Text resize: A A
Change contrast
new Eastern Europe Krakow new Eastern Europe

Stories and ideas

A barbarian in the besieged city

Zbigniew Herbert felt suffocated in communist Poland where he lacked a creative atmosphere. Travelling inspired him and provided him an opportunity to write on a variety of topics beyond social realism. Yet, in the end, he simply could not live without Poland. He disliked communist Poland, but it was still Poland – his homeland.

Zbigniew Herbert is one of those writers that everyone has heard of but very few have read. People in Central and Eastern Europe had high hopes that he might win the Nobel Prize in Literature, but it never happened. Perhaps it was because two Poles (Czesław Miłosz and Wisława Szymborska) were already awarded the prize during that period. Be that as it may, now 20 years after the writer’s death, it is worth looking back and examining this outstanding figure from a different perspective: as a deep poet, a sophisticated essayist, a profound thinker, a dissident and an Eastern European barbarian who saw the garden of Western culture in his own way.

September 1, 2018 - Andriy Lyubka

Herbert, who looks at the cathedral tower

Lviv, the city of Zbigniew Herbert’s childhood, is a chapter that has never ended. It is something that once and for all acquired a metaphysical form for him. Herbert resolutely separated it from the chapter of his life almost immediately after leaving the city. Yet, the poem "My city", written in his notes in the 1950s, has a dedication: “For my city, in which I will not die…”

“Sir, don’t miss the strawberries or currants,” says a black-haired, middle-aged woman reasonably and calmly without yelling, which is unusual for this type of market. She sits on a low bench, opposite house number 55 on Lychakivska Street in Lviv. There is a whole bunch of baskets and pots with all sorts of berries in front of her: from the deep dark raspberry to the half-transparent, as if illuminated from the inside, red currant. Next to her is a late-blooming, assertive and impatient lilac. There are so many lilac branches that the woman cannot keep them all together. The lilac breaks loose and it seems that the saleswoman is paying less attention to the customers and rather speaking to the blossom inside that fragrant cloud, soothing and lulling it.

“Come on, lilaaac” she stretches the word. There is a lot of green and white one step farther: shaggy bundles of green onions sway between blocks of cheese, like the coast grass flowing between the dried up white stones at low tide. The water receded long, long ago.

“I thank you Lord, for creating such a beautiful and sundry world,” wrote the poet Zbigniew Herbert – who was born here, in Lviv.

September 1, 2018 - Ostap Slyvynsky

Herbert and the East

The burial of the USSR became a personal culmination point for Zbigniew Herbert after a long and painful process of dealing with the trauma of communism and losing his hometown. Thus, the nostalgia after Lviv became a hidden but recurring theme in Herbert’s works.

An interesting collage can be found in the Zbigniew Herbert archives at the National Library in Warsaw. Most likely Herbert made it in December 1991. He glued his own photograph onto a picture he cut out of a newspaper which depicted the signatories of the Białowieża Treaty which led to the dismantling of the Soviet Union. The photograph included such figures as Leonid Kravchuk, Stanislav Shushkevich and Boris Yeltsin. They were the leaders of the Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian Soviet republics, respectively. In the photograph they were depicted as if they were posing for the camera after signing the document, applauding each other.

September 1, 2018 - Walery Butewicz

A nomadic writer

What interested Herbert the most were diversity and human beings. To understand them he was constantly deepening his knowledge, travelled to many places, all to experience different cultures and meet new people.

Zbigniew Herbert wrote many collections of poems and essays. Yet, there is one book that he never wrote, even though he should have. Or maybe he wrote such a book, but not literally. Not as a titled volume, but as many single pages. As a matter of fact, he was fully aware that many of his anthropological and sociological texts remained in drafts and excerpts. In his 1965 essay titled “Mr Montaigne’s journey to Italy” which was published in Tygodnik Powszechny a year later he admitted: “When a moment comes that my body will have only enough strength to fix the pillow under the head, I will have no choice but write a large piece of work, that is a book and not a collection of drafts, which will be titled: Introduction to the theory of journey.”

September 1, 2018 - Kinga Gajda

Rediscovering a Jewish Wrocław

The oldest piece of evidence of Jewish material culture in Wrocław goes back as early as 1203. Jewish life flourished there until it was brutally destroyed by the Holocaust. It was reduced further by post-war emigration and the infamous March of 1968 which pushed the majority of Jewish residents out of Poland. Some of them returned after 1989 and are now reviving the Jewish community. Thus, you can hear Jewish prayers in Wrocław today.

Wrocław is an extraordinary city. Its uniqueness lies not only in its charm, vitality and openness, but its extraordinary history, which is part of the history of Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany and Austria. It is also the capital of Silesia, a region where the European East and West meet, diffusing, enriching and inspiring one another. It is also a city where the memory of previous identities was often erased – as it did not serve the new nationalist, exclusiveness, which would doom the city’s past for centuries of silence and falsehood. Such was the case in Germany during the time of Bismarck and even more during the period of communist Poland.

September 1, 2018 - Aleksander Gleichgewicht

Where did I park my Bentley?

Almaty, Kazakhstan - a travel portrait of a Central Asian flower in the steppe.

July 20, 2018 - Sandra Lambert

Culture in a conflicted region

The Republic of Abkhazia is a partially-recognised small de facto state located in the South Caucasus between the Russian and Georgia. In 2014 the first contemporary art initiative of its kind emerged here – the cultural project SKLAD.

The history of Abkhazia is complex, multifaceted and quite dramatic. A small landmass on the Black Sea, Abkhazia has been historically located between the vast Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and Russian Empires. This explains not only its multi-ethnic population, numerous historical and cultural monuments, and international trade, but also the number of conflicts it has experienced. The most recent conflict was the Georgian-Abkhaz War of 1992-93, the result of which was the declaration of independence by Abkhazia as an autonomous republic. This conflict, directly linked to the collapse of the Soviet Union, is known in the newly created republic as the Patriotic War of the People of Abkhazia.

April 26, 2018 - Anton Ochirov

A recognised pub in an unrecognised state

Two bottles of whiskey and a small location was all Azat Adamyan had to start with. Today, the pub Bardak (Russian for “mess”) is one of a kind in the city of Stepanakert – the capital of the unrecognised Nagorno-Karabakh. His success has led him to branch out into other business ventures.

At eight o'clock every evening Azat Adamyan kick starts his motorcycle – which he named Charlotte – and drives to work. The 27-year-old from Stepanakert (the capital city of the de facto state of Nagorno-Karabakh) is the founder and only employee of Bardak, the one and only pub in Karabakh. Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh, is the de facto unrecognised republic located in the South Caucasus. For more than 20 years Artsakh Armenians have lived in a state of “neither war, nor peace”.

April 26, 2018 - Knar Babayan

The red shoes of Transnistrian women

Domestic violence and human trafficking are some of the key issues facing Transnistrian women but while local NGOs focus on victim support, the patriarchal attitudes towards women in society remain mostly untouched. Young female activists hope to fight them through art.

There is no high quality statistical data on the state of women in Transnistria. A report on the situation of human rights in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova by UN senior expert Thomas Hammarberg in 2013 remains the most in-depth analysis available. According to Hammarberg’s report, the main issues women in Transnistria face are domestic violence and sex trafficking. Two Transnistrian NGOs (Resonance and the Apriori Information Centre) highlight the same issues in their 2013 report to the UN committee on the elimination of discrimination against women.

April 26, 2018 - Marina Shupac

Veterans of the Bosnian War struggle for their rights

For nearly a year, veteran combatants from the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been protesting in front of the government building in Sarajevo, demanding financial aid and access to free medical services. Despite a mass nationwide protest on February 28th, the government has yet to adequately respond. Meanwhile, public support for the protesters continues to increase.

“My name is Amir Sultan, I come from the Sarajevo Canton. At the age of 14, I exchanged a classroom chair for a gun. I joined a special unit, criss-crossed the country and was wounded three times. I survived, but two of my brothers did not.” Seated on an improvised wooden bench outside a tent that he has called home for the past half a year, Sultan recalled the realities of the 1992-95 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina that he fought in: “I gave my all. As a result of the injuries I sustained in combat I am sick and I live with a pacemaker. But, since the war ended, I have not received any assistance from the government, not even one fening.”

April 26, 2018 - Lidia Kurasińska

Witnessing another Putin victory

The results of the March presidential election in Russia have come as no surprise. Yet, the election victory of Vladimir Putin was not his only success. The high voter turnout, together with a low level of voting irregularities in comparison with previous elections, indicate that Putin’s system has not lost the people’s hearts and minds.

I arrived in Moscow a few days ahead of the 2018 presidential election. The weather was cold and the city was plastered with flyers and banners reminding Muscovites of the upcoming election – in which the outcome was all but certain. On every street corner, young Russians were handing out refrigerator magnets and balloons with similar reminders. They are reluctant to talk about their political preferences, but they do not have to. In the end, what the authorities are aiming for is a strong voter turnout.

April 26, 2018 - Wiktoria Bieliaszyn

Mickiewicz reactivated

For the first time in 190 years, music has been added to the poetry of Poland’s greatest poet – Adam Mickiewicz. The project is a collaboration between a Ukrainian folk rock band and a contemporary Polish writer.

The album, titled Mickiewicz-Stasiuk-Haydamaky, includes 10 poems put to the music of the Kyiv-based band Haydamaky. Andrzej Stasiuk, a renowned Polish writer, is one of the initiators of the project, and appears in some of the tracks reading Mickiewicz’s poetry. The cross-border collaboration reflects the heritage of the poet himself. “Mickiewicz has it all,” Stasiuk says. “The lyrics, rhythm and energy.”

April 26, 2018 - Grzegorz Nurek

Partners

Terms of Use | Cookie policy | Copyryight 2018 Kolegium Europy Wschodniej im. Jana Nowaka-Jeziorańskiego 31-153 Kraków
tworzenie stron www : hauerpower.com studio krakow.