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Anti-Semitism raises its ugly head
Adam Zagajewski Poet
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One very significant element of the March events was that one of my very good friends, whose family was Jewish, began to pack up his things in readiness for... But that was a year later because these departures often took a long time. Jaś Ringler eventually went to Sweden where he still lives. It caused me a lot of distress because I found that whole wave of anti-Semitism intensely painful. I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that this was evil, this was quite simply wrong, that these people were being harmed grievously as was, in some way, Poland, by revealing this dreadful, anti-Semitic aspect, and thanks to Jasio I followed this issue and I knew all of these various details in advance. For instance, I know that he – although I don't know if he told me this later – went to a tailor to have a few suits made for him in preparation for his departure because everything would be more expensive in the West so he had to prepare for that. I remember he told me which tailor he'd gone to, still in Gliwice because he was a friend from Gliwice and from Kraków – he'd studied in Kraków, too. So I kept track of him and then later, much later I met other people who had left Poland. But here I was able to witness his departure as it happened, his hesitations, his uncertainty – in the end, his entire family left and he decided to go with them.

So in a way, I came to know both elements of that March, namely, on the one hand there were the police beatings although, as I've said, I never felt the blow of a police truncheon on my back, but I was a witness to these beatings, they were happening right in front of me. It was a complete disregard of our dignity, of our demands. And then on the other hand, there was this ingredient of anti-Semitism, this enkindling of anti-Semitism within Poland.

Bardzo ważnym elementem marca było dla mnie to, że jeden z moich dobrych przyjaciół, który był z żydowskiej rodziny, zaczął się pakować, żeby... Ale to już rok po... bo to trwało niekiedy, te wyjazdy. Jaś Ringler, który w końcu pojechał do Szwecji, gdzie mieszka do dzisiaj, i bardzo to przeżywałem, bo wtedy cała ta fala antysemityzmu potwornie mnie bolała. Nie miałem w ogóle cienia wątpliwości, że to jest zło, że to jest po prostu złe, że to jest wielka krzywda dla tych ludzi i w jakimś sensie dla Polski, że Polska pokazuje takie oblicze – okropne, antysemickie – i dzięki temu Jasiowi ja to śledziłem, wiedziałem naprzód takie różne też szczegóły. Na przykład wiem, że on – tylko nie wiem, czy on mi to powiedział później – że wtedy poszedł do krawca, żeby sobie uszyć kilka ubrań, bo... na wyjazd, że tam na Zachodzie wszystko będzie dużo droższe, to tu trzeba się jakoś przygotować. Pamiętam, że opowiadał mi do jakiego krawca – w Gliwicach jeszcze, bo to był kolega z Gliwic i z Krakowa, bo on też studiował w Krakowie. Tak że... a śledziłem jego – szczególnie jego, no później, dużo później poznałem innych ludzi, którzy wyjechali. Ale tu jakby na... na bieżąco to byłem świadkiem wyjazdu, jego wahania jednak, jego niezdecydowania – w końcu jego cała rodzina wyjechała i on też postanowił wyjechać. Tak że jakby doznałem obu tych... tych składników marca, to znaczy z jednej strony pałowania, chociaż, jak mówię, sam nie poczułem pałki, ale to widziałem i to było blisko, takie kompletne lekceważenie naszych... naszych godności, naszych postulatów. A z drugiej strony ten składnik antysemicki, to rozbudzenie... rozbudzenie antysemityzmu w Polsce.

Adam Zagajewski (b. 1945 in Lwów) is a Polish poet, novelist, translator and essayist. He was awarded the 2004 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, the 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize Lifetime Recognition Award and the 2017 Princess of Asturias Award for Literature. He is considered as one of the leading poets of the Generation of '68 or the Polish New Wave (Polish: Nowa fala) and is one of Poland's most prominent contemporary poets.

Listeners: Andrzej Wolski

Film director and documentary maker, Andrzej Wolski has made around 40 films since 1982 for French television, the BBC, TVP and other TV networks. He specializes in portraits and in historical films. Films that he has directed or written the screenplay for include Kultura, which he co-directed with Agnieszka Holland, and KOR which presents the history of the Worker’s Defence Committee as told by its members. Andrzej Wolski has received many awards for his work, including the UNESCO Grand Prix at the Festival du Film d’Art.

Tags: Jaś Ringler

Duration: 2 minutes, 30 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2018

Date story went live: 25 April 2019