there were those diamonds whose lives were cut short by the war. This list presents some of them.

1. Krzysztof Kamil Baczy&#324ski. We opened the article with him so it’s only fitting he opens the list. Baczy&#324ski was born in 1921 and graduated from lyceum in 1939. From an early age he showed talent for drawing and writing. While attending gymnasium and lyceum, he was interested in Polish and French literature. He wrote poems in Polish and later in French.

His style demonstrated catastrophism and a strong romantic influence. He published four books of poetry during the German occupation. His poems showed the need to find your true self when faced with the brutality and barbarism of war. He did not write about the war in a literal manner but rather through an apocalyptic and dreamy prism. His poems addressed the problems of sculpting the human soul and psyche, search for ideals and sense of war which he saw symbolically as a destroyer of moral norms and values. He also wrote the best erotica in Polish literary history. He was held in high regard by his contemporaries as Stanisław Pigo&#324’s quote asserts.

He was killed by a sniper on 4 August 1944: the 4th of the Uprising.

2. Barbara Drapczyńska – wife of Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński. She is as responsible for the best erotica in Polish literature as her husband. She was a student of Polish Philology in the underground Warsaw University.

She was struck by a splinter of glass which damaged her brain and died pregnant on 1 September 1944, the 32nd day of the Uprising. She never knew her husband was killed.

3. Tadeusz Gajcy. Born in 1922, he attended school with Wojciech Jaruzelski. He showed talent for poetry from an early age but later destroyed all of his early poems. He studied Polish Philology in the underground Warsaw University. He was one of the creators, and later an editor, of Sztuka i Naród (Art and Nation) a monthly literary underground magazine. On its pages, he published his poetry and short stories, sometimes under pseudonyms, and he often polemicized with literary predecessors.

Through his poetry he tried to philosophically understand the world and the fate of a person. His poems are pessimistic but reflexive and war is treated in a metaphoric, apocalyptic vision, and not literally. He also wrote some erotica and translated parts of Homer into Polish.

He was killed on 16 August 1944, the 16th day of the Uprising.

4. Wojciech Mencel – born in 1923, he attended the same lyceum as Baczyński from which he graduated in 1941 and joined the underground Warsaw University and studied Polish Philology. He was on staff of the Art and Nation magazine and later he worked for Droga (Way). He also worked for the Bureau Information and Propaganda in the Home Army. His poems were not published during his lifetime.

He was killed on 13 September, 1944, the 44th day of the Uprising.

5. Zdzisław Stroiński – born in 1921, he spent his youth in Zamość where his father was a legal advisor. In 1941 he started studying Polish Philology in the Underground Warsaw University (see a pattern?). He worked for Art and Nation (another pattern?). He spent some time in the infamous Pawiak prison in 1943 after he was caught laying a wreath under a statue of Copernicus (along with Gajcy) but was released a couple months later.

In his poems, he created metaphoric images which showed influences of the Kraków Avant-garde with messianic accents. He also explored humanistic and patriotic avenues in his works.

He was killed on 16 August 1944, the 16th day of the Uprising.

6. Józef Szczepański – born in 1922, he graduated lyceum in 1939. During World War II, he joined the Gray Ranks and Battalion Parasol (Umbrella), a Scouting battalion which distinguished itself in many underground operations. Among others, he was part of an unsuccessful operation which attempted to assassinate SS-Obergruppenführer Wilhelm Koppe, responsible for numerous atrocities against Poles and Jews.

He often wrote his poems inspired by the moment and his works chronicle the life of Parasol. Probably his best known work is his last, Czerwona Zaraza (Red Plague), which expresses frustration at the Red Army which stopped on the right bank of the Vistula and waited for the Germans to crush the Uprising before attacking the city. It was banned in post-war Poland.

He was mortally wounded on 1 September, and died on 10 September 1944, the 41st day of the Uprising.

He received the Cross of Valor twice and was posthumously awarded Virtuti Militari, Poland’s highest decoration for courage and heroism.

7. Jan Romocki – born in 1925 he completed secondary school in the underground in 1943. He joined the conspiracy in 1941, the Grey Ranks in 1942 and the legendary battalion Zośka in 1943. His underground pseudonym (and middle name) was, quite fittingly, Bonawentura, after the medieval scholastic theologian.
What survived from his poetry deals mainly with issues in, and of, Christianity and his poems are deeply seeped in Christian ethics. His poem Modlitwa (Prayer) was sung by the members of the underground.

He was killed by an aerial bomb on 18 August, 1944, the 18th day of the Uprising.

8. Krystyna Krahelska – born in 1914 her father was an engineer and her mother was a biologist. Her aunt Wanda was a member of a group that attempted to assassinate Georgi Skalon, a Russian-Empire Governor General of Warsaw in 1906 by throwing a bomb at his carriage. Krystyna studied geography, history and then ethnography at the Warsaw University in the 1930s receiving her degree in 1939. She posed for Ludwika Nitschowa, an artist who created the statue of the Warsaw mermaid. She worked as a courier, and, during the Uprising, as an emergency medical technician.

She wrote poetry and songs since 1928, one of which, Hej, chłopcy, bagnet na broń (Hey boys, mount the bayonets), became the most popular song of the Uprising.

She was shot three times in the chest on 1 August 1944 while attempting to save a wounded friend, and died, after a surgery on 2 August, the 2nd day of the Uprising.

9. Włodzimierz Pietrzak – born in 1913 in Warsaw, he attended the Tadusz Kościuszko Gymnasium in Kalisz and studied law at the Warsaw University graduating in 1935. Before the war, he published in several literary magazines and was a deputy editor-in-chief of Młoda Polska (Young Poland). During the war, he was a staff member of Art and Nation. His poems dealt with the questions of morality and ideals and were written in the vein of catastrophism.

He was killed on 20 August 1944, the 20th day of the Uprising.

Polish Center Digital Archives

We have had a busy couple of months at the Polish Center. We had a tent at the Kiełbasa festival, a very successful Golf Tournament and just as successful Polish and Eastern European Genealogy Roadshow organized by the Polish Genealogical Society of Massachusetts to celebrate its 25th anniversary (view photos here).

I, however, had been busy with another project that I am happy to unveil today: Polish Center Digital Archives. The ever enthusiastic Eric Basile led the technical side of the project installing Omeka and setting up web hosting with a lot of hocus pocus that he refers to as coding and congeniality. I have had the pleasure and honor of overseeing the project and choosing, organizing, and describing the content.

A few words about the software: Omeka is a free, open source, web-based content management system used by many museums and libraries to publish online collections and exhibits. It uses the Dublin Core metadata schema which standardizes the description of online resources.

We started the project at the beginning of May and had to overcome a number of obstacles before we were even able to start uploading materials. As of now, there are over 100 items on the website which are described in detail and can be viewed in high resolution. We are adding new items almost every day now.

The majority of items on the page right now come from the Felix Furtek Collection Papers. Felix Furtek was a notary public in the city of Chicopee and he dealt with issues of immigration, sponsorship, land sale in Poland etc. You can read more about him under the exhibit tab on the archives website. There are also sections on the Blue Army (well worth your time), Solidarity (always worth your time), and a Nazi War Crimes case (deserves attention).

Due to the fragility of those materials, we have prioritized their digitization. In this, Adam Maciaszek and Michael Sweeney have been tremendously helpful with their interest and attention to detail.

I hope you will enjoy exploring the archives and learning something about Polish American history.I also want to thank everyone that helped with the project so far and I am looking forward to seeing the project grow with all your help!

Marcin Marszałek

John Paul II Hand

In celebration of John Paul II’s canonization, the Polish Center will show the film “Karol, a Man Who Became Pope.”
Did you know of this special piece in our collection?


Copy of the Right Hand of Pope John Paul II
(born Karol Wojtyła, 18 May 1920-died 2 April 2005)

One of only two copies that exist of John Paul’s entire right hand. This plaster cast was produced in 2011 from the mold used to make the original bronze copy of his hand.
The display case was made in the Podhale mountaineer style by artist Janusz J&#281drzejowski, professor at the A. Kenar School of Plastic Arts in Zakopane, Poland.
Carved designs on inner right door of case: Our Lady of Cz&#281stochowa with Tatra couple below. Inner left door of case: Our Lady of Ostrobrama with Krakow couple below. Distinctive Carpathian alpine bells above the hand. Tatra parzenica motif on front of door. Polish Eagle on roof above the Papal coat-of-arms.

How Pope John Paul II Created Solidarity

JohannesPaulIIOn October 16th 1978, Karol Cardinal Wojty&#322a, Archbishop of Kraków was voted by the Papal conclave as the successor of John Paul I at only 58 years of age. He was the youngest pontiff since Pope Pius IX in 1846 and the first non-Italian Pontiff in 455 years . During the ritual of swearing obedience to the pope, as was the custom, each cardinal kneeled before John Paul II and kissed his ring. When the Primate of Poland, thus up to the election the direct superior of Wojtyła, Cardinal Wyszy&#324ski kneeled before the sitting John Paul II, the pontiff stood up and embraced him. The election of John Paul II stunned the world but also brought a breath of fresh air for the pope’s native country.
Struggling with oppression from the government, as well as economic hardships, many Poles saw the election of their compatriot as a genuine miracle and a sign of hope and change to come. Many were old enough to remember the government’s refusal to allow the visit of Pope Paul VI in 1966, the year that the Polish Church celebrated its millennium. The population believed, rightly so, that the Polish Pope would not be refused the trip to his country. In his first pilgrimage to his homeland, Pope John Paul II uttered words known to virtually every Pole of that generation: “Let Your Spirit descend and renew the face of the Earth,” and then after a little pause adding: “This Earth.” This was the first of many instances in which the pontiff offered respite to the people. It must also be underscored that despite the official atheism of the party and state, as well as possible repercussions in professional life, millions of people greeted the Pope in each of the cities he visited.
Pope John Paul II visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which was the symbol of anti-Communism. During the mass in the city’s Victory Square, he talked of the Warsaw uprising in 1944 recalling that:
“You cannot understand the city of Warsaw, which in 1944 decided to fight when it was abandoned by its powerful allies, to fight at the end of which it collapsed under its own ruin, if you do not remember that under the same ruins, was also the statue of Christ the Savior with His cross from in front of the church at Krakowskie Przedmie&#347cie.”
Pope John Paul II ascertained that the history of Poland is inseparable from the history of religion and of the piety of its citizens. After the end of this passage the crowd spontaneously erupted into the religious hymn: “We want God,” which proclaims (about God), that “he is our King, he is our Lord.” This was not the end to the symbology as the Pope continued: “The Church has brought Christ to Poland. That is, the key to understanding the great and basic reality that is man. Therefore, Christ cannot be kept out of the history of man in any part of the world.” Such things were never spoken of in Communist Poland. The pope pierced the very heart of the Communist ideology, which so vociferously denied the existence of God. Out of nowhere, in a mass being celebrated on public television of a Communist state a thunderous applause erupted. People started singing “Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat” (Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ commands) after which they once again erupted into applause which lasted for fourteen minutes.
In those fourteen minutes, the people experienced a freedom they had not known in many years. In those fourteen minutes, the power of truth vocalized by the thunderous applause overthrew the power of oppression and the people present could feel freedom for which they longed deeply. The people were repressed by fear and needed this emotional liberation. This expression of the power of the Church, which is the people, and is inseparable from the people combined with the charisma and presence of the Polish Pope who was able to bring this church together in such unity and solidarity, was instrumental in the eventual fall of the Communist bloc.
Also, there was a power in those numbers. There were millions of people and each of them represented not a crowd, but a nation. In each city, the millions gathered in great mutual and intuitive respect. There were no instances of violence and the crowds never turned disorderly. John Paul II singlehandedly created Solidarity fourteen months before it was actually established.

Horses, War and a Demi-God: And That’s Just One Painting by Wojciech Kossak

defiladaPaintings of military leaders, just like any other important persons, are easy enough to find in art museums. Wojciech Kossak, son of another great painter Juliusz Kossak, authored many paintings with military themes where horses occupied places of honor. His 1933 painting entitled Marszałek Józef Piłsudski oraz gen. dyw. Gustaw Orlicz-Dreszer przyjmuje defilade kawalerii na Błoniach krakowskich (Marshall Józef Piłsudski and divisional general Gustaw Orlicz-Dreszer accepts a cavalry defilade on Krakow’s Błonie). The painting reveals some themes were prevalent in Polish national identity before the Second World War.

The painting shows Marshall Piłsudski saluting a regiment of cavalry that are parading across the giant field in Kraków, Błonie. In the forefront, and taking up the most amount of space in the painting, is Gen. Gustaw-Orlicz Dreszer on a beautiful chestnut horse. A Podhale rifleman stands beside and a little behind the Marshall. In the background one can see the steeples of the Wawel Cathedral.

Even though the Marshall is not in the forefront, he stands tallest and is easily brought out by his blue uniform. Piłsudski was a peculiar man in a peculiar place. Born in Lithuania in 1867, he believed in the possibility of Poland rising from ashes and regaining independence from foreign rulers. World War I presented the perfect opportunity and through his self-taught military ability (some say genius), as well as a certain amount of daring, he was instrumental in the war, and the events of 1918 saw the Regency Council proclaim him the Commander in Chief of the Polish Armed Forces on November 11 of that year. After the war, he stepped away from public life preferring a background role in politics but the inability of successive governments to govern persuaded him to orchestrate a (sort of a) coup in May 1926 after which he remained the de facto head of state until his death in 1935.

For many of the soldiers that served in the Polish Legions, as well as many non-military personnel (he had a great following among the peasantry), he had a near-divine status. Many referred to him affectionately as grandpa (dziadek). The cavalrymen in the painting look toward Pi?sudski most likely saluting him as they pass by. One can observe the dependence on the leadership of Piłsudski. Also, the military style of the government is underscored by this painting.

The parade itself was organized for the 250th anniversary of the Battle of Vienna in which the Polish-German forces were led by the Polish king Jan III Sobieski. (A painting of the Battle of Vienna with Sobieski in the spotlight was painted by Wojciech’s father, Juliusz Kossak.) The strategy for the battle relied heavily on King Sobieski’s courage and ability as well as on the Hussars. The “Winged Hussars” were a Polish heavy cavalry formation that charged into battle and through the enemy ranks. They tended to repeat the charge, sometimes even several times in one battle. They were the decisive factor in many battles for nearly two centuries. Due to their great esteem, the Hussars held great sway over the national consciousness and the high respect for horses and cavalry carried into the 20th century.

The Uhlans succeeded the Hussars towards the end of the 18th century as the most esteemed military formation in the Polish Armed Forces. It is the Uhlans that are seen marching by Piłsudski in Kossak’s painting. The Uhlans fought in World War I as part of the Polish Legions. They also fought with distinction in the Great Poland Uprising, the Polish-Ukrainian War as well as the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1920. Due to the low quality of tanks in the east as well as the geographic makeup of the land, the Uhlans fared better than tanks. This along with the tradition of Hussars contributed to the idea that the cavalry is well-fitted for 20th century warfare.

The inclusion of the Podhale rifleman is also of interest. The riflemen were created out of volunteers from the Podhale region in the south of Poland in 1918. Their dress is very easily recognizable by the cape they wear over their left shoulder and the feather in their cap. Podhale region was traditionally very poor and agrarian. The peasants tended sheep and were mostly untouched by outside influence. The region was romanticized as being quintessentially Polish, the dialect was seen as the original Polish language and the people were seen as very religious and patriotic. The folklore of the region was also based on these themes (in many respects it still is today). Thus, the inclusion of the Podhale rifleman emphasized these themes.

Finally, the steeples of the Wawel Cathedral are seen in the background. The cathedral is a place of burial of all the greatest sons of the nation. The crypts hold the tombs of many kings including Jan III Sobieski which makes the cathedral a logical inclusion. However, I will argue that Kraków, and more specifically, Wawel, hold a symbolic meaning. Kraków is not only a place of burial of the kings; it is also the spiritual home of the nation.

Kraków was the medieval capital of Poland. The city had been a leading artistic, cultural and educational center for centuries. The Polish Golden Age which took place in the 15th and 16th centuries saw many great artists and scholars visit the city. During that time, many architectural wonders were built, including the Old Synagogue in Kazimierz, the Jewish quarter, and the Sigismund Bell. The Bell itself is permeated with symbolic meaning not only because it hangs in the Wawel Cathedral, but since it only tolls on national holidays and moments of great importance, it unites the nation; all the different points of view are put aside and the tolling of the bell unites Poles of all persuasions. Tadeusz Kościuszko, a hero of the American Revolution, started an (unsuccessful) uprising against Russia in Kraków’s Main Square. Finally, the Wawel Cathedral is the burial place of kings, Kościuszko, the National Poets (Słowacki, Norwid, and Mickiewicz) and many others. Kraków, because of its culture, history and in a sense, the crypts, took on a somewhat tangible existence and became the spiritual home of the nation.

In his painting, Kossak captured not only a moment in history, an event, a commemoration. He captured a certain vision of what it meant to be a Pole. Marshall Piłsudski’s giant stature, the horses, the Podhale rifleman and the Wawel Cathedral are not just there to witness a moment in history. They are there to create history or at least to give meaning to that history. The people, animals, and the buildings became a symbol; a uniting concept. However, parts of that image, but arguably most or all of it, were only to endure for 6 more years. The events of the Second World War destroyed the country and shifted its borders. The experience of the war forced a rethinking of the past. Piłsudski’s successors were accused of badly handling the war, the Uhlans were virtually non-existent as they were not effective, world horse population never recovered and the national identity was questioned. The ideals and myths discussed in this paper were perpetuated in part because of paintings by Kossak and others that perpetuated them and it took the Second World War to question their applicability to the modern world.

It’s Fat Thursday, Let’s Feast!

Courtesy of Eric Basile
Courtesy of Eric Basile

Tradition is sacred and who are we to disregard tradition? On Fat Thursday (T&#322usty Czwartek) the tradition dictates that we feast… on p&#261czki! Not that there needs to be a reason to eat p&#261czki but here are some interesting facts about the holiday.

Fat Thursday is a Christian feast celebrated last Thursday before Lent and since the latter marks a time of reflection, self-denial, penance, the next opportunity to feast will be Easter. That’s almost six weeks away!

In Poland, Fat Thursday is usually celebrated by eating p&#261czki or chrust (faworki, or simply; angel wings). This allowed the household to use up their stock of sugar, lard, fruit and eggs since those were forbidden during lent.

These days, p&#261czki are usually filled with rose or plum jam, and sometimes lemon, custard and other fruits covered with powdered sugar or icing. Yummy! (or if you prefer the Polish: mniam!).

For the meat lovers, it might be interesting that “back-in-the-day,” people filled p&#261czki with bacon, meat and fatback (s&#322onina) and chased them with vodka.

Krak&#243w celebrated Fat Thursday in their own way. According to folklore, there was a misogynist mayor in Krak&#243w named Comber (c=ts) who particularly mistreated (women) peddlers by beating them, swearing at them and even jailing them. When he died on Fat Thursday, people rejoiced, danced and drank saying Comber croaked: zdech&#322 Comber.

Since then, on Fat Thursday, women dressed-up (and were buzzed more often than not), entered town at dawn (buzzed at dawn?!) and carried a effigy (named Comber) representing a man. During the game, women jumped at the effigy and ripped it apart. Once they reached the main square, they chased bachelors and if they stopped a courtier in a carriage, he had to ransom himself. They demanded a kiss from the particularly handsome but the ugly and poor bachelors were tied to a large wooden block. After a few hours of hunting and torture, dancing and drinking began.

To approach p&#261czki from a different perspective: it is always wise to cut them. Why? Because in 1924, Polish mathematicians Alfred Tarski and Stefan Banach published a paper which proved that a 3-dimensional spherical object can be cut in such a way that it can be put back together to make TWO identical copies! Leave it to the Poles to create two p&#261czki out of one!

Time to feast.

21 Awesome Polish Films Made After 1987 Part 2

8. 80 Million (80 Milionów) 2011
Director: Waldemar Krzystek
Part heist thriller, part dark comedy, 80 Million is based on a true story of young Solidarity activists that decide to take out all the Solidarity’s money from a bank in Wrocław before the proclamation of Martial Law which would block the account. In other words, they steal their own money. Unlike many other films on our list, this one is delightfully light with an easy to follow good vs. evil story line. The Solidarity activists are noble freedom fighters and the security police is composed of inept officers. Throw some wily Catholic priests into the mix that work for the underground, and you’ve a movie that everyone can enjoy.

9. Three Colors 1993-1994
Director: Krzysztof Kie&#347lowski
Three Colors is actually a trilogy: Blue, White and Red. The colors represent the French flag as seen from left to right and the movies are loosely themed on the themes of the French Revolution, i.e. liberty, equality, fraternity but they go far beyond that. In the films, liberty is presented as an emotional freedom, not political or social. These films are hypnotic, challenge the imagination, the performances are brilliant, the music is nearly divine and the cinematography is absolutely incredible. It is quite possible Kie&#347lowski’s best work and is best seen and not read about.

10. Aftermath (Pokłosie) 2012
Director: Władysław Pasikowski
Aftermath is a Holocaust-themed thriller and drama, thus, another difficult yet incredible film. Inspired by (although not documenting) the events discussed in the 2001 book Neighbors by Jan Gross, it tells the story of Franciszek (who just returned from Chicago after living in emigration for some 20 years) and Józef Kalina who is shunned by the community for acquiring and displaying slabs of stone which were Jewish tombstones before the war. It is a strong drama which asks pertinent questions about history and about today’s world.

11. Pan Tadeusz 1999
Director: Andrzej Wajda
Based on the eponymous epic poem by Adam Mickiewicz it is a story of, passion, love, murder, guilt, exile, hidden identities, a family feud and perhaps most importantly, an incredible yearning patriotic yearning experienced by Poles living in exile after the 1830 insurrection. The plot of the poem can be interpreted in different ways but its setting in a manor house in Lithuania allows for beautiful imagery and the beautiful soundtrack by Wojciech Kilar (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Pianist) make this a great film to watch.

12. Big Animal (Duże Zwierzę) 2000 (yay, a comedy!)
Director: Jerzy Stuhr
One day, Zygmunt Sawicki (Stuhr) finds a camel in his garden. He is immediately drawn to the animal and adopts it. This creates a sensation in the small town where people at first find the exotic animal interesting but soon grow suspicious of the animal and slowly alienate Sawicki. The film, a modern fable, teaches the audience about individuality, loneliness and intolerance.

13. Popiełuszko: Freedom Is Within Us (Popiełuszko: Wolność jest w nas) 2009
Director: Rafał Wieczyński
A biographical drama about the life and work of Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko, a Catholic priest closely associated with the Solidarity union. He became a spiritual voice of the nation who interwove anti-Communist messages with spiritual exhortations. His critique of the system was not necessarily political or economic but humanitarian; he opposed the terror and intimidation practiced by the party.

14. Rose (Róża) 2011
Director: Wojciech Smarzowski
In a land devastated by war, Tadeusz visits Róża, a wife of a Wehrmacht soldier whose death he witnessed. She asks him to stay and the two (surprise) fall in love. The story is set against a background of postwar devastation where rule of law is non-existent and looting and rape are the order of the day. The story also deals with the tragic history of the Masurian people (never heard of them? Exactly).