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Are Poles incapable of cooperating?

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It's important not to resemble a chair
Jan Józef Lipski Social activist
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The situation in which we exist is best described by one symbolic word: Yalta. It is, of course, a symbolic word because before Yalta, there was Teheran, and after Yalta there was Potsdam, and it was a kind of process which we only identify in this way symbolically. But what does it mean? It means that with the approval of Western countries as well, I think, as with the approval of the people of the West, we became part of a great empire; we lost our subjectivity although we did retain certain autonomy and we are without doubt in a better position than the Ukrainians or Lithuanians. Nevertheless, the aspirations of a nation like Poland have to be the continual regaining of subjectivity and sometimes that can be very irksome. Not just to our neighbours in the East but it also often irks those who live in the West who imagine that this conceals some sort of threat to them, that it might unbalance some stable relations. However, there are some stable relations which people who've been deprived of what matters the most to them cannot accept. And it is a matter of some significance whether you're a subject or just an object like a chair that gets moved from one corner of the room to another.

The situation in which we exist is best described by one symbolic word: Yalta. It is, of course, a symbolic word because before Yalta, there was Teheran, and after Yalta there was Potsdam, and it was a kind of process which we only identify in this way symbolically. But what does it mean? It means that with the approval of Western countries as well, I think, as with the approval of the people of the West, we became part of a great empire; we lost our subjectivity although we did retain certain autonomy and we are without doubt in a better position than the Ukrainians or Lithuanians. Nevertheless, the aspirations of a nation like Poland have to be the continual regaining of subjectivity and sometimes that can be very irksome. Not just to our neighbours in the East but it also often irks those who live in the West who imagine that this conceals some sort of threat to them, that it might unbalance some stable relations. However, there are some stable relations which people who’ve been deprived of what matters the most to them cannot accept. And it is a matter of some significance whether you’re a subject or just an object like a chair that gets moved from one corner of the room to another.

Sytuacja w której żyjemy, daje się określić najlepiej jednym symbolicznym słowem – Jałta. Jest to słowo oczywiście symboliczne – przed Jałtą był Teheran, po Jałcie był Poczdam i był to jakiś proces, który tylko symbolicznie w ten sposób określamy – ale co to znaczy? To znaczy, że za zgodą państw Zachodu, a również myślę, że z przyzwoleniem społeczeństw Zachodu, staliśmy się częścią wielkiego imperium, utraciliśmy podmiotowość, chociaż zachowaliśmy pewną autonomię i niewątpliwie jesteśmy w lepszej sytuacji niż Ukraińcy czy Litwini. Niemniej jednak aspiracją takiego narodu jak polski, no, musi być nieustannie odzyskanie podmiotowości i to... bardzo drażni – nie tylko naszych sąsiadów ze Wschodu – to drażni bardzo często również ludzi na Zachodzie, którzy sobie wyobrażają, że to...w tym kryje się dla nich jakieś niebezpieczeństwo, że to może naruszyć jakiś stabilne układy. No, ale bywają takie stabilne układy na które nie są w stanie się zgodzić ludzie tacy, którym odebrano to, co dla nich jest szczególnie ważne. A bycie podmiotem, a nie tylko krzesłem, którego się przesuwa z jednego kąta pokoju w drugi, no, to jednak jest sprawa istotna.

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: Yalta, Teheran, Potsdam, Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Poland

Duration: 1 minute, 38 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1989

Date story went live: 15 March 2011