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'Mr Janek, this is finis Polonia'


The university no longer a bastion of independent intellectual life
Jan Józef Lipski Social activist
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The feeling I had that this was not the place for me kept on growing, especially as even at the university the atmosphere was changing. Suddenly, the debates came to an end, and our old professors began to be persecuted. There was Professor Borowy who taught Polish. I never agreed with his methodology, with his views on what constituted the history of literature. You could say that we argued with the professor during the seminars because Professor Borowy was the kind of person with whom you could have a very real and genuine argument, since he believed a student was allowed to debate with him if he had something to say. Suddenly, it turned out that Professor Borowy was no longer a professor at the university under exceptionally drastic circumstances, that there was a horrible smear campaign against him. He was not thick-skinned and, in a word, he didn't survive this, it was too big a shock for him. He simply didn't survive, he had high blood pressure, was not a well man, and so on. This was terrifying, and I saw that the university, too, was no longer a sanctuary for independent, intellectual thought.

I coraz bardziej miałem to poczucie, że dla mnie tutaj właściwie miejsca nie ma. Tym bardziej, że i na uniwersytecie atmosfera się zmieniała. W pewnym momencie skończyły się dyskusje. Zaczęto represjonować naszych starych profesorów. Na polonistyce był profesor Borowy, z którym się bardzo nie zgadzałem metodologicznie, w poglądach na to, czym jest historia literatury – można powiedzieć kłóciliśmy się z profesorem na seminariach, bo profesor Borowy należał do ludzi, z którymi można się było pokłócić, zupełnie prawdziwie, autentycznie, bo on nie uważał, żeby student nie mógł z nim podyskutować, jeżeli ma w ogóle cokolwiek do powiedzenia. No nagle się okazało, że profesor Borowy przestaje być profesorem uniwersytetu i to w warunkach takich... niezwykle drastycznie, jakiejś takiej obrzydliwej nagonki na niego, a był to człowiek o cienkiej skórze. On, krótko mówiąc, nie przeżył tego, bo to był dla niego za duży wstrząs. Po prostu nie przeżył tego człowiek o zbyt wysokim ciśnieniu, schorowany, tak dalej. I to było wszystko przerażające i... widziałem, że uniwersytet właściwie też przestaje być taką ostoją jakiegoś niezależnego życia umysłowego.

Jan Józef Lipski (1926-1991) was one of Poland's best known political activists. He was also a writer and a literary critic. As a soldier in the Home Army (Armia Krajowa), he fought in the Warsaw Uprising. In 1976, following worker protests, he co-founded the Workers' Defence Committee (KOR). His active opposition to Poland's communist authorities led to his arrest and imprisonment on several occasions. In 1987, he re-established and headed the Polish Socialist Party. Two years later, he was elected to the Polish Senate. He died in 1991 while still in office. For his significant work, Lipski was honoured with the Cross of the Valorous (Krzyż Walecznych), posthumously with the Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta (1991) and with the highest Polish decoration, the Order of the White Eagle (2006).

Listeners: Marcel Łoziński Jacek Petrycki

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.

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.

Tags: university, persecution, polemics, arrest, intellectual life

Duration: 1 minute, 31 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1989

Date story went live: 09 March 2011