• June 3, 2016
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Szczerek in PKD: Reality in Vilnius Fascinates Me

 “In the Vilnius region I can see a lively, fascinating reality. For me it’s such a part of Polishness that isn’t obvious, that from the centre of Poland is a fresh look onto what this Polishness can be – similar and different, installed in a little bit different setup,” said the writer and publicist Ziemowit Szczerek at the meeting in the Polish Discussion Club.

The discussion called “Harebrained and Dear Eastern Europe” was devoted to myths, reality, present, and future of Eastern Europe. The author of the books “Przyjdzie Mordor i nas zje”, “Rzeczpospolita Zwycięska”, “Siódemka”, “Tatuaż z tryzubem” is an acute observer of processes taking place in Poland, Ukraine, and Hungary, among others.

 “I was brought up in the post-apocalypse and suspiciously look at places where the post-apocalypse isn’t present. In the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the reality isn’t spit-polished in a boring way – something can still surprise us. The fall of the socialist empire took place, of the reality which challenged the West and fell with only ruins left. Now we have to arrange our lives among these ruins. Each national narrative deals with these ruins a bit differently,” Ziemowit Szczerek explains his fascination with this part of Europe.

 “Central Europe is stuck between three milling querns: the West, Russia, and the south-west, which is Turkey. All of this can move only when one of those querns mills. Perhaps the Republic of Both Nations was an attempt to create Central Europe’s own quern, which was too little coherent and got torn up by the separate narratives. Here national narratives become something like a caricature of the Western world,” claims the writer.

In his view, Lithuania, particularly the Vilnius region, is a certain illustration of what Poland could look like if it had become a part of the Soviet Union.

 “Poles like to imagine what would happen if… One of such obsessions is speculating what it would be like now if Poland had lost the war in 1920 or if, in 1945, after the war, it had been included as a republic in the Soviet Union. It seems to me that we don’t have to imagine that, ‘cause, for example, what would have happened with public space can be seen looking at Lviv and Vilnius. These are cities that have been pushed out to the category of myth because they don’t belong to Poland. Lviv will always be Lviv of Eaglets, Vilnius will always be Vilnius of Piłsudski, and what is here at this moment is the afterimage a bit, a ghost. Hardly anyone makes effort to look closely at the processes that took place here. An important aspect here is language. When I read Bartosz Połoński’s ‘Robczik’, a book written in the Polish-Russian-Lithuanian something that in Ukraine is called ‘surżyk’, I can see under how much influence the Polish language fell in the Vilnius region. Similar processes perhaps would have taken place in Warsaw, in Lublin, and other cities of Poland had it been included in the Soviet Union,” supposes Szczerek.

As he adds, the Vilnius reality which he gets to know is fascinating to him.

 “There’s a myth in Poland saying that here, above the ground, spirits of heroes of the January and November Uprisings hover in the air with the Hussar’s wings, all the time circle around the Gate of Dawn, and apart from this there are also those bad Lithuanians who unbolt those ghosts’ plates with street names. I can see a lively, fascinating reality here. For me it’s such a part of Polishness that isn’t obvious, that from the centre of Poland is a fresh look onto what this Polishness can be – similar and different, installed in a little bit different setup. It’s a true reality, which can be touched, which we can immerse into, and it’s the thing that turns me on the most. I’d like to make this reality more familiar in Poland,” says the writer.

On the other hand, when speaking of the foreign policy of Poland, Ziemowit Szczerek is quite critical.

“Radosław Sikorski antagonised Lithuanians in his time, and the current diplomacy with Witold Waszczykowski does the same to Europe, which is weak anyway. It’s the worst moment to get in a sulk now. I don’t identify banging fists on the table with the actual increase in significance. It won’t work. If we pass an act that we’re cool, it won’t mean that the whole world is obliged to respect this act. When it comes to the Intermarium idea, Poland would have to be attractive for its closest neighbours; meanwhile, the present narrative is a demand for respect,” summarises Szczerek.

Translated by Karolina Katarzyńska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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