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Sunday, 20 February 2000

Meeting with men of letters and culture

Poland`s cultural life was exceptional last year, said President of the Republic of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski, who together with his Spouse met representatives of the world of culture on February 28th, 2000, at the Presidential Palace. "The phenomenon of the end-century did not have much of an effect upon cultural events, as cultural life was thriving on events of the highest rank. It is also gratifying that cultural events were noticed, appreciated and many a time enthusiastically acclaimed by millions of fellow Poles. This gives a lie to the myth that what is popular must be devoid of high-flown values. The Polish culture, so modestly endowned, proved once again its vitality, and I do not hesitate to say, its patriotic value for Poles. We have understood better than ever before that Poles feel fully gratified when they can boast of domestic cultural events to the world. I can state that last year Polish creators were lavishly feeding the national pride. Nobility commands. This principle stays unchanged in Polish culture. And it is exactly for that I would like to sincerely thank all of you, gathered here. We recall the past year in the feeling of fully justified satisfaction. Saying that, I also remember those men of culture who are not with us any more for various reasons. Since our last year`s meeting many of them passed away forever. No more of Wladyslaw Hasior, Jan Lebenstein, Stanislaw Hadyna, Wladyslaw Terlecki, Jerzy Harasimowicz, Juliusz Zulawski, Juliusz Berger, Stanislaw Szymanski, Jerzy Zitzman, Ludwik Rene, Tadeusz Kaczynski and Jerzy Waldorff. The Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Andrzej Zakrzewski, a man who held the post too short to realise all the hopes placed by men of letters and culture in his programme passed away at the beginning of this year. Yesterday, we heard of the death of outstanding Polish singer Andrzej Hiolski. If we wanted to point out the accents dominating in Poland`s cultural life last year, then, perhaps, we should point up unexpectedly, but in accord with our national character, the word - tradition. Works known for generations turned out the largest success last year. They were relived anew, read out anew and presented in a masterly way. The spontaneous attendance at cinemas for the two famous films based on the classical works of Polish literature: "Pan Tadeusz" and "Ogniem i Mieczem" (By Fire and Sword) is a characteristic triumph for the classics of literature and cinema: Mickiewicz and Wajda, Sienkiewicz and Hoffman. The phenomenon of the triumph of the 19th century contents, handed over by the 20th century creators to the 21st century generation, was often debated last year. This joyous event to me and a stunning effect of success of classical works by domestic creators to many others was no surprise, as the treasury of Polish culture was full of contents so dear to us. In a masterly rendition, old works of art keep on moving our hearts and minds, fascinating even the youngest. And this means that the way was found to how to pass effectively traditional values on to young people, who are looking to the future. We have talked of this issue many a time. The possibilities are offered by modern mass comunication media. They lie in meeting half way the new aesthetic sensibility that shaped up under their influence. And thus we have got evidence that the power which can effectively buttress our culture in its attempts at providing answers to the disturbing challenges of our century is inherent just in these instruments. All of us owe gratitude to Andrzej Wajda and Jerzy Hoffman for proving this important truth. The celebrations of important anniversaries last year also served to remind of and bring the traditional values closer to us. The century and a half that have passed since the death of Fryderyk Chopin and Juliusz Slowacki gave us an opportunity to recall them and their works in the context of the unity of Polish and European culture. The Chopin Year and the Slowacki Year were jointly celebrated by the countries in which the artists left their creative imprint: Poland, France, Switzerland, Lithuania and Ukraine. In both cases, these anniversary celebrations showed us an unprecedented quality of language: universality. Agreement and rapprochement of people engrossed in reading the same poetry and listening with all ears to the same music are easier to come by. This truth was told to us by Slowacki, who after one hundred and fifty years again reminded Poles, Lithuanians and Ukrainians of the multi-national aspirations of his works. Chopin has traditionally united international throngs of listeners and researchers of his music, from Warsaw and Paris to the most distant corners of the world. His music, performed by the greatest artists, has resounded all over the world, bringing glory to the composer and Poland. After years of absence, this music gave us Krystian Zimerman, one of the most outstanding pianists of our times. His performances and the concerts by his Polska Orkiestra Festiwalowa were great events, indeed. To continue the motive of the unassailable position of Polish culture in the world heritage, it is noteworthy to mention a couple of assorted events, which show how much room is in the world culture for the promotion of our talents and country. We have world-renowned celebrities in each domain of culture. In one year, the famous "Oscars" went to two Poles: Janusz Kaminski and Andrzej Wajda. The French Academy admitted Roman Polanski to its immortal midst. World prestigious prizes of both hemispheres went to Krzysztof Penderecki. Venice witnessed the triumph of Katarzyna Kozyra. Krzysztof Lupa enchanted Paris. Ryszard Kapuscinski, widely read and awarded in the world, was declared the "Journalist of the Century". Tadeusz Rozewicz scored successes in Poland and at the International Book Fair in Jerusalem. The exhibition, "Books from Poland" presented there, was accompanied by an important cultural-political event - the opening of a Polish Culture Chair at the Hebrew University. International successes of Polish contemporary artists have struck a chord with the interest enjoyed in the world by exhibitions of Polish artistic achievements. The exposition of the painting "Bitwa pod Grunwaldem" (Battle of Tannenberg) by Jan Matejko held in Lithuania drew throngs of Lithuanians. The exhibition of "The Country of Winged Riders. The Polish Arts 1572-1764," presenting the old-Polish culture in five American cities, was quite a hit with the public. By coincidence, the exhibition was moved to Baltimore at a time when the NATO jubilee session was in full-swing there, a session in which Poland took part for the first time as a full-blown member. Multifarious events to prepare the grand cultural event, "Cracow Festival 2000," also provided grounds to present our accomplishments to the world. Poland`s old capital city, declared at the turn of the millennia by UNESCO as one of the nine cultural capitals of Europe, assumed readily and with pride the part of the ambassador of Polish culture. The presence of our culture in the world is a consequence of the existence of an authentic and creative cultural life in our country. It is just here where Polish books are written, films shot, spectacles staged, compositions written, paintings painted and sculptures sculpted. The past year, like previous ones, corroborated the high condition of acclaimed and outstanding artists, such for instance as Olga Tokarczuk in literature, Leon Tarasewicz in painting, Jerzy Jarocki in theatre, or Ewa Michnik in opera. I will also thank for excellent and famous works of art to Stefan Chwin, Krzysztof Krauze, Pawel Mykietyn, Dorota Terakowska, Agnieszka Glinska, Kaya, Wojciech Kepczynski, Tomasz Gudzowaty. We are happy and proud that it`s just Polish culture to be today the most conspicuous, the most appreciated and sought-after trademark of the Republic of Poland". February 20th, 2000 Wife of the President of the Republic of Poland Jolanta Kwasniewska with actor Janusz Gajos (left) and director Krzysztof Krauze.
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