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Informing in school

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Should I inform or not?
Jacek Kuroń Social activist
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Added to this, there arose an issue which I believe was incredibly important at that time. This was a period during which communism was destroying social solidarity. That's what I saw it as. ZMP launched the slogan: fight for good education, which meant fight against false solidarity which came from the enemy. Suddenly, the basis on which the sense of solidarity was built in school, in class, among your mates, was to become a sign of something evil, and that we were to fight against cribbing, bunking off, bad behaviour in school, but what it did mean, to fight against this? It meant to be an informer. This for me was an insurmountable barrier because I'd been brought up to believe that the worst sin imaginable was to be an informer. It was about the normal ethos between friends; my father was a real friend to everyone. Is - was, sorry - a real friend. Added to this there was the solidarity between revolutionaries. People did inform, and who did the inform? Why, the police! This was an incredibly difficult issue for me, incredibly difficult. I won't keep on about it but I'll tell you about something that happened just before the matriculation exams. Namely, the day before the written exam in the year that I was taking it, someone from the office of education leaked the questions to someone else and within an instant, every pupil in Warsaw knew what the questions were. No one gave them to me which is understandable because I'd have had to report it straight away and would have had to have said this was wrong. But I don't really know what I would have done because I was useless at maths. However, once we'd all got to school I saw that everyone was really happy, even those who were hopeless at maths were unstressed and were skipping about, when suddenly, someone passed the written paper to me. They passed the written paper to me and suddenly I was gripped by an intense inner conflict. It was a pretty straightforward issue because it wasn't a case of informing on someone but on something, so I stood up and said, 'We can't carry on because I know the questions and I have them here in my hand.' So the teacher told me to hand them over. 'I won't hand them over', I said, 'but I can read them out aloud.' 'So read them, then.' The tension was incredible. I read out the questions. They looked at one another and smiled. It turned out that the leak was discovered and the questions had been re-written in the night. The leak couldn't have stayed a secret because the whole city knew about it. So the questions were re-written in the night and we were given three topics one of which was impossible to solve because there was a mistake in the question, the other was too difficult for our level and so there was only one that was any good and it was incredibly easy, but that's another story.

Na to nakłada się niesłychanie istotna sprawa, jak myślę, dla tamtych lat. Był to okres łamania solidarności społecznej przez komunizm. Dla mnie to miało wyraz tego... ZMP rzuciło hasło walki o wyniki nauczania i w związku z tym walki z fałszywą solidarnością, jako wrogów. Nagle to, co jest podstawą kształtowania solidarności w szkole, w klasie, wśród kumpli miało być wyrazem tego, co wrogie i z tym należało walczyć: z podpowiadaniem, z wagarami, złym zachowaniem w szkole. Ale co znaczy walczyć? – znaczy donosić. I to dla mnie była właściwie bariera nie do przeskoczenia, ponieważ wychowany byłem, że największym grzechem jaki sobie można w ogóle wyobrazić jest donosić. Bo tutaj ten normalny taki kumpelski etos, a ojciec mój był w ogóle taki brat-łata. Jest, był – przepraszam – brat-łata. To na to nakładała się ta solidarność rewolucyjna. Donosiło się. Komu? Donosiło się policji przecież. I to była dla mnie niesłychanie trudna, niesłychanie trudna sprawa. Żeby jej tak nie wałkować, to opowiem o takiej aferze, która miała miejsce już przy maturze. Mianowicie w przed dzień matury pisemnej w tym roku, w którym ja zdawałem, ktoś z kuratorium wypuścił tematy komuś tam i to poleciało i po chwili cała uczniowska Warszawa miała te tematy. Przy czym mnie nie przyniesiono i słusznie, bo ja bym musiał zakapować, powiedzieć, że nie może tak być, że to jest inaczej. I właściwie ja nie wiem, co ja bym zrobił, bo ja byłem strasznie zły z matematyki. No, ale kiedyśmy już przyszliśmy do szkoły i ja widzę wszyscy tacy radośni, największe tumany z matematyki cali pogodni, podskakujący, w pewnym momencie ktoś mi dał ten tekst. Dał mi ten tekst i we mnie rozegrała się ta dzika walka. Ale to była sprawa dość prosta, mianowicie nie szło o zakapowanie kogoś, tylko sprawy, więc wstałem i zgłosiłem. "Jednak nie może tak być, bo ja znam tematy matury i mam temat w ręku." A żebym go dał. "A nie dam" – mówię – "Nie dam, ale mogę przeczytać". "No to przeczytaj". Niesamowite takie napięcie. I ja przeczytałem te tematy. Oni się na siebie popatrzyli i się uśmiechnęli. Okazało się, że to, że wyciekła ta matura się wydało i w nocy zmieniono zadania. No nie mogło się nie wydać, bo całe miasto miało. W nocy zmieniono zadania i nam dano trzy tematy, z których jedno było nie do rozwiązania w ogóle, błąd był w zadaniu, jeden był za łatwy, a jeden był za trudny na nasz poziom. Tak że tylko jeden się nadawał, który z kolei był niesłychanie łatwy. Ale to już jest inna historia.

The late Polish activist, Jacek Kuroń (1934-2004), had an influential but turbulent political career, helping transform the political landscape of Poland. He was expelled from the communist party, arrested and incarcerated. He was also instrumental in setting up the Workers' Defence Committee (KOR) and later became a Minister of Labour and Social Policy.

Listeners: Jacek Petrycki Marcel Łoziński

Cinematographer Jacek Petrycki was born in Poznań, Poland in 1948. He has worked extensively in Poland and throughout the world. His credits include, for Agniezka Holland, Provincial Actors (1979), Europe, Europe (1990), Shot in the Heart (2001) and Julie Walking Home (2002), for Krysztof Kieslowski numerous short films including Camera Buff (1980) and No End (1985). Other credits include Journey to the Sun (1998), directed by Jesim Ustaoglu, which won the Golden Camera 300 award at the International Film Camera Festival, Shooters (2000) and The Valley (1999), both directed by Dan Reed, Unforgiving (1993) and Betrayed (1995) by Clive Gordon both of which won the BAFTA for best factual photography. Jacek Petrycki is also a teacher and a filmmaker.

Film director Marcel Łoziński was born in Paris in 1940. He graduated from the Film Directing Department of the National School of Film, Television and Theatre in Łódź in 1971. In 1994, he was nominated for an American Academy Award and a European Film Academy Award for the documentary, 89 mm from Europe. Since 1995, he has been a member of the American Academy of Motion Picture Art and Science awarding Oscars. He lectured at the FEMIS film school and the School of Polish Culture of Warsaw University. He ran documentary film workshops in Marseilles. Marcel Łoziński currently lectures at Andrzej Wajda’s Master School for Film Directors. He also runs the Dragon Forum, a European documentary film workshop.

Tags: ZMP, Warsaw

Duration: 3 minutes, 44 seconds

Date story recorded: 1987

Date story went live: 12 June 2008