Władysław Szpilman

Posted on 21. May, 2012 by in Culture, Famous people, History, Literature, Movies, music

A lot of you probably have seen the movie or read the book “The Pianist”.

Named one of the Best Books of 1999by the Los Angeles Times, The Pianist is a great movie directed by Roman Polański and starring Adrien Brody . The Pianist won the Cannes Film Festival’s most prestigious prize—the Palme d’Or.

On September 23, 1939, Władysław Szpilman played Chopin’s Nocturne in C-sharp minor live on the radio as shells exploded outside—so loudly that he couldn’t hear his piano. It was the last live music broadcast from Warsaw: That day, a German bomb hit the station, and Polish Radio went off the air.

Though he lost his entire family, Szpilman survived in hiding. In the end, his life was saved by a German officer who heard him play the same Chopin Nocturne on a piano found among the rubble. Written immediately after the war and suppressed for decades, The Pianist is a stunning testament to human endurance and the redemptive power of fellow feeling.

Now the widow and son of Władysław Szpilman have taken the author of a book alleging Szpilman collaborated with the Gestapo to court.

Halina Szpilman Grzecznarowska and Andrzej Szpilman want the Warsaw regional court to force an apology from Agata Tuszyńska for the accusations carried in her biography of Wiera Gran, a Jewish singer who knew Szpilman in the Warsaw ghetto.

In Roman Polanski’s 2002 film, based on Szpilman’s own account, the composer survives the liquidation of the ghetto and the war thanks in part to the intervention of a Captain Wilhelm Hosenfeld, a compassionate German army officer appalled by his country’s treatment of the Jews. Despite the dangers the German befriended the starving Szpilman, giving him food, clothes and shelter.

But in her biography, titled “The Accused: Wiera Gran”, the singer alleged Szpilman worked for the Jewish police in the ghetto, helping to organise the transport of thousands of Jews to the Treblinka death camp.

The Szpilmans claim the accusations have tarnished the composer’s name and thus warrant an apology.

“My father was never a policeman in the ghetto,” Andrzej Szpilman told the court. “These fantasies of a sick woman were presented as fact by the media.” Mr Szpilman added that Gran’s accusations may have been born out of a festering jealousy and bitterness she had for his father because she herself had never managed to escape from allegations of collaboration.

Such was the strength of the allegations that Gran was forced to leave Israel, where she had moved after the war, and settle in France. While the smear of collaborator haunted Gran till her death in 2007, Szpilman enjoyed a successful musical career in post-war Poland, and in 1998, just two years before his death, his account of his remarkable survival, also called The Pianist, brought him international recognition.

The Szpilmans’ lawyers also produced documents showing that the name of  Władysław Szpilman was never recorded as a ghetto policeman, and that no ghetto survivors other than Gran ever accused him of collaboration.

But the author has stood by her book.

“I wrote about Gran and quoted her on what she had to say about Szpilman,” said Ms Tuszyńska. “Should I have changed what she said? I was not in the ghetto where everything happened and nor was Andrzej Szpilman.” She added that her book explained that there was never any evidence to support the accusations, and that when she made them Gran was an old and frail woman.

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)

Fasolka po bretońsku

Posted on 19. May, 2012 by in cooking, food

Although this recipe is not actually a Polish one, it  is an extremely popular dish in Poland. Also, typical non-polish version have different ingredients.

Ingredients:

2 cups white, dry kidney beans

1 large onion, diced

1 garlic cloves (minced)

3,4 peeled and chopped tomatoes (can of minced tomatoes is optional)

2 medium sausages

1 cup smoked bacon (cut into ½ inch to 1 inch strips)

1 tsp sugar (optional)

Thyme, paprika, salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Clean the beans. Place in pot and add 3 times more water than beans. Cover and let stand at least one hour or overnight. Boil for about an hour in the same water.

In separate pot, caramelize the onion and sausages along with the bacon. Add tomatoes, garlic, sugar (optional) and all seasonings. Cook for about 15 minutes to blend the flavors.

Mix everything with the beans. Allow to cook for another few minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

Smacznego!

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)

Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie – 150 lat!

Posted on 17. May, 2012 by in Arts, Calendar, Culture, Current News, History

The National Museum in Warsaw (Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie) starts celebrating its 150th anniversary this May. The anniversary celebrations begin May 17-20 with the reopening of refurbished interiors, a new exhibition (nowa wystawa), concerts (koncerty), movie screenings (pokazy filmowe) and a family picnic (piknik rodzinny). Anniversary-linked events will continue for 12 months.

One of the oldest art museums in Poland, The National Museum in Warsaw, was established in 1862 as the Museum of Fine Arts. After Poland regained independence in 1918, the new country and its capital, Warsaw, had big plans for the National Museum. The modernist building which at present houses the museum on Jerozolimskie Avenue was built in 1927-1938, designed by Tadeusz Tołwiński and Antoni Dygat.

During World War II German bombs fell on the museum and part of its collection was destroyed, but most of it survived owing to determined efforts by the museum staff. Their silent struggle against the Nazis continued even after the museum was given the German name of Museum der Stadt Warschau. The staff meticulously documented items which were being shipped away to the Reich, making sure that once the war was over, they could be retrieved.

The museum returned to Polish hands on May 7, 1945, and regained its Polish name. Two campaigns were then launched to rebuild the damaged collections. The museum managed to regain items plundered by the Nazis. As a result of the other campaign, aimed at enlarging the collections, within ten years the museum housed four times more items than it had before World War II. At present, The National Museum in Warsaw collections comprise around 830,000 works of art from Poland and abroad, dating from ancient times to the 21st century. They include paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, coins, applied art and industrial design.

The National Museum in Warsaw has four branches, including two in Warsaw: The Wilanów Poster Museum and The Xawery Dunikowski Museum of Sculpture in the Królikarnia Palace. The other two are The Museum of Interiors in Otwock Wielki, 30 km southeast of Warsaw, and The Museum in Nieborów and Arkadia, Łowicz county, 50 km west of Warsaw.

The National Museum in Warsaw is going through an unprecedented makeover which involves a general overhaul of the interiors and rearrangements and relocation of the museum’s permanent galleries. As part of the project, it will publish state-of-the-art multimedia guides in two languages and set up an open WiFi network on the premises.

The refurbishment project will also cover the building’s courtyards and the museum will open a new cafeteria and have its screening room renovated. The room will also serve as a venue for meetings with artists.

The museum aims to establish a visitor-friendly educational space with a number of attractions for children. It also wants to highlight its significance as a Polish and European center of culture where both individuals and families with children can spend quality time.

The first rearranged galleries will be unveiled to the public May 18, 10 a.m. They are The Gallery of Early European Painting, The Gallery of Early Polish and European Portraits and The Gallery of 19th-Century Art. The latter primarily comprises works by Polish painters and sculptors, shown alongside a selection of works by artists of other nationalities.

The Gallery of Medieval Art and The Gallery of 20th and 21st-Century Art will be reopened in the latter half of this year, while at the beginning of next year, the museum will complete work on The Gallery of Ancient Art, The Faras Gallery and exhibitions of handicrafts, coins and photographs.

Together, the new museum galleries will aim to paint a picture of the shared legacy of European civilization, but will also highlight the differences between individual regions and time periods. The result will be a narrative of the art of Poland, Europe and the world.

Do następnego razu… (Till next time…)