Gazeta Wyborcza

The Gift of Freedom

  I don’’t remember much in detail from those days. I forget how much I had to pay for a tram ticket or how much bread used to cost. However, what I remember perfectly well is that, as staff member of Gdańsk University, I was earning more or less the equivalent of 17 US dollars. My wife, our young son and I shared one tiny room. Only after they went to bed did I turn on the TV to watch the Round Table negotiations – or rather, a summary of them. I remember committees, sub-committees, discussions. I remember faces – […]

Inhumanity is part of human nature

Motherland means safety – says Jean Améry. Writing these words in his 1966 book At the Mind’’s Limits, in the chapter entitled How Much Motherland Does a Man Need? the Frenchman Jean Améry, born Franz Meyer in Austria in 1912, knew what he was talking about. He had lost his homeland and it took him 27 years to fully grasp what that loss – by then irreversible and irretrievable – entailed: he realized that by returning to a space one never regains the time lost. Safety means certainty; and in turn, we can feel safe wherever we do not expect […]

What was the nationality of the stuffed teddy bear?

Le Monde is one of the world’’s most important dailies and that is why its review of Andrzej Wajda’’s film Katyń has astonished me and prompted the following thoughts. The French critic writes that Wajda places the burden of responsibility for the pillage and destruction of Poland and the Poles equally on the Nazis and the Soviets. For the French critic historical facts of the period from September 1939 to July 1941 are lies and an abuse of history. What shocking ignorance! The territory of the Polish state was divided between two totalitarian powers which, at the time, were allies. […]

Akej národnosti je plyšový medvedík? / Polemika

Le Monde je jedným z najvýznamnejších denníkov na svete a preto ma recenzia filmu Andrzeja Wajdu Katyń (aj tu), ktorá vyšla na jeho stránkach ohúrila a viedla k  nasledujúcim úvahám. Francúzsky kritik píše, že Wajda kladie rovnakú mieru zodpovednosti za olúpenie a zničenie Poľska a Poliakov na nacistov ako na Sovietov. Francúzsky kritik pokladá historické fakty obdobia od septembra 1939 do júla 1941 za klamstvo a zneužitie dejín. Toto ignorantstvo je šokujúce! Územie poľského štátu olúpili dve totalitné veľmoci, ktoré boli v tom čase spojencami. V oboch častiach okupovaného Poľska vládol teror na porovnateľnej úrovni; obaja okupanti Poliakov väznili a […]

The New Europe’’s Frustrations

Recently, an apparently banal football incident in Slovakia acquired the dimensions of a serious conflict after Hungarians burned Slovak national flags and blocked border crossings. Bitter words were also heard at the government level in both countries. An obvious provocation, planned by the Hungarian extreme right-wing party Jobbik, in cooperation with the Hungarian Guard, was bound to inflame feelings on both sides.  The brutality of the Slovak police intervention helped Jobbik attract the sympathy of many ordinary Hungarians. The incident has created an ideal situation for populist manipulation at an emotional level. On both sides, politicians well versed in populist […]

Karaoke culture

Karaoke (from the Japanese word meaning ‘‘empty orchestra’) is a form of entertainment for millions of people who would like to be Madonna or Sinatra. The amateur crooner, a wannabe Madonna or Sinatra, replaces the original singer whose voice is turned down or completely switched off, and performs instead of the original. The amateur singer does not even need to know the lyrics which can be read off the screen. The karaoke machine was invented in the early seventies by Japanese musician Daisuke Inoue. Inoue never had his invention patented, allowing others to collect the revenues his idea has been […]

The Mystery Of a Mass Grave

An excerpt from Roman Daszczyński’’s interview with writer Stefan Chwin prompted by the recent discovery, in the northern Polish fortress city of Malbork, of a mass grave from the final days of World War II. When the grave was discovered as foundations were being laid for a new hotel, the local authorities’’ initial reaction was to cover up the burial site of nearly 2,000 Germans and keep building the hotel. However, heavy rains washed up more human bones, prompting an international scandal (for more information click here and here). Stefan Chwin:  – If at all technically possible, the bones should […]

Laboratory Europe

Is there a way of making this world hospitable to Europe? For we, Europeans, are not feeling quite at ease in today’’s world. Heidegger once said that we begin to think about a problem only when things suddenly start behaving in a surprising way. Only then do we move from the sphere of handeln [acting] to the sphere of verhandeln [negotiating]. Until that point the facts are just a part of our everyday experience and we are not fully aware of their existence. Only when things start to go wrong do we transfer them into the realm of observeable nuisances […]

After the Velvet, an Existential Revolution?

Adam Michnik: I would like to begin by looking back 40 years, when the Warsaw Pact armies invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968. Do you think the invasion could have been prevented if Czechoslovakia had pursued different policies? Václav Havel:  I believed then, as I believe today, that there was a way of preventing this threat but the country’’s leadership was not even aware of the threat. Of course I do not mean military resistance but some sort of moral mobilization. Our country had experienced something similar once before, following the [1938] Munich Agreement. At that time Czechoslovakia made it clear that […]