Once you will set your feet in this lovely country called Poland, you should know a bit about its culture. And what better way to know its culture, except deep diving into the folklor / food / natives than to check out the books/films(movies)/music that Poland has produced? As I was talking to you earlier on, saying that there are a lot of American bands with Polish roots, and probably in a similar way there are many people that you are not aware of them having Polish background. I am here today to tell you what you should read/watch/listen in order to understand more how Polish people think ;)
Poland is quite popular in the international market for its contribution to the cinema, having a couple of renowned directors rising after the Second World War. The contribution to literature is not that well known as there are few translations made on the great books (be it novel or poetry) that they have. When it comes to music, I think there is no classical music lover that knows not of Chopin! And if ever you are in Poland, for sure that you will find a Chopin concert ;) (take for example Krakow, where at least once a day there must be a concert somewhere, with a piece by him - either in a church or in a specially dedicated place).
I think the greatest international knowledge of Poland comes through the movies made by the great Polish directors like Roman Polanski, Krzysztof Kieslowski, and Andrzej Wajda. In Lodz there is the greatest School of Cinematography and also there you can find the only museum dedicated to cinematography (in Poland). Of the three, Polanski is probably the best-known abroad (though Kieslowski rates a close second), both for his films and his tragic and stormy personal life. Now if Polanski's name is not familiar to you, you should truly be ashamed and get craking by renting/buying his movies. You may possibly know Frantic (1987), starring Harrison Ford, and 2002's critically acclaimed The Pianist, with Adrien Brody in the lead role of Warsaw Jewish ghetto survivor Władysław Szpilman. That movie earned Polanski an Oscar for Best Director. Krzysztof Kieslowski is best known abroad for his Three Colors movies: Blue (1993), White (1994), and Red (1994). Kieslowski made the films based on the French virtues of liberty, equality, and fraternity after he had moved to France. Andrzej Wajda may be less well known to those outside Poland, but within the country, he's widely considered the most important director to emerge after World War II. He earned his reputation in the 1950s, with unsparing movies about World War I.
In addition to the Polish directors, there are also movies made about Poland - especially the Second World War - that you should know. The best known of these is Steven Spielberg's 1993 epic Schindler's List. The movie depicts the efforts of German industrialist Oskar Schindler to shield his Jewish factory workers from deportation to the concentration camps and his subsequent actions that saved 1,000 people from a certain death at Auschwitz. Much of the movie was filmed in and around Kraków's former Jewish quarter of Kazimierz, and Schindler's factory, now a museum, is still standing. Janusz Kaminski, Spielberg's Polish cameraman for Schindler's List and then later for Saving Private Ryan, won Oscars for both films.
While living in Poland for 4 years, one tends to pick things up and check out the local favorites of Polish people. It is a custom that every Polish person should watch the trilogy made after Henryk Sienkiewicz books:
- With Fire and Sword (Ogniem i mieczem, 1884) depicts the 17th-century Khmelnytsky Uprising of Ukraine's Cossacks against Poland; the novel has been made into a feature film of the same title.
- The Deluge (Potop, 1886) depicts the 17th-century Swedish invasion of Poland, the "Deluge"; the novel has been made into a feature film of the same title;
- Sir Michael (Pan Wołodyjowski, 1888) depicts Poland's struggle against the Ottoman Empire, invading Poland in 1668–72; the novel has been made into a feature film, Colonel Wołodyjowski.
I, for one, love this series! I love the way it is made, the way they filmed it, the way they chose the actors that are fitting for their roles... I cannot recall how many times I cried and laughed wacthing the episodes. There is also quite a huge fan club that keeps everyone updated with the latest news - like concerts with the music from the series, which is absolutely wonderful!
Polish literature, with few exceptions, remains largely unknown to people outside the country, due mainly to publishers' reluctance to invest in translating the books into English rather than to a lack of literary merit. Poland, in fact, has four Nobel Prize winners for literature: Henryk Sienkiewicz (1905), the author of Quo Vadis; Wadysaw Reymont (1924), a now-forgotten journalist who won the prize for the book Chopi (Peasants); and poets Czesaw Miosz (1980) and Wisawa Szymborska (1996). There are also two Jewish Nobel prize laureates who it could be argued have some connection to Poland: Shmuel Yosef Agnon (1966) and I. B. Singer (1978). You might even make a case for a seventh Nobel by including German writer Günter Grass, who was born and raised in Gdansk when the city was part of Germany and known as Danzig.
I would also like to point out here a book, a comic book that called out to me. The story is told from a young girl’s perspective, Marzena Sowa’s memoir of a childhood shaped by politics feels remarkably fresh and immediate. Structured as a series of vignettes that build on one another, Marzi is a compelling and powerful coming-of-age story that portrays the harsh realities of life behind the Iron Curtain while maintaining the everyday wonders and curiosity of childhood. With open and engaging art by Sylvain Savoia, Marzi is a moving and resonant story of an ordinary girl in turbulent, changing times.
Though Poland has a rich musical tradition going back centuries, it's probably best known for two contributions: the polka and Frédéric Chopin. Crediting Poland with the polka is actually a common error, probably because of the similarity of the names. Though the polka is as popular in Poland as anywhere else in Central Europe, it actually comes from Bohemia, in the modern-day Czech Republic. Poles have a more legitimate claim on Chopin, though another country, France, is involved there too. Though Chopin was born in the village of Zelazowa Wola, not far from Warsaw, to a Polish mother, his father was French, and the composer spent much of his short life in Paris (and even for a time became a French citizen). To bolster the French claim, he also had a stormy affair with French intellectual George Sand (female). But when he was buried, he asked that his heart would always remain with his homeland. Shortly before his death, as the story goes, Chopin asked that his heart be moved to the country of his birth. Complying with his wishes, doctors removed the composer's heart after he died, and it was taken to Warsaw by his sister. Now you can "visit", pay homages and see where his heart resides, in Holy Cross Church (Kosció Swietego Krzyza) in Warsaw :)
Embrace the subject and read one of the articles below - How To... In Poland
- Do Shopping In Poland - Currency
- Pick The Best Time To Visit Poland
- Get To Poland - Transit
- Eat Like The Locals
- Spend One Day In Krakow
- Be Prepared For Coming To Poland
- Recognize Tourists In Poland
- Maintain Work-Life Balance In Poland
- Books/Films/Music In Poland - today's letter to you, lovely travelers :)
The Twisted Red LadyBug that loves to help travelers out there & expats finding their way to the proud Polish land