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The Poles: swallowed but not digested
Jan Józef Lipski Social activist
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We often wonder what remains of Solidarity other than clandestine press and publications, and the existing structures of Solidarity. But what remains in the life of the nation that is of any depth? I'm convinced that the most important change that happened thanks to Solidarity was that Poles only became a democratic nation in the modern sense of that word after Solidarity. That's when they managed to break down the divisions between the intelligentsia, workers and farmers. Today, everyone who's active has friends who are part of the intelligentsia or who are workers, and sometimes farmers, too. This was formerly unthinkable before Solidarity so this is a sign of the deep changes that have occurred in the life of the country. I believe the profit from this will be greater in the future than from anything else. There was a community which genuinely arose and which we had always dreamed of. What else can come of this? Well, nobody's a prophet. When I recall what Rousseau said in relation to the partitions that 'the Poles have been swallowed but the question is will they... will they allow themselves to be digested, and their job now is not to allow themselves to be digested’ – of course, I'm quoting, this isn't a literal quote – then I think that Solidarity played a huge role in making us less easily digestible than used to be the case. Which doesn't mean that the process of digesting didn't take place. If occasionally we read in the samizdat press that we are in danger of being Sovietised, then it's not as if we were outside the scope of danger. But we are further away from it than we were 10 years ago.

Niejednokrotnie się zastanawiamy nad tym, co zostało z „Solidarności” poza tym, że mamy tajną prasę, tajne wydawnictwa, że istnieją ciągle struktury „Solidarności”. Ale co zostało głębokiego w życiu narodu? Otóż ja mam takie przekonanie, że najważniejsze co się stało dzięki „Solidarności” to, że Polacy stali się narodem w sensie nowoczesnym, demokratycznym dopiero od „Solidarności”. Że mianowicie udało się rozwalić mury podziałów między inteligencją, robotnikami, chłopami. Dzisiaj każdy z ludzi czynnych ma przyjaciół – i inteligentów, i robotników, czasami i chłopów również. I to było nie do pomyślenia dawniej przed „Solidarnością”, a to jest, oznacza bardzo głęboką przemianę w życiu kraju. I to będzie, jak sądzę, bardziej profitować w przyszłości niż cokolwiek innego. Ta wspólnota, która faktycznie powstała i o której dawniej marzyliśmy. No a co z tego dalej może wyniknąć? No to przecież nikt nie jest prorokiem. Ale ja... gdy przypominam sobie to, co Rousseau powiedział w związku z rozbiorami, że Polacy zostali połknięci, ale pytanie czy dadzą,... czy dadzą się strawić, i ich zadaniem jest to, żeby się nie dali strawić – oczywiście cytuję, nie jest to cytat – to myślę, że „Solidarność” odegrała kolosalną rolę w tym, że strawić nas dzisiaj jest trudniej niż... niż to przedtem było. Co nie znaczy, by te procesy trawienne nie przebiegały. Jeżeli się czasami w prasie podziemnej czyta alarmy, że grozi nam sowietyzacja, to nie jest tak zupełnie, byśmy byli poza wszelkimi niebezpieczeństwami. Ale jesteśmy dalej, niż byliśmy lat temu dziesięć.

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: 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: Solidarity

Duration: 2 minutes, 15 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1989

Date story went live: 15 March 2011