Archive for the ‘History’ Category

“No human community can exist without culture.”

This is the wisdom shared by Vaclav Havel.

Vaclav, a former playwright and elected first president of the Czech Republic, shared this bit of insight as part of the Wisdom project.

Wisdom is the work of 34 year old New York based photographer Andrew Zuckerman who completed the project in 2008.

Inspired by the idea that one of the greatest gifts a generation can give to the next is wisdom gained from experience, the project consists of a collection of 50 photographs/interviews that capture the wisdom of legendary leaders and visionaries, over the age of sixty-five, from the worlds of politics, science, sports and the arts.

Wisdom exists in the form of a book of portraits, a film and a travelling exhibition.

The latter (the exhibition’s Canadian premiere) is on display at Toronto’s elegant Brookfield Place (formerly BCE Place) until August 5th, 2011.

Each copy of the book comes with a download code for a 60-minute film comprised of interviews from the project.

Among the global personalities featured are people such as Actor/Director (and all around Dirty Harry) Clint Eastwood, Diplomat and Nobel Peace Prize winner Henry Kissinger, first woman to become United States Secretary of State Madeline Albright and Actor Robert Redford.

There are also two notable characters as far as Poland and Canada are concerned. The first is Zbigniew Brzezinski, Warsaw born, McGill University educated, former United States National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter.

The second, is world renowned architect Frank Gehry who was born in Toronto and hails from Polish Jewish ancestry.

Wisdom is an inspiring and rewarding exhibition. If you’re in need of a gust of in your sails make sure to check it out. Best of all, it’s free!

And if you’re looking to combine the show with a nice dinner – we recommend either Ki  (Modern Japanese) or the eclectic Marché which are just steps away.

Enjoy your dose of wisdom!

But before you dig in, check out this trailer for the film…


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On July 1, Poland will assume the six-month presidency of the Council of the European Union.  

This is a VERY big deal for Poland which has come a long way since the gloomy days of life behind the iron curtain. It’s also a great testament to the ambitious nature of the Polish people.

To commemorate the occasion the country commissioned celebrated filmmaker Tomasz Bagiński and the Platige Image company to create a short animated film titled Europe in Dance.

The film which took nine months to complete is based on a waltz metaphor and the transformations to which Poland is inviting Europe. You can view the film here.

But perhaps a more vivid showcase of Poland’s aspirations exist in a video which was shot last week.

On June 21st, the residents of Poznan, released 8,000 Chinese lanterns into the sky to mark Midsummer Night. The event was accompanied by the soundtrack Chariots of Fire by Vangelis. The effort set a national record and organizers are already planning to beat the World Guinness Record next year.

Poland’s future seems to be a bright one. And a sky filled with flickering lanterns seems like the perfect metaphor.

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Today marks the first anniversary of the Smolensk plane crash.

On April 10, 2010 Poland’s President, Lech Kaczynski and his wife and 94 of the most senior Polish diplomats, officials and cultural elite perished in a plane crash over Smolensk, Russia.

In an ironic twist of fate the Polish delegation was flying to mark the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre during which over 20,000 Poles were killed by Soviet secret police.

There will be ceremonies throughout the day in Poland and around the world to commemorate the anniversary.

Please let us know details of ceremonies in your community or pass along links to more information.

Following last year’s tragedy, we received a great number of photos from readers in Poland. We also wrote a number of posts relating to the event.

Here’s a look back at some of the coverage…

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Poles Unite in Mourning

Hundreds Gather at Katyn Monument

Thousands Gather To Celebrate Mass To Honour The Late Polish President



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By Izabela Stabinska

Chopin, accompanied by a companion, arrives at a modern-day prison to perform a concert. This is how the story begins.

A new comic book about Chopin has been produced by Kultura Gniewu (a comic book publisher) for the Polish Embassy in Berlin with support from the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs as part of the Year of Chopin celebrations that officially ended in February.

Chopin: New Romantic  is a 148-page graphic novel which consists of eight stories created by a collaboration of eleven Polish and German artists who wrote variations on Chopin’s life. Some of these stories focus exclusively on Chopin while others use him as a gateway to showcase Poland’s pop culture.

Issued in both Polish and German, this innovative idea of setting romantic and mellow Chopin in contemporary pop-culture was supposed to promote the famous Polish composer among young Germans. However, turmoil erupted when it was discovered that the supposedly innocent book for teenagers included some nasty vulgarities

The author of the controversial segment, Krzysztof Ostrowski, explained that this particular story takes place in prison, hence the inappropriate language, but MSZ (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) ordered all copies of the book to be destroyed.

In protest, Kultura Gniewu and comic book enthusiasts across Europe quickly created a Facebook page titled: “Ochronić nakład “Chopin New Romantic” (Protect the edition of Chopin: New Romantic). Thus far it has over 2,500 fans. And within days, copies of the infamous comic book showed up on Allegro, the Polish eBay.

The latest word is that MSZ decided it will not shred the book; however, the Polish emblem will be removed and the book will be distributed only to Polish and German cultural institutions and not public schools.

Do you agree with their decision?

I’m a book fanatic myself and the idea of burning 2,000 books truly gives me shivers.

Izabela Stabinska

Izabela is Toronto based fashion designer who studied fashion in California. After receiving the Best Graduation Collection award, she traveled all over Europe where she collaborated on art projects, fashion shows and photo shoots. In Toronto, she is freelancing in fashion design and production. Currently, she is working with a local enterpreneur on a specialized sportswear line and is developing her first Canadian collection.

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It’s a blockbuster take on a “true” story.

Australian director Peter Weir’s new film The Way Back, which features an all-star cast starring Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris and Colin Farrell, tells the harrowing story of a group of prisoners who escape from a Soviet Gulag (World War II) in Siberia and  embark on a treacherous 6000 km journey across five countries in a desperate search for freedom.

The film is inspired on The Long Walk, a ghost-written 1956 memoir by Sławomir Rawicz, a Polish Army lieutenant who was imprisoned by the Soviets.

Controversy has always surrounded the validity of Rawicz’s book and evidence suggests that he never actually made the journey.

So, how much of the story is really true?

Well, apparently most of it.

In 2009, a former Polish soldier living in Cornwall, UK came forward and said that the The Long Walk is really an account of his own escape.

This man’s name is Witold Glinski.  

According to him, he had a very strange encounter in London in the 1940’s.

Apparently, he was approached by two mysterious men who told him that they were writing a book about Polish history and wanted to speak to him about his journey to England.

He declined to speak because he wanted to forget about the war and because he had already recounted his journey to the staff at the Polish Embassy in London.

Sometime after the encounter Witold Glinski realized that the man who had approached him was Ronald Downing – the ghost writer of The Long Walk.

The book has since been translated into over 25 languages and sold half-a-million copies.

And now you can see it on the big screen.

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Do you remember when this…

Massive strikes at the Gdańsk Shipyard - birthplace of the Solidarity movement

…led to this…

December 13, 1981 – the Polish government attempts to crush political opposition by declaring Martial Law (dubbed “Stan Wojenny” – “State of War")

…and finally culminated in this…

1989 - The fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of freedom throughout Europe.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Egypt.

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