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It's the appealing visuals from 'Phenomenon of Solidarity. Snapshots from the history of Polish 1980 – 1981' that first attract attention. Several-meter banners in black, white and red stand in the pattern of a maze. But this photographic story is worthy of more than just a fleeting glance; it requires some sacrifice. It is worth meeting with glimpses of the history of Solidarity. And in the context of London, it's important that it is being presented in English.
The main audience for the exhibiton is the outside world, to remind it how great a role Solidarity played in history, something which has been a bit forgotten in the past 20 years. It's not Polish shipyards, but the Berlin Wall that entered the mass consciousness of Europeans as a symbol of the fall of communism - that other fascist criminal system that shaped the face of the world of the 20th century.
“When opening the exhibition, people appeared who were involved with these changes in Poland. For younger generations, meeting those who for years lived during these times in Poland makes the exhibiton more credible,” said Dr Lukasz Kaminski, president of Poland's Institute of National Rememberance, and the exhibition's curator.
“In the United States and Canada it was shown primarily in academic centers. We cast a very wide net in the hope that students who do not have Polish roots will see and recognise that this is such an interesting story to which they could devote their research.”
It is also shown in Poland, because there a generation has grown up which, in a certain sense, is ignorant of the role of Solidarity - just like the outside world. This exhibition therefore can be the first step in understanding Solidarity. We are seeing a boom in the interests of young Poles about the processes that occurred in communist Poland and earlier. It was a phenomenon concerning not only Poland. In eastern Germany, [the interest is] not decreasing.There's a growing number of people that go to the archives of security service (Stasi), to understand the role and behavior of their parents, who lived under the rule of the Soviet Union.
“In the Nineties there was a weariness to the history, a resigned desire to turn away from it. However, the generation that was born in a free Poland wants to understand the world in which their parents lived, and are very active, as evidenced by the celebrations during the National Day of Remembrance. From year to year there are more and more projects that are initiated in order to disseminate the story. For them, the people of the war and the post-war period are heroes.” said Kaminski.
The problem of dealing with the past concerns not only post-communist Europe, by many countries, most recently from North Africa . The IPN shows how you can deal with the past, as it can serve the present, and not to disturb it. In this sense, it is becoming the world leader.
“There is always a risk that the past can be used to deepen divisions in society, while we show that it is the values on which to build a democratic state. This is done in many areas. We have a very extensive educational focus and also that of a prosecutor, which is to know the truth about the past. We've become a model for other institutions that operate where dictatorship were experienced, although not necessarily communist,” explains Kaminski.
In London, President of the Institute of National Remembrance held several meetings. One of them took place at the headquarters of the Polish Scouting Association abroad.
“I don't think I betray a secret if I say that the main task of the scouting movement in exile is education. For us also is one of the most important fields of activity; in a natural way we have the opportunity to work together.Not all educational materials that we use in the country will be used outside its borders, especially if we are talking about the third generation of emigration. But our educational games are popular abroad. For several years, we have worked with Polish teachers in the United States. Our levels of activity are not limited to the scouting movement, but all Polish schoools. Our materials are available, and we can transfer games and books. We can also send our educators to show how you can teach a young person about the difficult history of the 20th century in a modern and attractive way. The most important thing is for us to teach those who teach because they disseminate this knowledge . We think of other joint projects, because we cannot be limited only to Poles living in the country. Such exhibitions are created as a realisation of our statutory duty, which is to educate about Poland's history beyond its borders. We try to tell the most important elements of our history to foreigners, so that they become not only important for us Poles.”
The opening of the exhibition and lecture, given by Tomasz Kozlowski, an employee of the Department of Research Office of Public Education, was attended by numerous guests.
Among those present were: Agnieszka Rudzińska, deputy chairman of the Institute of National Remembrance; Anna Piekarska, deputy director of the Office of Public Education, Counsellor / Minister Dariusz Łaska, attorney / Consul Tomasz Stachurski; The Mayor of Hammersmith & Fulham, Belinda Donovan; president of POSK Joanna Młudzińska, President Teresa Ciecierska ZHPpgK Hm; H & F Councillor Andy Slaughter, and Wiktor Moszczyński.
The meeting was hosted and the project organised by Anna Kalinowska, one of the new and youngest POSK councilors, whose commitment to the next project of an historical-social nature is only a confirmation of that awakening, as described in this interview with the president of IPN, Dr. Lukasz Kaminski.
Photo: Elżbieta Sobolewska
Translated by Robert Szmigielski