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Author: Kinga Gajda

The house that Mykola built

Mykola Golovan believes that Ukraine is changing and becoming even more beautiful. It is being built anew, just as he has been rebuilding his house. It only needs to get rid of some wrongful ideologies and open itself more to the world.

“I get my energy from the river. Recently I was bathing in the Vistula river, but it was cold and I could not stay there very long” – these are the first words I hear from Mykola Golovan who continues with his life story to tell me more about his art. Indeed, the story told by this 75-year old Ukrainian artist from Lutsk is not so much expressed by his words as it is to be found in the language of culture. It is depicted in his sculptures, bas-reliefs, rotundas and ornaments. For over 30 years now, Golovan has been the creator of a house which he calls an exhibition.

January 2, 2019 - Kinga Gajda

The liberating holiday of Sânziene

A review of Bottled Goods. By Sophie van Llewyn. Publisher: Fairlight books, Oxford, United Kingdom, 2018.

Sânziene is a Romanian word for fairy. It comes from the Latin word Sancta Diana, the name of the ancient Roman goddess of the hunt and the moon. She watches over women during Sânziene, and her holiday has been celebrated in the western Carpathians since the time of Roman Dacia (ancient Romania). The yearly festivities on June 24th have claimed its place in Romanian folklore, associated with girls and women in white dresses looking for flowers that they can use to make crowns. Then they dance around a fire, jumping over the embers, to cleanse themselves and gain magical powers. Finally, they throw the crowns they made from the flowers over the houses. When a crown lands on the roof there will be a good harvest and wealth, if it falls on the ground there will be death. The protagonist of Sophie van Llewyn’s novel Bottled Goods takes part in this long forgotten ritual, which was illegal to practice in communist Romania.

January 2, 2019 - Kinga Gajda

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

Joseph Conrad. A Polish and European writer

Joseph Conrad was born as Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in Berdychiv (today in Ukraine) in 1857. He was a child of a Polish noble family that was involved in the conspirational fight for Poland’s independence. After the death of his mother the young Conrad moved to Kraków from where he later emigrated to France and later Great Britain. In Marseille he became a sailor and since then the whole world was his home. According to literary critic Rafał Marceli Blüth, the decision to ”fraternise with the element of the sea and the element of the peoples who were not deformed by civilisation”, as non-Europeans were called back then, were Conrad’s attempts to distance himself from his homeland, his nation and European culture overall. The truth, however, is that he never abandoned any of them. Conrad returned to Poland several times later on in life.

August 1, 2017 - Kinga Gajda

The identity of Turkish youth

Like their peers in other states, Turkish youth are said to face many challenges while trying to define themselves. Many members of the younger generation still think that one’s character is defined by two elements: nationality and religion. Thus, those who hold such a belief tend to say that a sense of nationality is an inherent characteristic of the Turkish society. This conviction, however, does not imply racism. It rather assumes that Turkish identity has been shaped by historical experiences and cultural nationalism. The Turkish attitude towards religion is also rather unique, especially when compared to others in the Muslim world, which confirms the thesis that despite being a Muslim society by a great majority, Turks are proud of being tolerant towards other beliefs and religions. They remember that two centuries ago Sultan II Mahmut said “I want to see my Muslim citizens in mosques, my Christian citizens in churches and my Jewish citizens in synagogues”, and follow the Prophet Muhammad’s words that neither Persians nor Arabs are superior.

September 13, 2016 - Kinga Gajda

Contacts that matter

Polish-German stereotypes have varied across time and have been heavily dependent on the period in history, people’s personal experiences and the political climate. As such, they  have often been used to manipulate Polish and German societies. Formed and transformed by the changing realities, they have influenced the ways in which Polish and Germans view one another.

June 22, 2016 - Kinga Gajda

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