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The hazardous streets of Warsaw


Cultural life in Warsaw during the occupation
Julia Hartwig Poet
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Whereas Warsaw... well, Warsaw during the occupation was very diverse. I didn't have... I only had access to a few people, to a few social groups. Namely, students, because we met all sorts of students there, a university professor; but I also knew that literary life was blossoming in the underground activities of Warsaw. At one of those evening meetings, I remember that Iwaszkiewicz and Zagórski were there, they were reading poetry which made a huge impression on me. There were things there that took me by surprise but there were also events that we sought out. For instance, Lutosławski and Panufnik played in what was called the Actress's Café because actresses would wait on the tables yet where Lustosławski and Panufnik played a duet – this was truly memorable – they played beautifully. Of course, they tried to... a repertoire – they were never tangos but it was easy-listening music, although occasionally, when they got bored, they would play some serious music, something that they really liked, by way of a breath of fresh air.

Natomiast Warszawa... no cóż, Warszawa okupacyjna bardzo zróżnicowana. Ja nie miałam... miałam dostęp tylko do niektórych ludzi, do niektórych grup społecznych. Mianowicie, no właśnie ci studenci, bo tam się spotykaliśmy z różnymi studentami, profesorem uniwersytetu; ale równocześnie wiedziałam, że kwitnie także życie literackie w podziemnej Warszawie. I na jednym z takich wieczorów, pamiętam to był tam Iwaszkiewicz i Zagórski, czytali wiersze i to zrobiło na mnie jednak... duże wrażenie. Podobnie były takie rzeczy, które zaskakiwały, ale równocześnie się ich szukało, ponieważ na przykład Lutosławski i Panufnik grali w tak zwanej kawiarni dla aktorek, gdzie usługiwały aktorki – ale gdzie Lutosławski i Panufnik w duecie to naprawdę coś takiego, co warto zapamiętać – fantastycznie grali rzeczywiście. Oczywiście starali się... repertuar – właśnie nie były to nigdy tanga, ale była jakaś taka... taka swobodna muzyka, ale czasem im się zdarzyło, że tak się znudzili, że akurat grali coś naprawdę poważnego, co naprawdę lubią – jak gdyby dla oddechu.

Born to a Polish father and a Russian mother, Julia Hartwig (1921-2017) was a Polish poet, essayist, translator and author of children's books. She studied at the University of Warsaw, the Catholic University in Lublin and the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. Czesław Miłosz called her 'the grande dame of Polish poetry'. Julia Hartwig was one of the few poets in Poland who made masterly use of poetic prose. She translated poems by Apollinaire, Rimbaud, Max Jacob, Cendrars and Supervielle, and published monographs on Apollinaire and Gerard de Nerval. She also translated from English, and published a large anthology of American poetry which she co-edited in 1992 with her late husband, the poet Artur Międzyrzecki.

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: Warsaw, Actress's Café, Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, Jerzy Zagórski, Witold Lutosławski, Andrzej Panufnik

Duration: 1 minute, 19 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2010

Date story went live: 10 May 2011