The memorial plaque on the Warszawa Gdańska Train Station. The plaque commemorates the Jews who were forced to leave Poland in March 1968. The inscription reads: “For those who emigrated from Poland after March 1968 with a one-way ticket. They left behind more than they had possessed”.
What better way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the anit-Semitic campaign in Poland than to publish an update of my very first post. Ironically, it comes at the lowest point of relations between Poland and Israel.
“What was unique about 1968 was that people were rebelling over disparate issues and had in common only that desire to rebel, ideas about how to do it, a sense of alienation from the established order and a profound distaste for authoritarianism.” says Mark Kurlansky, author of 1968.
To some, 1968 was the year of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. People who came of age in 1968 immediately recognize each other as a “sixty-eighter”, no matter where in the world they spent that year and what they did.
It was the year when Dylan and Ginsberg became prophets, when TV began to change the media, when Negroes became Blacks, and we got the first pictures of the Earth from outer space. But it was mostly a terrible year: the year of the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy; the suppression of antiwar and pro-democracy student movements in the US, Poland, France and most violently, Mexico; the crushing Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia; and the largest single-year casualties in the Vietnam war, including the My Lai massacre.
The first student uprising in 1968, year of millennial hopes and young insurrections, took place in Warsaw. But the west’s media commemorations of 1968 – selective, supercilious about such idealism, and yet faintly nervous in case a new generation feels tempted into imitation – overlook Poland entirely.
For TV’s history programmes and newspapers’ Sunday supplements, it all happened in Paris, in Berkeley and (for the British media) in a few Vietnam demos in Grosvenor Square. And yet in Warsaw, that March, thousands of university students were battered down by police clubs and arrested, their teachers purged and exiled, in a battle for intellectual liberty against hopeless odds.
Like many great European stories, it began with a theatre performance.
For more detailed background, you can read it here.
The Gdańsk train station was the saddest place in Warsaw in March 1968. The platform of the East-West line that brought the lucky ones to the West via Vienna or Paris was crowded with tearful families and goodbyes. There are hundreds of stories on the that day, every day. My friend Jurek has one of them. These are his pictures of that day. Just like the photos, it was gray and dreary. His mother and father are getting on the train. He thought he was too but he was denied permission at the last minute and had to wait 2 years before he was allowed to leave and reunited with his family in the States. Finally, he was forced to renounce his Polish citizenship and apply for an Israeli emigration visa although he already had a US emigration visa and a plane ticket to Boston.
Jurek wrote a history of his story 10 years after arriving in the States. He calls it “My Class, 1964”. It’s in Polish and it might be worth the agony of putting it through Google translate to read a first person account of the turmoil of this period. You can read it here.
And what were you doing when you were 22?
And the theme song for this generation:
Some Poles helped save Jews. Some betrayed them to the Germans. Most did nothing.
On the other hand…….
On Hitler’s birthday…….
At first, I wondered why they would print this since its coverage supported all the allegations and never produced any evidence:
“Russia’s 2016 operation was simply the cyber-age version of standard United States practice for decades, whenever American officials were worried about a foreign vote. We’ve been doing this kind of thing since the C.I.A. was created in 1947……..,”
And then its USA Number One explanation as it goes for the patriotic jugular:
“American interventions have generally been aimed at helping non-authoritarian candidates challenge dictators or otherwise promoting democracy. Russia has more often intervened to disrupt democracy or promote authoritarian rule, they said.” They must mean those bastions of democracy like Pinochet, etc………”
The lead story on Polish TV this morning is that the parking spaces are too small. The reporter is actually in the parking lot measuring the space. It’s because Poles are now driving big ass cars now, just like Americans. Not even like Europeans. Americans. Welcome to capitalism and the Poles’ symbol of success, a car, the bigger the better. Answer? All new parking spaces will be larger, rather than getting rid of them and making people take public transport. There’s a reason Poland has the worst air quality in Europe.
Happy New Year from our Ukrainian friends….
Ukraine nationalists march in Kiev to honour Stepan Bandera
Ukrainian nationalists have marched through Kiev to honour the World War Two anti-Soviet leader Stepan Bandera. At the rally far-right leader Oleh Tyahnybok, who heads the Svoboda party, urged the authorities to return “Hero of Ukraine” status to Bandera.
Many Russians revile Bandera, born on 1 January 1909. President Vladimir Putin has called him “Hitler’s accomplice”.
And here is a picture of Oleh Tyahnybok with his friend John McCain from a couple of years ago.