Passing on history to young Poles through music


Poland's Solidarity trade union movement and the early anti-communist movement have a lasting place in the memory of many Poles. But the way in which workers' protests or the birth of Solidarity, are celebrated, is changing. The anniversaries are no longer limited to speeches and religious services - instead rock stars are in on the act. Two Pink Floyd members Roger Waters and David Gilmour have performed in cities closely associated with Poland's struggle to shake off communism. More from Michal Zajac:

The mid-western city of Poznan hosted the world premiere of the opera Ca Ira by Pink Floyd ex-front man Roger Waters. The performance directed by Janusz Jozefowicz and played by almost 4 hundred artists in front of 14 thousand spectators was a commemoration of the anniversary of a workers' revolt against the communist authorities in Poznan in 1956, in which more than 70 people were killed. For Roger Waters the selection of Poznan as the venue for the premiere of his opera seemed an obvious choice.

"Janusz Jozefowicz, Marek Szpendowski and Poznan mayor came to me after my concert in Rome last year. Janusz explained what he wanted to do with the play and I said 'Yes'. Being accepted for what I did by Poznan is a great feeling."

Ca Ira is originally about the French revolution. One might ask: in what way is it related to the bloody developments in Poznan in June 1956 or to Solidarity? In fact, this anti-communist movement is referred to by many as a self-limiting revolution. Marek Szpendowski, head of the Viva Art Agency - organiser of the event, explains that the version prepared by renowned Polish director Janusz Jozefowicz extends to other upheavals and struggle for freedom.

"The play is about French revolution - this is what the libretto says. But the director tries to build bridges between the French Revolution and all revolutions we've had over the 20th and 21st centuries. We are talking about freedom, what it really means because not for everyone freedom is the same."

Another member of the legendary Pink Floyd - David Gilmour, in turn, gave a concert at the shipyard in Gdansk, the cradle of Solidarity. This was just one of the events organised in this northern Polish city to commemorate the anniversary of the birth of this anti-communist trade union movement. Prominent music critic Roman Rogowiecki points out that the artists themselves showed a deep understanding of Polish history.

"Both performances had political dimension, both artists are well aware of what is happening in the world. Roger Waters paid tribute to the events in Poznan of 1956, while David Gilmour chose the cradle of Solidarity, Gdansk, for the venue of his concert."

More and more often cultural events are being included into the celebrations of anniversaries of historic moments in Poland, which is viewed as a great opportunity to pass on knowledge of the past to the young generation or those less interested in history.