© 2019 Stowarzyszenie
Edukacji i Postępu STEP
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“The world is more complicated than the truths about it” – said Stefan Themerson, one of the writers which mean much to me, and at the same time – en passant – a philosopher. This simple statement, although not obvious to everyone – makes a good opening line for almost any text. Yet, I kept thinking of it persistently during the work on this calendar invented by Żuk Piwkowski and the “Icons of Victory” exhibition which we co-organized this year.
The calendar, that you, dear user – or perhaps I should say “reader” or even “viewer” – hold in your hand is a complicated entity itself: it encompasses a year and a half, beginning in July 2006, and ending in December 2007 (it even goes a couple of days into 2008, but this is not that important), it has a calendar of events which took place during another year and a half – more than 25 years ago, between July 1980 and December 1981. It is quite obvious this has been an eventful time, and whatever happened then was quite a novelty in Poland at that time. From time to time, we placed on the right margin contemporary pieces of information which are some sort of continuation, comment or summary of the processes initiated in the 1980’s.
But if one looks at the calendar only, the complexity of the world mentioned by Themerson may not be that obvious. On one hand, the society which matures to become self-organized, to speak for themselves, demands, strikes. On the other, concessions made by the slightly stupefied (was it for real?) authorities, some more or less virtual moves, in order to control the so called chaos, and a final act of aggression against their own nation – later excused as the „lesser evil”. What frustrates us today, is the fact that we still don’t know and maybe will never know many of the motivations, and a quest for truth about the hypocritical communist years made in the 21st century, where forging any kind of a document is within the abilities of a ten year old – looks like an ambitious task. Although we expected this time it would be different, it seems Themerson was right again when he said that all history teaches us is that if it rains for three days – it stops on the fourth.
This slightly heroic, slightly martyrologic picture that we get after studying the calendar, becomes a bit disturbed, or maybe supplemented, only when one adds to it some more personal testimony. The starting point for this publication was the collection of around 1000 photos taken by Krzysztof Wojciechowski, which he himself calls “graffiti of the 1980’s”. We added two testimonies to that: one of them are notes taken by painter and poet, Ryszard Grzyb (RG), the other are fragments of a book by Waldemar Fydrych, called Major (MWF), the initiator of the “Orange Alternative” movement.
Krzysztof Wojciechowski, with the documental objectivity recorded every inscription he could – on walls, benches, bus stops, pavements, telephone boots, windows... (in the 1980’s this was a risky and illegal activity). Next to underground inscriptions encouraging resistance, information about the fate of the imprisoned activists, the anchors of “Polska Walcząca” (Poland Fighting) made up of two letters: “P” and “W”, with an added “S” for “Solidarity”, and the often very witty oppositionist slogans, one can see evident misleading documents forged by the authorities, provocations and quite horrible governmental posters. There are also new inscriptions scribbled over the ephemeral prints: some are very funny, some most primitive, such as swastikas. Heroism and martyrdom are just part of the landscape. The photos were taken mostly in the later 1980’s.
The records taken by Ryszard Grzyb are rather scant in terms of number, but they give a new perspective, of a creative person, needing to reflect and to cope with the new reality in a rational way.
In 1980-81, Major Fydrych was taking his first steps as a “happener” and creator of new reality, to flourish by the end of this decade. He was actually breaking the system from inside – with laughter. His memories – of a person who sensed absurdity in every situation – are not heroic at all, although he called his book as an epic “The Lives of the Orange Knights”.
So, it seems that history is made by great politicians, great revolutionists, tormenters and martyrs, desperate and uncertain ones, tough guys and cowards, those who are in avant- and arriere-garde, those who can’t live without it and those who don’t give a damn, artists and fighters, men and women, sometimes even children – and a bunch of students who after having smoked some dope decided to make fun of a some militiamen. Well, maybe that isn’t a very deep reflection, but perhaps it’s enough for a start. I won’t deprive you, dear user, or maybe reader or viewer – of all of the fun.
We wish to thank Krzysztof Wojciechowski, Ryszard Grzyb and Major Waldemar Fydrych for their participation in this project and Wiktor Nowotka for scanning the photos.
In our attempts to create the 1980’s calendar we made use of several internet archives, and the data given to us by Radosław Adamski from the Warsaw Museum of Printing. Sometimes the same events were differently dated – if we didn’t avoid some mistakes, please let us know, we will be very grateful for comments and corrections.
We also want to thank Jan Dziedzic and his company Jakon, for appreciating the value of this project and enabling its implementation.
The publishing of this calendar follows the “Icons of Victory” exhibition, which was organized in June 2006 in the old Norblin Factory in Warsaw (Museum of Industry). The second edition of “Icons of Victory” took part in Łódź Art Center in November 2006.
Klara Kopcińska and Józef Żuk Piwkowski