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A GLIMPSE AT POLISH CULTURE AND SOME FAMOUS POLES POLSKA - The Republic of Poland NATIONAL ANTHEM: DĄBROWSKI’S MAZURKA, 1795 ‘Poland is not dead as long as we live’



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POLISH RENOWNED SCIENTISTS MIKOŁAJ KOPERNIK (Nicolaus Copernicus) (1473 -1543) 1543 – “On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres” Copernican theory of heliocentrism “He stopped the Sun and moved the earth, a true-born Pole”

"To Nicolaus Copernicus, from his grateful compatriots." : 

"To Nicolaus Copernicus, from his grateful compatriots."

Mikołaj Kopernik’s monument, Warsaw : 

Mikołaj Kopernik’s monument, Warsaw



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- First woman in the world to receive the Nobel Prize; -First person in the world to be awarded two Nobel Prizes for two different fields (Physics 1903 and Chemistry 1911); -Discovered 2 new elements: Polonium (named in honour of Poland) and Radium; -with her French husband, Pierre Curie, coined the term ‘radioactivity’; -pioneered the use of radiography and X-rays in medical treatment during WW1; -established the first Institute of Oncology (Warsaw); -first female professor at Sorbonne (University of Paris) Maria Skłodowska-Curie’s elder daughter, Irene, and Irene’s husband were also awarded the Nobel Prizes in Chemistry (1935) “She was the only person I know not corrupted the fame by she had won” Albert Einstein

Maria Skłodowska-Curie and Pierre Curie in their Paris laboratory : 

Maria Skłodowska-Curie and Pierre Curie in their Paris laboratory


DISTNIGUISHED POLISH WRITERS AND POETS ADAM MICKIEWICZ (1798-1855) One of Poland’s three national bards; The greatest Polish and Slavic Romantic poet (alongside the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin), born in the region of Lithuania,

-co-founder of a secret Philomaths’ Society promoting cultivation of Polish culture and independence from the Russian Empire;-arrested and banished to central Russia for anti-Russian and pro-Polish activity;-after exile visited Germany (friends with Goethe) and settled down in Paris among other Polish political emigrants (friends with Frederic Chopin); : 

-co-founder of a secret Philomaths’ Society promoting cultivation of Polish culture and independence from the Russian Empire;-arrested and banished to central Russia for anti-Russian and pro-Polish activity;-after exile visited Germany (friends with Goethe) and settled down in Paris among other Polish political emigrants (friends with Frederic Chopin); -died in Stambul, Turkey, when organizing a unit of Polish soldiers fighting against Russia for Polish independence. Major works: Ballads and Romances, The Crimean Sonnets, The Forefathers’ Eve (drama), ‘Ode to Youth’, Conrad Vallenrod (drama), Pan Tadeusz (Mr Thaddeus) (the greatest national epic in verse), translations of Byron’s works.

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"Mickiewicz alone approached those great names in poetry which stand in history as above all healthy, far healthier than Byron, healthier, even than Shakespeare, Homer and Goethe." George Brandes, literary critic

Adam Mickiewicz’s monument at the Main Square, Old Town,Cracow, Poland : 

Adam Mickiewicz’s monument at the Main Square, Old Town,Cracow, Poland



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-one of the best novelists of the turn of the 19th and 20th c. -awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature (1905) for "outstanding merits as an epic writer"; -portrayed momentous events in the Polish history with unprecedented vivacity, colour and skill, reviving the archaic language (Old Polish) and its dialects, and bolstering the invincible spirit of Polishness in times of the century-long struggle for independence (1795-1918); -travelled to the USA, Africa, Turkey, and toured Europe working as a journalist and gathering material for his writings; -supported the poor and repressed and raised funds for the WW1 victims (with Ignacy Paderewski, a world-famous Polish pianist, virtuoso and Prime Minister) Sienkiewicz’s major works: Historical novels and epics: The Trilogy: With Fire and Sword, The Deluge, Fire in the Steppe (Mr Wołodyjowski); Quo Vadis (set in Rome in Nero’s times), The Teutonic Knights, On the Field of Glory.

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‘This honour is particularly valuable for the son of Poland. She was pronounced dead - yet here is a proof that She lives on. She was pronounced defeated - and here is proof that She is victorious.’ From Sienkiewicz’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech

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Henryk Sienkiewicz’s monument in Częstochowa, St. Mary’s Avenue, in front of the Secondary School no.4 bearing his name

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a Polish born British novelist (became a British subject in 1886, aged 29); - son of Apollo Korzeniowski, a Polish writer and political activist involved in the struggle for independence; - master prose stylist, one of the most famous novelists in English (English was his third language after Polish and French); - exiled with his parents to Russia for his father’s engagement in the Polish January Uprising (1863), orphaned at the age of 11; - fascinated by the sea went to France and in 1878 to England to serve in the merchant navy; - his stories and novels set predominantly in the nautical seaboard world contain a distinctly non-English tragic sensibility, a sense of loneliness and exile, and a strain of romanticism (Polish characteristics); express an underlying yearning for freedom and sympathy for the suppressed and enslaved, and offer new insight into the depths of human soul. - a late Victorian novelist and a precursor of modernism (psychological realism) - visited Poland in 1914 (Poland was not yet politically independent till 1918); - declined the British knighthood offered in 1924 (non-hereditary) as he possessed a Polish hereditary status of nobility (‘Nałęcz’ coat of arms); - buried at the Canterbury Cemetery under his true Polish name Korzeniowski. Major novels: Almayer's Folly (1895), Heart of Darkness (1899), Lord Jim (1900), Nostromo, The Secret Agent, Under Western Eyes.

Villa in Zakopane, the Polish Tatra mountains, where Conrad stayed in 1914 : 

Villa in Zakopane, the Polish Tatra mountains, where Conrad stayed in 1914

The Belgian ship that Conrad sailed up the Congo River, Africa : 

The Belgian ship that Conrad sailed up the Congo River, Africa

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CZESŁAW MIŁOSZ (1911-2004)

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- poet, writer, translator, fluent in Polish, Lithuanian, Russian, English and French; -born in Lithuania (a part of Poland then occupied by Russia); -defected from the communist regime and obtained political asylum in France; -1960 - emigrated to the USA; 1970 - became an American citizen; - 1961-1998- professor of Slavic languages and literatures at the University of California, Berkeley; - his works were banned in Poland by the communist government, circulated only in the underground press; -1980- awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. - Nobel Prize citation: For the poet ‘who with uncompromising clear-sightedness voices man's exposed condition in a world of severe conflicts’

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-The Captive Mind - one of the finest studies of the behaviour of intellectuals under a repressive regime; -returned to Poland and lived part-time in Cracow after the Iron Curtain fell; -wrote all his works in Polish; translated many into English. I am a part of Polish literature which is relatively little known in the world as it is hardly translatable. Comparing it with other literatures, I have been able to appreciate its rich oddity. It is a kind of a secret brotherhood with its own rites of communion with the dead, where weeping and laughter, pathos and irony coexist on an equal footing, history-oriented, always allusive, in this century, as before, it faithfully accompanied the people in their hard trials. Lines of Polish verse circulated underground, were written in barracks of concentration camps and in soldiers' tents in Asia, Africa, and Europe. To represent here such a literature is to feel humble before testimonies of love and heroic self-sacrifice left by those who are no more. It is my hope that the distinction kindly granted to me by the Swedish Academy indirectly rewards all who guided my hand and whose invisible presence sustained me in difficult moments. From a Nobel Prize acceptance speech, 1980


WISŁAWA SZYMBORSKA (b. 1923) Polish poet, essayist and translator; Nobel Prize winner (1996)

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"for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality.” The Nobel Prize citation for Szymborska The Three Oddest Words When I pronounce the word Future,the first syllable already belongs to the past.When I pronounce the word Silence,I destroy it.When I pronounce the word Nothing,I make something no non-being can hold.

ZBIGNIEW HERBERT (1924-1998) : 


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one of the best known and most-translated post-war Polish poets and writers; distant relative of George Herbert, 17th c. metaphysical poet; member of the Polish resistance movement, the Home Army during the Second World War, and political opposition in the communist period; 2008 – year of Zbigniew Herbert in Poland; ‘The loss of memory by a nation is also a loss of its conscience.’ Zbigniew Herbert

Charles Edward Stuart "Charles III"(1720-1788)- Jacobite pretenderBonnie Prince Charlie : 

Charles Edward Stuart "Charles III"(1720-1788)- Jacobite pretenderBonnie Prince Charlie Son of Maria Clementina Sobieska, granddaughter of John III Sobieski, a great Polish king (defeated the Turks at Vienna, 1683)

JAN MATEJKO (1838-1893) : 

JAN MATEJKO (1838-1893) Matejko’s self-portrait, painted just before his death, 1892;

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-the most famous painter of Polish military and political events; -author of oil canvases depicting momentous battles and historic court scenes and a gallery of all Polish kings (11th-18th c.); recognized world-wide as one of the most outstanding representatives of historical painting in Europe; - his paintings appealed very strongly to the sense of Polish identity and patriotism and were meant as a history lesson for some Polish magnates who betrayed the Polish cause, and as a powerful expression of Poland’s past magnificence and glory for Poles in their heroic struggle for independence.

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SOME OF MATEJKO’S PAINTINGS BATTLE OF GRUNWALD (1410) - Polish and Lithuanian victory over the previously invincible Teutonic knights

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PRUSSIAN HOMAGE (1525) – The Prussian (German) king pays homage to the Polish king, Sigismund I the Old

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REYTAN (1773) – Reytan, a Polish patriot, is trying to prevent the proclamation of the first partition of Poland by tearing open his shirt, throwing himself on the floor and preventing the other MPs from entering the chamber

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JESTER – the royal jester, man of great intelligence and political insight, concerned and reflective on hearing about a loss of Smoleńsk, eastern province of Poland (16th c).

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-virtuoso pianist and one of the master composers of Romantic music; -a child-prodigy pianist, born near Warsaw (to his French-born polonised father, who had fought in a Polish uprising, and his Polish mother), -one of the expatriates of the Great Polish Emigration in Paris (left Poland just before the outbreak of the November Uprising, 1830, due to ill health – pulmonary tuberculosis, carrying a silver cup with soil of the native land); -an ardent patriot, ‘more Polish than Poland’ (George Sand, Chopin’s French friend), was never able to return to Poland; -his love of Poland, best memories and outcries of his tormented heart speak through his music - grand and poignant, distinctly original and deeply moving, striking with its outstanding melodic and harmonic invention, incredible piano technique and, most of all, unique spirit of Polishness preserved in his brilliant stylizations of Polish folk and national melodies and rhythms.

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‘cannon concealed among blossoms’ (Robert Schumann about Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude) ‘Chopin was a genius of universal appeal. His music conquers the most diverse audiences. When the first notes of Chopin sound through the concert hall there is a happy sigh of recognition. All over the world men and women know his music. They love it. They are moved by it. Yet it is not "Romantic music" in the Byronic sense. It does not tell stories or paint pictures. It is expressive and personal, but still a pure art. Even in this abstract atomic age, where emotion is not fashionable, Chopin endures. His music is the universal language of human communication. When I play Chopin I know I speak directly to the hearts of people!’ Artur Rubinstein (Polish world famous pianist) about Chopin's music

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The International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition (since 1927, Warsaw) – one of the most prestigious cultural events in the world Selected Chopin’s works: 16 Polonaises – based loosely on the Polish national dance Polonais – composed by Chopin in order to celebrate Polish culture after the country had fallen into Russian control; Mazurkas – based on the Polish traditional dance, mazur; Krakowiak – based on the Polish traditional dance, krakowiak; Etudes; Waltzes; Sonatas; Scherzi, Preludes; Ballads; 2 piano concerti (F-minor and E-minor) Funeral march; Nocturns, Songs to Polish poetry. The only photograph of Chopin, taken just before his death, 1849.

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2010 - 200th anniversary of Frederick Chopin’s birth – bicentennial celebrations in Poland; 16th International Frederic Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw.

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POLISH NATIONAL DANCES -Traditional Polish ‘walking’ dance (alla polacca); -stately processional dance, performed by couples who walk around the dance hall; the music is in triple meter and moderate tempo; -originally developed as a folk dance, soon adopted by the Polish nobility (17th c.); -‘the most highbred expression of the Polish national spirit and the most representative of Polish dances throughout Europe.’ New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians -first dance at formal balls, the most dignified of Polish dances; -symbol of Polishness carried to an unrivalled perfection by Frederic Chopin, and symbol of the Polish gentry in the world’s music (e.g. in Russian or American works); Characteristic rhythm of Polonaise

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-today danced in national costumes of the 17th c. (the kontusz jackets) or the Napoleonic period (early 19th c.- empire dresses, cavalry uniforms, often with weapon), and performed traditionally by secondary school students a 100 days before their final examinations at the prom party (in evening dresses and men’s evening wear);

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