Wrocław re-read…

Breslau – neu gelesen … | Wrocław ponownie odczytany …

W dziejach miast można dostrzec różne cezury, przywołujące wydarzenia polityczne, kulturalne, czy gospodarcze. Sygnalizują sytuację graniczną, dostrzeganą współcześnie lub po wielu dekadach. Wskazanie konkretnej cezury jest z jednej strony manifestacją końca, a z drugiej ogłoszeniem kolejnego początku. Jest przejściem z jednej epoki do drugiej, przekroczeniem niewidzialnej najczęściej granicy.


Historii nie można wymazać

Jednak nawet najgłośniej akcentowany nowy początek nie jest unieważnieniem przeszłości. Nie można zerwać z historią i jej dorobkiem (lub ciężarem), co najwyżej można starać się je pomijać, ignorować, w najgroźniejszym przypadku – unicestwiać. Mimo to historia wcześniejszego okresu jest nadal obecna, wychyla się z różnych kątów i zakamarków, przypomina o sobie materialną spuścizną. Potrafi też powrócić – jako piękna opowieść lub wyrzut sumienia – i unieważnić wszystkie próby jej w…

Categories: 3 (2015) 35
DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1515/phw-2015-4863

Tags: , , , ,

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  1. Turning Breslau into Wrocław

    In his contribution to the debate Krzysztof Ruchniewicz provides an interesting account of how the Polish population of Wrocław, the former German city of Breslau, have dealt with the past of the city. As he stresses, they have managed, over time, to turn this once-foreign city into their own. And, as the polls invariably demonstrate, the present-day inhabitants of Wrocław identify with their city in a way which is unparalleled by any other urban centre in Poland.

    As our mutual colleague Andrzej Zawada once observed, for many new Breslauers the city’s past did, and perhaps still does, not really matter. The city is for them nothing but a dwelling place. However, for a significant part of its new inhabitants, the past of the city they live in is an issue to be dealt with. Some of them have chosen to approach the problem by denying its German past, even if, in order to sustain such a belief, they have to struggle against the evidence of their own daily experience. Such an attitude is now almost completely extinct among Wroclawians, though perhaps a tiny minority persists in it.

    As Ruchniewicz writes, the now dominant attitude is an honest and sincere recognition of the city’s past. There were many factors contributing to this. I do not pretend to be able to catalogue them all. I believe that one of the most significant of them was the fact that towards the end of the Second World War the city was almost completely ruined due to the savage madness of the Nazi regime, and that it is Polish settlers who had to rebuild it from ashes. By stressing this fact, I want to say that the present-day spiritual, intellectual and cultural claim of the Polish inhabitants to the city received a very strong support from their own huge reconstructive effort in bringing the once desolated city back to the now vibrant life. They now feel that they genuinely deserve the city even if before 1945 it did even occur to any of them that the city may become Polish; after all, it was allotted to them by the orders of Stalin.

    What needs to be stressed also is that, despite major difficulties, the present-day Wroclawians continue to work very hard in order to demonstrate that they are good hosts and managers of the city. Thanks to this, Breslau-turned-Wrocław became a laboratory in which Polish culture imported from the Eastern Borderlands flourished on a substrate of material heritage left behind by the Germans and has undergone a metamorphosis into a unique cultural formation. The conglomerate of such feelings has become a soil upon which a specific attitude of assuredness among contemporary Wrocławians grew: they now feel they are fully entitled to call the former German Breslau by its Polish name Wrocław. This assuredness contributes both to their self-confidence in confronting its former German inhabitants, as well as in their acknowledging its German past.

    Today’s Wrocław remains a cultural laboratory, where the identity of its residents undergoes metamorphoses under the influence of new ideas, which the people of Wrocław absorb with greater openness than people in other regions of Poland. On the soil of diversity of the Poles who in 1945 came to live in the city, there grew also a welcoming attitude. Scarred by their history, the Polish inhabitants of Wrocław, whose ancestors were forced to leave their homes, living in a city of an expelled people, have turned this city into the most inclusive one among Polish cities. This is the feature of the local population which I have stressed while writing the successful bid of Wrocław for the title of the European Capital of Culture 2016.

    The picture, however, is not all roses. For the atmosphere of expectation for the next year’s festival of culture is now being spoiled by the growing number of incidents which testify to a steep rise in the local xenophobia, anti-Semitism and nationalism. Indeed: just last week a monument of tolerance has been erected in the city, while the very next day a horrific scene of an anti-Muslim demonstration unravelled, during which an effigy of Jew has been burned. Few days later, a first showing in a local theatre has been threatened by a group of misguided radicals who, following an unfounded gossip, wanted to prevent the theatre from performing. Such incidents, together with numerous former ones of similar nature, suggest that the belief in the inclusiveness of the residents of Wrocław may be much exaggerated. Some newspapers even now write about Wrocław as a stronghold of neo-Nazism.

    I continue to believe that the vast majority of the people remain tolerant and welcoming, and they will remain so in the future. Yet I also believe that significance of such xenophobic incidents should not be underestimated. First of all, one has to point out that the populist, nationalist and xenophobic rhetoric of the country’s leading politicians not only encourages such scandalous acts among their followers, but, through their political canonisation, it extends an umbrella of protection above them, even if when they cross the limit of an acceptable political debate. It is an unspeakable shame that some descendants of the victimised nation are now helping themselves to the murderous ideology of their former oppressors.

    Secondly, and more importantly, however, I believe that the danger of such politics should be seen precisely from the point of view of such cities like Wrocław which, very few decades back, fell a victim of politicians who employed much the same rhetoric. I would not like to see this city, in which I have chosen to live, paying the same price yet again.

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