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Society & Culture
History
Documentary

Stories From The Eastern West

Updated about 1 month ago

Society & Culture
History
Documentary
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Little-known histories from Central & Eastern Europe that changed our world...Heard of how The Rolling Stones played for the Communist Party? The bear who fought in WWII? Or the man who single-handedly created an entire language? Each episode of our narrative podcast tells incredible stories that all have one thing in common: the Eastern West.#SFTEW

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Little-known histories from Central & Eastern Europe that changed our world...Heard of how The Rolling Stones played for the Communist Party? The bear who fought in WWII? Or the man who single-handedly created an entire language? Each episode of our narrative podcast tells incredible stories that all have one thing in common: the Eastern West.#SFTEW

iTunes Ratings

22 Ratings
Average Ratings
22
0
0
0
0

Love this podcast!

By sthubert - Feb 23 2020
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Really enjoy each episode.

Great podcast

By jsdckjsdcn - Aug 31 2017
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An informative and entertaining podcast!

iTunes Ratings

22 Ratings
Average Ratings
22
0
0
0
0

Love this podcast!

By sthubert - Feb 23 2020
Read more
Really enjoy each episode.

Great podcast

By jsdckjsdcn - Aug 31 2017
Read more
An informative and entertaining podcast!
Cover image of Stories From The Eastern West

Stories From The Eastern West

Latest release on Nov 01, 2019

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Little-known histories from Central & Eastern Europe that changed our world...Heard of how The Rolling Stones played for the Communist Party? The bear who fought in WWII? Or the man who single-handedly created an entire language? Each episode of our narrative podcast tells incredible stories that all have one thing in common: the Eastern West.#SFTEW

Rank #1: TRANSMUTATION

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Alchemy – the supposed ancient art of turning everyday objects into gold – is widely believed to be obsolete. Interestingly, however, every bit of this notion is wrong.

First of all, as it turns out, alchemy is still being practised today and, according to one of our guests, is doing better than ever. And second of all, it apparently was never actually an art of the physical transmutation of objects, but a very profound blend of philosophy, chemistry, physics and religion.

Join us on SFTEW as we travel back to the Middle Ages and meet Michael Sendivogius, an alchemist who contributed to the discovery of something absolutely essential...

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Time stamps

[01:10] A transmutation in Emperor Rudolph’s court[03:37] Why were alchemists sought after? [04:43] What actually happened at the Emperor’s court?[06:39] What was alchemy really all about?[08:42] Were alchemists nothing more than a bunch of fraudsters?[10:53] Alchemical code[12:51] ‘There’s a secret substance in the air’[13:47] How Sendivogius came to his startling discovery [17:29] Alchemy is not dead[21:07] Credits

Further watching

Zbigniew Andrew Szydlo’s latest Ted Talks Appearance / on YouTube.com

Zbigniew Andrew Szydlo sets things on fire / on YouTube.com

Further reading

How to turn things into gold / on scientificamerican.com (the thing we promised in the podcast!)

The Origins of Alchemy & The Pole who Played with Oxygen / on Culture.pl

Who Was Michael Sendivogius? Biography Of An Alchemist / on Culture.pl

Water Which Does Not Wet Hands / a book by Dr Szydlo on Sendivogius and Mediaeval alchemy, on Amazon.com

Thanks

Zbigniew Andrew Szydlo / for revealing all the secrets of transmutation and alchemy to Adam, our editor and host. Dr Szydlo is an acknowledged chemist, educator and a great performer with a mission of presenting experiments outside of the classroom.

Mark Stavish / for talking with us about the state of alchemy today. Mark is the director for the Institute for Hermetic Studies in Pennsylvania and a life-long student of esotericism with over 25 years experience in comparative religion, philosophy, psychology, and mysticism with emphasis on Traditional Western Esotericism.

Rafał T. Prinke / for explaining how close Sendivogius really was to the world of science. Dr Prinke is a historian specialising in astrology, esotericism and ancient games. John Beauchamp / for his Sendivogius impersonation. John is a seasoned radio journalist, currently working on Unseen Warsaw, a series of soundwalks located in Warsaw.Credits

Written & produced by Elizabeth Lawrence & Wojciech OleksiakEdited by Adam ŻuławskiScoring & sound design by Wojciech OleksiakHosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam ŻuławskiResearch by Monika Proba

Jan 31 2019

22mins

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Rank #2: BABY

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Delve into the fascinating background of classic horror film Rosemary’s Baby and learn how it was made.

In 1968, Rosemary’s Baby debuted in theaters and terrified unsuspecting audiences. The film was a box-office success and was widely acclaimed for its dark plot and disturbing realism. Moreover, many of the controversial issues it grappled with, such as Satanism and pregnancy, quickly made it one of the most iconic films of its generation. But in the aftermath of the film’s release, this story of success quickly becomes one of tragedy and mystery.

In this episode, we present the story of an innovative film that completely changed Hollywood and our understanding of how films should be made. You’ll learn about the origins of the film and how a little known director revolutionized Hollywood. We’ll discuss why this film was so unique in terms of style and aesthetic. Finally, we’ll look into the mysteries surrounding the film and the so-called curse of Rosemary’s Baby.

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Time stamps [02:33] Our guest and film expert Michał Oleszczyk paints the scene [04:27] Why was a little known European director chosen to direct an adaptation of the best selling novel? [08:55] What makes the film stand out? [14:31] Why there are hardly any special effects in Rosemary’s Baby? [16:39] How does the film comment on the current issues of its time? [19:10] Why’s the movie rumored to be cursed? [23:16] Did Rosemary’s Baby changed the horror genre? Further reading Thanks

Michał Oleszczyk / for inviting us to Collegium Artes Liberales and telling us everything we wanted to know about Rosemary's Baby but were afraid to ask. Michał is a film critic, University professor, and programmer. Following Michał's social media profiles is definitely a good idea. For English follow twitter/michaloleszczyk and we recommend following his facebook.com/michal.oleszczyk for Polish speaking audience. 

SFTEW Team: Wojciech Oleksiak, Adam Zulawski, Nitzan Reisner, John Beauchamp & Michael Keller

Oct 25 2017

28mins

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Rank #3: CRACKED

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Finland + technology = Nokia, doesn’t it? Yes, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Finland is responsible for many technological breakthroughs from the last couple decades, such as the SSH cybersecurity protocol used on over half of the world’s web servers, and Internet Relay Chat, which people born in the 1980s will remember as the first instant messenger.

But back in the early 1990s, Finland’s tech scene was mostly just a lot of teenagers pirating software illegally. They would code at squat parties filled with cigarette smoke. None of the glossy corporate world that lay ahead was on anybody’s mind.

In this episode, Molly Schwartz, who lived there for almost two years, goes on a journey to the roots of Finland’s tech transformation. She dives deep into 8-bit music, pixelated computer screens and the days when games were distributed on C-cassettes. Just how did this small, cold, dark and sparsely-populated country become an IT powerhouse?

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Time stamps

[02:26] Wili Miettinen runs away from home and starts coding and… pirating[03:58] What were the beginnings of the Demoscene? [06:45] Demoparties![08:28] Why was it so difficult to create demos back in the early 1990s?[09:39] Demosceners start using their skills to make money...[12:28] … and serious business players take notice[14:40] Introducing Taneli Tikka[17:40] Taneli Tikka invents proto-Twitter[19:28] The demoscenes’ impact on the startup scene[23:02] Molly’s final monologue[24:45] Credits & thanks

Further watching Further reading Thanks
  • Wili Miettinen / for telling us about his personal experiences throughout his long career and how the tech industry grew out of squats and parties. You can find him on Twitter (where his username is, of course, OG): @wili
  • Taneli Tikka / for talking to us about his experiences at Assembly as a teenager and how his forays into inventing social media. You can also find Taneli on Twitter: @tanelitikka
  • Molly would also like to thank all the people who helped her along the way. Her special thanks go to Jussi-Pekka Harviainen, Pekka Aakko, Marko Reunanen and Jukka Kauppinen.

Credits

Written & produced by Molly SchwartzEdited by Adam Żuławski & Wojciech OleksiakScoring & sound design by Wojciech OleksiakHosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Żuławski

Feb 28 2019

26mins

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Rank #4: CLIMB

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Discover the relentless climber who changed the world's deadliest sport...

In the early 1960s, a woman decided that the way men were dominating the world of mountain climbing didn’t make any sense. She went on to defy the whole community and became an icon, a trail-blazer who energised the whole community of female climbers and proved that women are capable of being self-sufficient, excellent climbers.   Her name was Wanda Rutkiewicz and to date, she is one of the most memorable female climbers, the first European to climb Mount Everest, the first woman ever to climb K2, and the only female climber of her time who could challenge men and prove to them women were equal.   However, underneath all this success there was loneliness, dejection, and desperate efforts to build a normal life outside of 8000-metre-high peaks…   Like our show? Sign up for our newsletter! Time stamps [02:06] A handful of facts before we go [06:56] Wanda’s first Himalayan Experiences [12:10] Mount Everest, K2 and other achievements [19:53] The Caravan of Dreams [23:40] The Decline and Kanchenjunga [29:10] But what is it that makes people climb? Further reading Further watching
  • Art of Freedom / an Adam Mickiewicz Institute documentary about Wanda and other exceptional Polish climbers of the Himalayas
  • Jennifer Jordan: Women of K2 / a WGBH Forum lecture about the first female climbers of K2
Thanks

Bernadette McDonald / for sharing with us her memories of Wanda as well as opinions of other climbers that she gathered during the writing of her book Freedom Climbers. Bernadette is a Canadian-born author of several non-fiction books, primarily on mountain culture topics, including Brotherhood of the Rope, Tomaž Humar, and Freedom Climbers. Her most recent book Art Of Freedom, tells the story of another outstanding Polish climber: Voytek (Wojtek) Kurtyka

Piotr Pustelnik / for taking time out of his busy day and sharing with us his views on Wanda and mountain climbing in general. Piotr is a legendary climber, and one of the few people who has successfully climbed all fourteen of the eight-thousanders. He recently released his autobiography: Ja, Pustelnik.

Samuel Crowin / for putting his field recordings on the Internet and available under a creative commons license. Samuel travelled from the south of India to Nepal and back again in the winter and spring of 2015 and recorded hours of genuine music and ambiances. Thanks to his generous approach we were able to present you the most realistic local music you can get.

SFTEW Team: Wojciech Oleksiak, Adam Zulawski, Grażyna Soczewka & Michael Keller

Jan 31 2018

34mins

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Rank #5: PALACE II

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Learn how a strange unwanted building became a lasting symbol of a capital city.

In the first of our two-part series on Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science, our hosts discussed the post-war rebuilding of the savagely-destroyed Warsaw and the controversial origins of the palace’s construction.

In the concluding part of our series, our hosts dive deeper into the palace’s corridors and explore the massive impact it has had on Warsaw. For example, after initial deliberation, what was the palace actually used for? What did people think of this palace shortly after its creation?  What do they think about it now? Above all, how has this palace, despite the controversy surrounding it, become a cultural icon for the city?

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Time stamps

[00:37] Brief recap of our last episode, about post-war Warsaw and the palace’s construction. [03:39] A guided audio tour through the palace itself. [11:20] What did Polish people think about the palace? [13:37] Why did people write letters to the palace and what did they write about? [18:00] How did the palace become the focal point of public debate after the fall of communism? [23:00] How has the palace come to be a lasting symbol of Warsaw?

Further reading Thanks

Michał Murawski / for generously devoting his lunchtime to telling us about the social life of the palace. Michał is architecture and city anthropologist based at the Department of Russian, Queen Mary’s, University of London.

Maria Wojtysiak / for telling us about her childhood ties with the palace, and explaining why she decided to fight to put it on the list of Poland’s Objects of Cultural Heritage. Maria is a renowned architect and a member of numerous organisations that aim to preserve Warsaw’s historical buildings.

Czesław Bielecki / for sharing his ideas about turning the palace into a museum about communism. Czesław is an architect and political activist, a former political prisoner of the communist state, and a democratic dissident.

Createtours / for kindly giving us an in-depth tour of the palace and telling us all their entertaining stories about it.

The America Programme at the Adam Mickiewicz Institute / for inviting us to their conference about the palace and making the interview with Michał Murawski possible.

SFTEW Team: Wojciech Oleksiak, Adam Zulawski, Lea Berriault, John Beauchamp, Nitzan Reisner & Michael Keller

Oct 11 2017

27mins

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Rank #6: EXPERIMENTAL

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Discover the Iron Curtain's unlikeliest music haven and the people who made it happen.

In 1957, the Polish Radio Experimental Studio (PRES) first opened its doors in Warsaw, and would very soon become an important European centre for the creation of exciting and original electro-acoustic music. But how did such a place even come to be built in Poland, just a few years after the death of Stalin and the severe artistic restrictions of Social Realism?

In this episode, you will find out what exactly went on inside the strange electronic depths of the PRES, and how through the efforts of its first director, Józef Patkowski, the studio became a 'window to the world', hosting the best composers from both the Eastern Bloc and the West. You'll also hear the remarkable story of Eugeniusz Rudnik, a technician from a small Polish village, who after spending countless hours helping out others with tape machines and signal generators found unexpected success and recognition.

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Further listening Further reading Further watching Thanks

Antoni Beksiak / for kindly initiating us into the technological and musical history of the studio. Antoni is a music critic, musician and festival curator (Turning Sounds et al.). He leads the bands Niewte and Gęba. 

Łukasz Strusiński / for inviting us to the International PRES Conference in Łódź (October 2017) and helping us navigate this topic. Łukasz is a classical music expert and part of the Master Project team at the Adam Mickiewicz Institute.

Agnieszka Pindera / for sharing her knowledge about the studio and those closely involved with it, including Józef Patkowski, Eugeniusz Rudnik and Władysław Sokorski. Agnieszka is a curator at Muzeum Sztuki in Łodź and organiser of the International PRES Conference held at the museum in 2017.

Paweł Nowożycki / for talking to us about the iconic Black Room at PRES and its planned re-construction at the new Museum of Modern Art (MSN) building in Warsaw. Paweł is a curator at MSN and head of the PRES reconstruction project.

David Crowley / for shedding light on the historical and artistic background of the studio as a place of creative openness behind the Iron Curtain and its important links with Western studios and composers. David Crowley is the Head of the School of Visual Culture at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin.

SFTEW Team: Wojciech Oleksiak, Adam Zulawski, John Beauchamp, Nitzan Reisner & Piotr Wołodźko

Dec 07 2017

28mins

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Rank #7: HUNT

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During WWII, the Third Reich had a systematic policy of plundering artwork from countries they invaded. In occupied Poland, this took place on a massive scale. Over half a million individual works of art were taken over the course of the war, including countless national treasures.

But while some of these works of art were destined for the walls of high-ranking Nazi party officials and the planned Führermuseum, others were marked for destruction. In fact, there was one particular painting that the Germans were really keen to get rid of.

‘The Battle of Grunwald’ was painted by Jan Matejko in the late 19th century and portrayed a battle that had happened over 500 years ago, so why did the Third Reich want it gone so badly? And just how would it avoid being captured seeing as it was 10-metres long and weighed nearly a tonne?

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Time stamps

[00:58] How big is this painting then? [03:00] The evacuation begins [04:43] What makes this painting so wanted? [07:32] The journey continues and tragedy strikes [10:19] Time to hide this enormity somewhere safe... [14:48] ...with the hunt at its peak [16:09] The Germans are gone. What next? [18:20] Where is the painting today and is it worth seeing? [20:10] Credits

Further watching / listening Further reading Thanks

Prof. Maria Poprzęcka / for talking to us about the history of the painting and its incredible war-time adventures. Poprzęcka is a professor of Art History at the University of Warsaw and presents an art history show on Polish Radio.

Piotr Lisowski / for talking to us about the painting and its restoration, and sharing with us its many secrets. Lisowski is a paintings conservator at the National Museum in Warsaw.

The National Museum in Warsaw / for their assistance.

John Beauchamp / for becoming Piotr Lisowski's English voice. John is a seasoned radio journalist, currently working on Unseen Warsaw, a series of soundwalks located in Warsaw. 

Grażyna Soczewka / for becoming the voice of Maria Poprzęcka. Grażyna is head of the Artists & Works section at Culture.pl and is our go-to voice for many of our videos.

Credits
  • Written & produced by Piotr Wołodźko

  • Edited by Adam Żuławski

  • Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak

  • Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Żuławski

Feb 14 2019

21mins

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Rank #8: NUCLEAR

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Discover how Joseph Rotblat went from creating nuclear bombs to winning the Nobel Peace prize.

The American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is generally considered to be one of the most, if not the most, important events of the 20th Century. It succeeded in bringing about Japanese capitulation and the end of the Second World War, but, at the same time, marked the advent of nuclear weapons. For the first time in history, civilizations could be completely wiped off the map with the push of a button. For most, this was a terrifying prospect. For a man Józef Rotblat, it was a call to action.

In this episode, our hosts will tell you the remarkable story of Józef Rotblat, a nuclear physicist and peace activist. We’ll discuss the suffering he endured in his early life and how this shaped his worldview. We’ll talk about his time at the Manhattan Project and his motivations for leaving. We’ll also dedicate a significant portion of the episode to talking about Rotblat’s lifelong activism and his enduring legacy.

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Time stamps [02:00] Joseph Rotblat’s difficult youth [05:30] Rotblat’s involvement in the Project Manhattan [10:05] Is it even possible to leave a super secret military project? [12:00] How Hiroshima and Nagasaki made Rotblat become a vocal peace activist [16:50] What led to the founding of the Pugwash Conferences? [19:20] Noble Prize for Rotblat and Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs [21:00] Should scientists take a Hippocratic Oath of some sort? [24:20] Rotblat’s legacy and contribution to anti-nuclear movement Further reading Thanks

Dr. Martin Sherwin / for being so kind and allowing us to interview him during his sabbatical. Martin Sherwin is an American historian. His scholarship mostly concerns the history of the development of atomic energy and nuclear proliferation.

SFTEW Team: Wojciech Oleksiak, Adam Zulawski, Lea Berriault, John Beauchamp, Nitzan Reisner & Michael Keller

Oct 18 2017

28mins

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Rank #9: SHOETOPIA

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The Czech shoe-maker Tomáš Bat'a was a visionary. A deep believer in capitalism, he dreamt up a unique functionalist city and started building it around his factories in the small town of Zlin. It became more succesful than he could have imagined. Bat’a moved on to redesigning how his workers engaged in relationships, spent free-time and were educated – the very way they lived. It seemed that before WWII, Zlin was a unique place, a sort of... living UTOPIA!

Our producer Wojciech travelled to Zlin to do a reality check. How was the city doing almost a century after the death of its ‘founder’? Does it still live the utopian dream? What happened to the shoe factories and functionalist twin houses?

This episode is a Stories From The Eastern West co-production with About Building and Cities, a highly-respected podcast about architecture. Follow them on Twitterand Instagram, and consider supporting them via their Patreon.

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Time stamps

[01:07] Early days of the Bat'a Company [02:43] The Bat'a ground rules [06:50] Luke & George from AB+C break down Zlin's utopian architecture [14:02] Almost a hundred years apart, can we still judge the Batian system?  [19:20] Is it possible to export a city? [24:06] Thanks & credits

Further watching

Standing on Solid Ground / a gallery of Zlin’s most interesting sites / on Monocle.com

Further reading

Standing on Solid Ground / on Monocle.com

Designing for Living in Czech Republic / from the New York Times

Tourist map of Zlin / on use-it.travel

Thanks

Mariusz Szczygieł / for writing Gottland, the book that was stuck in our producer’s head for over a decade and inspired the whole journey. He is an highly-renowned journalist and writer.

Vit Jakubicek / for spending many hours with our producer and explaining the Batian system in great detail. Vit is a curator at the Zlin Regional Gallery and a lecturer at Tomas Bata University in Zlin.

Sonya Zhuravlyeva / for sharing her Zlin contacts with us. Sonya wrote an absolutely great article about Zlin for Monocle titled Standing On Solid Ground. She’s a freelance journalist, sub-editor and copywriter based in London.

Pavel Velev / for inviting us to the Bata Foundation villa and kindly devoting to us a good portion of his last day at work before he went on vacation. Pavel is director of the Tomas Bata Foundation.

Dr Zdenek Pokluda / for beautifully telling us the story of Batian business adventures. He is the author of a trilogy about Batian Zlin and a scholar at Tomas Bata University in Zlin.

Milan Balaban / for interpreting our interview with Dr Pokluda. Milan is a scholar at Tomas Bata University as well as a very helpful and kind man.

Lucie Smardova / for warmly inviting us to a local event and later to her home in one of the Bata houses. Lucy is an art historian and activist, she organises events popularising knowledge about Zlin’s original architecture and history. Together with her husband, she runs the Bata Infopoint, a good place to start discovering Zlin’s residential area.

Episode credits
  • Wojciech Oleksiak: script, scoring, sound design, mixing

  • Adam Zulawski: host, editing

  • Nitzan Reisner: host, guidance and protection

  • Luke Jones (AB+C): co-host

  • George Gingell (AB+C): co-host

Nov 22 2018

25mins

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Rank #10: WOJCIECH

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How Polish opposition activists began transmitting their own pirate radio and 'hacked' communist-run state TV. Part of our mini-series The Final Curtain.

Wojciech Stawiszyński was an opposition activist, who suddenly found himself in charge of running Radio Solidarność, a mobile radio station that would be the voice of the pro-democracy Solidarity movement. Their success depended on a sophisticated game of cat and mouse with the authorities, with each broadcast taking place at a new location.

In the darkest period of martial law, they had to resort to incredibly complicated ways of operating, funding, broadcasting and even communicating with each other.

Did they make it through? Did they manage to outmaneuver the communist secret services? What happened when communism was gone? Find out in the latest episode of The Final Curtain.

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Click here to listen to the Polish version of this episode!

Time stamps

[01:08] How Wojciech found himself in charge of the outlawed Radio Solidarność [03:50] How do you reach listeners when the secret police is on your back? [05:55] Radio Solidarność programme content [09:05] Outsmarting the communist regime with technology [14:35] Hardships and low points [16:42] How to live a dangerous dual life [20:36] Adjusting to capitalism after 1989

Further reading Credits

Written & produced by Wojciech Oleksiak Edited by Adam Zulawski Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak Music by Blue Note Sessions Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski

Aug 29 2019

23mins

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Rank #11: MESMERISED

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The story of a man who mesmerised half a continent...

Get it on: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | Google Podcasts | Overcast | RSS | Direct download

In 1989 the Cold War was coming to an end. Soviet Union and the whole Eastern Bloc were crumbling. There was confusion everywhere. One day, state television channel started showing something really strange. A man, looking like Doctor’s Spock muscly brother, was staring at the camera promising to programme people’s brains and free them from all the pain and suffering.

Who was he? Where did he come from? Did his methods have anything to do with medicine or science? Or, was he just another charlatan who profited from people’s insecurities in turbulent times? Listen to MESMERISED, a Stories From The Eastern West episode on the rise and fall of Anatoly Kashpirovsky, a man who mesmerised half a continent.

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You can also follow SFTEW on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.

Further reading Further watching Thanks

Żenia Klimakin / for recounting his meeting with Kashpirovsky from a few years back. Żenia is a journalist at Culture.pl/ru.

Krzysztof Rowiński / for delivering wonderful voice over for Żenia Klimakin to open and close this episode. Krzysztof is a PhD scholar in Comparative Literature at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Maria Litwin / for being resistant to Kashpirowsky's super powers and telling us what she saw, when nobody else was looking.

Polina Justova / for becoming the English voice of Maria Litwin. Polina is an editor for Culture.pl/ru and also works as a literary translator and language teacher.

Jan Morawicki / for helping us build a political perspective on those hectic times. Jan Morawicki was born in Saint Petersburg in Russia. He is a journalist and anthropologist working at the University of Łódź, Poland

Jerzy Oleksiak / for devoting his time to becoming Jan Morawicki’s English doppelganger. Jerzy is a former intern at Culture.pl, but now digs holes in the desert, looking for traces of extraterrestrial presence back in Ancient Egypt.

Romuald Polczyk / for explaining why hypnosis can actually work. Dr Polczyk works at the Institute of Psychology at the Jagiellonian University. He wrote his doctoral thesis on hypnosis.

John Beauchamp / for becoming Kashpirovsky’s dusty English voice. John is a seasoned radio journalist, currently working on Unseen Warsaw, a series of soundwalks located in Warsaw.  

Zuzanna Grębecka / for helping us dig into the meanderings of Soviet pop culture and science. Dr. Grębacka works at the Institute of Polish Culture at the University of Warsaw.

Grażyna Soczewka / for becoming the voice of Zuzanna Grębecka. Grażyna is head of the Artists & Works section at Culture.pl and is our go-to voice for many of our videos. Marcin Kuropatwa / for inviting us into his childhood memories where Kashpirovsky was capable of anything. Marcin Kuropatwa is an ethnographer and a musician, and works for the National Museum of Ethnography in Warsaw.

Credits
  • Written & produced by Monika Proba

  • Edited by Adam Żuławski

  • Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak

  • Hosted by Adam Żuławski, Monika Proba & Nitzan Reisner

Jan 03 2019

27mins

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Rank #12: SUPERSTAR

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In 1863, the 3-year-old Ignacy Jan Paderewski probably wasn’t aware that his fellow Polish countrymen were in the midst of a doomed uprising against the autocratic ruler of his homeland. But he de­finitely knew something was wrong when Russian Tsarist police arrested his father, dragging him away while the young Ignacy tried to stop them.

As a young man, Paderewski was determined to do something about his country's plight. It had been completely wiped off the map almost a century earlier, and as the 19th century came to a close, an independent Poland seemed impossible. Using rifles and sabres to win freedom clearly wasn’t going to be enough. A different kind of weapon had to be found.

For Paderewski, this weapon would be music...

This episode was produced with the help of the National Museum in Warsaw.

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Time stamps

[00:28] The many stories about Paderewski we don't tell  [01:36] Historical Background [03:48] Paderewski chooses music as his weapon of choice... [06:57] ...and becomes a superstar... [11:29] ...only to turn into a politician [15:04] World War I  [21:50] Paderewski puts Poland back on the map... [23:36] ...and returns to music! [25:17] Thanks and credits

Further reading Further watching & listening Thanks

Marek Żebrowski / for sharing with us his extensive expertise on Paderewski, and even playing Paderewski’s pieces for us on the piano. Marek is a concert pianist and composer, as well as director of the Polish Music Center at USC Thornton School of Music. He is also director of the Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles, California,

Adam Zamoyski/ for telling us about how Paderewski rose to become a world-famous pianist and the first prime minister of a newly-independent Poland. He is a London-based historian and best-selling author.

​​​​Nelson Goerner / for agreeing to talk to us about Paderewski as a performer and composer. Nelson is a renowned Argentinian concert pianist. In 2015, he recorded Paderewski’s piano concerto with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra.

The National Museum in Warsaw / our partner for this episode, for their knowledge, support and co-operation, especially Ewa Drygalska & Magdalena Pinker.

Eliza Rose & Nial Morgan / for tape syncing the interview with Marek Żebrowski at his LA home 9 timezones away.

SFTEW team credits
  • Wojciech Oleksiak: editing, scoring, sound design, mixing
  • Piotr Wołodźko: production
  • Nitzan Reisner: host, wind beneath our wings
  • Adam Zulawski: host, script

Nov 09 2018

26mins

Play

Rank #13: NAKED

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The German Democratic Republic was known for being one of the more politically repressive countries in the former Eastern bloc, with its Stasi secret police keeping a firm grip on any form of dissent. But it is also known for its long tradition of nude bathing – known in Germany as Free Body Culture or FKK. In the mid-1950s, this tradition came under threat as the GDR government tried to ban nude bathing completely.

Unexpectedly for a country that had no tolerance for dissent, the East German fans of Free Body Culture fought back…

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Time stamps

[00:19] Imagine it's the middle of summer [02:21] Train across the border [03:43] Meeting Dr Wolle [04:57] A bit of history [06:45] Lake Motzener [08:33] The 1930s & WWII [09:57] The birth of the DDR [12:39] FKK outlawed [15:07] Opening of the floodgates [17:13] Mass popularity [18:07] The Iron Curtain falls [20:00] Free Body Culture survives? [21:35] Conclusion [22:46] Credits

Further watching Further reading Thanks

Dr Stefan Wolle / for sharing with us his knowledge about the origins of Free Body Culture and its popularity in the former East Germany. Dr Wolle is the Head of the Research Department at the DDR Museum in Berlin.

Reinhard Gens / for inviting us to visit the AKK Birkenheide eV: FKK Verein (Birkenheide General Body Culture Association) at Lake Motzener, and for speaking to me about the history of FKK and his own experiences. Reinhard is retired and an FKK enthusiastic since the late 1950s.

Jürgen Krull / for inviting us to his club and talking to me about the history of FKK and Adolf Koch. Jurgen Krull is the President of the Familien-Sport-Verein Adolf Koch e. V. (Adolf Koch Family Sports Association) in Berlin.

Mark / for talking to us about this experiences with FKK. Mark is an FKK enthusiast and member of the Adolf Koch Family Sports Association.

The DDR Museum in Berlin / for their assistance. The DDR Museum is located in Central Berlin and is open 365 days a year.

Colin Delargy & Sabrina Schaffarczyk / for their linguistic assistance and helping Piotr navigate the Berlin FKK scene.

John Beauchamp / for becoming Dr Wolle's English voice. John is a seasoned radio journalist, currently working on Unseen Warsaw, a series of soundwalks located in Warsaw. 

Credits
  • Written, produced & presented by Piotr Wołodźko

  • Edited by Adam Żuławski

  • Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak

  • Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Żuławski

Jan 17 2019

23mins

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Rank #14: ARM

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Hear the pole-vaulter who offended the entire Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow explain himself.

Władysław Kozakiewicz, a pole-vaulter who dominated the event for over a decade, didn’t have much luck during the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. Despite being a strong favourite, he failed to medal, after his foot broke while taking a warm-up jump. Four years later, he was healthy and ready to make up for the Montreal upset – but there were other adversities to overcome.

The Moscow Olympics was overshadowed by a massive boycott – many Western sports powers had pulled out in condemnation of the Soviet-Afghan War. The overall atmosphere was gruesome and to make things even worse, the judges were doing their best to make sure athletes from the Soviet Union won. And then there was the crowd.... easily 70 000 people, booing, jeering and whistling at every non-soviet athlete.

Kozakiewicz felt strong and challenged them in the most provocative way possible. If you want to know how it ended, and how far the repercussions of his daring behaviour went, listen to the ARM, the very first episode of Season II of Stories From The Eastern West!

This episode is a Stories From The Eastern West co-production with WBUR’s Only a Game. Check out their show and episode archive at http://www.wbur.org/onlyagame.

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Time Stamps [00:54] The Black Power protest [02:09] Historical Background [03:10] The strange atmosphere of the Moscow Olympics [05:57] How the competition rolled out [08:37] The arm! [11:24] The aftermath of Kozakiewicz's controversial behaviour [13:52] Kozakiewicz's struggles with the Polish communist authorities [16:30] Thanks & credits Further Reading

Explaining Kozakiewicz’s Gesture: Poland’s Most Scandalous Arm / on Culture.pl

Nie mówcie mi jak mam żyć by Władysław Kozakiewicz / book (in Polish only) on Amazon

Władysław Kozakiewicz - Facts and Figures / on Wikipedia

The 1980 Moscow Olympics Boycott / on Wilsoncenter.org

Why Smith and Carlos Raised Their Fists / from the New York Times

U.S. National Anthem Protests / on Wikipedia

Further Watching

Władysław Kozakiewicz’s winning jump / on YouTube.com

Black Power Salute / Mini documentary / on YouTube.com

Renaud Lavillenie sets the current World Record  / on YouTube.com

Thanks

Władysław Kozakiewicz / for sharing his story with us and giving us a ride from the train station to his home on the edge of a forest. Władysław Kozakiewicz is a legendary pole-vaulter, an Olympic gold medallist and a world record breaker.

Joachim Ciecierski / for becoming Władysław Kozakiewicz’s English voice. Joachim is a long-time journalist at Radio Poland, Poland’s official international broadcasting station.

DJ Spike & Break Da Funk / for allowing us to use Masztalesz, the funky tune playing during the credits and throughout the bonus episode.

Credits

Karen Given (Only a Game): editing

Wojciech Oleksiak: script, scoring, sound design, mixing

Nitzan Reisner: host, one-person pep rally

Adam Zulawski: host, editing

Oct 26 2018

18mins

Play

Rank #15: SIEGBERT

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How an East German cameraman filmed the first major demonstrations in the GDR from the top of a church steeple in Leipzig. A month later, East Germany would effectively cease to exist. Part of our mini-series The Final Curtain.

Siegbert Schefke was officially unemployed after being fired from his job as a building engineer. Unofficially, he began to arrange for diplomats to smuggle videotapes from East Germany to be broadcast on West German TV stations. As it happens, most East Germans could also pick up Western TV on their receivers. Siegbert didn't really know how to use a video camera, but that didn't really matter, what mattered was that the world could see what was really going on behind the Wall.

How did Siegbert and his friend Aram Radomski end up filming the first major protest in the GDR on 9th October 1989?  How did they outfox the Stasi and get the footage to the West? Find out in the newest episode of The Final Curtain.

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Time stamps

[01:08] Born in the GDR [03:50] From part-time revolutionary to full-time revolutionary [06:22] Smuggling videotapes to the West [08:40] Foreign diplomats & secret codes [11:11] The Monday Demonstrations in Leipzig [14:27] Making history [18:22] The day the Berlin Wall fell [21:12] What next?

Further reading Credits

Written & produced by Piotr Wołodźko Edited by Adam Zulawski & Wojciech Oleksiak Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski

Sep 06 2019

24mins

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EWA & LENA

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How a teen's letter to a stranger in the Soviet Union led to a long-distance friendship that has lasted decades.

Like many teens growing up in the People’s Republic of Poland, Ewa decided to send a letter to a stranger in the Soviet Union. Lena from Moscow wrote back to her, and they quickly found they had a lot in common, including a love of both dogs and Vysotsky records.

They continued writing as they entered new phases in their lives. They began careers, started families, and of course there were the revolutions that changed everything around them from communist to capitalist. And they're still writing today... forty years later.

How did Ewa find her penpal? Did the 1989 revolutions affect their friendship? And why have they never met? Find out in this episode of The Final Curtain.

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Click here to listen to the Polish version of this episode! Time stamps

[01:35] How Ewa found Lena [03:48] Instant friends [06:38] Exchanging gifts by post [08:49] The fall of communism [11:58] Still writing, but will they ever meet?

Further reading / watching Credits

Written & produced by Monika Proba Edited by Adam Zulawski & Wojciech Oleksiak Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski

Nov 01 2019

14mins

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KAIE

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How a giant communal song festival helped Estonians regain independence from the USSR. Part of our mini-series The Final Curtain.

In the Estonia Kaie Tanner grew up in, learning Russian at school was compulsory, and her mother and her friends often sang 'forbidden songs' at home – Estonian folk songs that the Soviet authorities disapproved of. Music was a huge part of her life, but she didn't expect that it could help her country win independence. But in 1987, when Kaie Tanner attended the massive Estonian Singing festival as a teenager, something unexpected happened. After the officially sanctioned event had finished, the hundreds of thousands of Estonians stayed and kept singing their own Estonian folk songs all through the night – and the Soviet authorities were powerless to stop them. 

What was the Singing Revolution? How did it lead to the independence of Estonia and the other Baltic states? Was it possible for Estonia's Russian- and Estonian-speaking citizens to finally move on from past resentments? Find out in this episode of The Final Curtain.

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Time stamps

[02:07] A childhood in Soviet-dominated Estonia [06:27] How Estonians tried to sing their country into independence  [10:01] Was the USSR military intervention successful? [12:38] Independence! Kaie becomes a music teacher [14:53] A country comprised of two peoples [18:24] Credits

Further reading / watching Thanks

This episode was produced with help from the Embassy of Poland in Tallinn. We'd like to extend many thanks to Ambassador Grzegorz Kozłowski, who kindly greenlighted our co-operation, and to Sławomira Borowska-Peterson, who helped us understand Estonian history, society and reality much better.

Credits

Written & produced by Wojciech Oleksiak Edited by Adam Zulawski Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski

Oct 25 2019

18mins

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PETRILA

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How a Romanian mining town that lost its mine fought to turn its remains into a cultural hub. 

In our second and final episode on Ion Barbu and the town of Petrila, we learn how the mine, the town's main employer, was unable to achieve profitability in the new era of capitalism and was closed down for good. Ion had spent 15 years of his life at the mine, and for him and many others it was more than just a place of work. So when the mine's crumbling buildings were in line for demolition, Ion decided to try and save them by using art to revitalise the town.

What happened to the town once the mine closed? Did Ion manage to save the buildings of the former mine? What happened next? Find out in this episode of The Final Curtain.

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Time stamps

[01:23] Why the mine was closed? [03:07] Meeting another miner: Cenusa Catalin [09:55] Ion gives us a tour around a gallery in Deva [11:30] What does the process of closing a mine look like? [16:26] Ion gives us a tour around the Plumber's Museum [19:05] The many more museums that Ion wants to open [20:38] Credits

Further reading / watching Credits

Written & produced by Monika Proba Clara Kleininger was our associate producer for this story Edited by Adam Zulawski & Wojciech Oleksiak Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski

Oct 18 2019

21mins

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ION

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How a Romanian miner made political caricatures at a time when making fun of the country's leadership could mean a visit from the secret police. 

After finishing university in 1978, Ion Barbu was assigned to the Petrila mine as a topographer. He only intended to be there briefly, but despite attempting other jobs such as local reporter and museum curator, he ended up staying at the mine for the next 15 years...

How did Ion balance being both a miner and a political caricaturist? What happened when the secret police arrested him for mocking the Romanian president? How does he recall the sudden and violent fall of the Ceaușescu regime? Find out in this episode of The Final Curtain.

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Time stamps

[02:04] How Ion became a miner... [05:04] ... and a caricaturist [09:50] The Securitate, the dreaded secret police of communist Romania [12:34] How did the political changes look from inside the Petrila mine?  [16:47] Ion explains why 'We should say goodbye to the past laughing'  [18:42] Credits

Further reading & watching Credits

Written & produced by Monika Proba Clara Kleininger was our associate producer for this story Edited by Adam Zulawski & Wojciech Oleksiak Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski The last song was performed by Fanfara Minerilor din Cavnic

Oct 11 2019

19mins

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IRYNA

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How a single mother in Kyiv experienced the end of the USSR and survived the harsh economic realities of life in post-communist Ukraine in the early 1990s. Part of our mini-series The Final Curtain.

Iryna Tkachenko is a music conservatory graduate and journalist who became a single mother just a couple of years before the demise of the Soviet Union and the political and economic turbulence that followed the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Her wage as a radio journalist wasn't really enough to survive, but after the complete collapse of the Ukrainian economy,  you were considered lucky to have a job at all. She bought clothes at second-hand shops and travelled to Moscow to buy things that you couldn't get in the mostly empty stores of Kyiv. She took on extra jobs and did whatever she could to survive but never lost her positive outlook on life.

How did Iryna end up selling toy cars on the streets of Kyiv? How did she and her friends react to the putsch of August 1991? How did she cope with the early days of capitalism? Find out in this episode of The Final Curtain.

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Time stamps

[01:10] An unusual single mom [06:00] How Iryna became a businesswoman... for one day only [07:50] The August Coup & the uncertainty it brought on [11:17] Why didn't she go to work abroad? [14:15] And what was she doing instead?  [19:10] Credits

Further reading Credits

Written & produced by Wojciech Oleksiak & Żenia Klimakin Edited by Adam Zulawski Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski

Oct 04 2019

19mins

Play

EDGAR & MICHAEL

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How East Berlin's leading political cabaret tried to get their message through despite strict state censorship... and what happened when the system they were laughing at ceased to exist. 

For the citizens of the GDR, laughter was often the best medicine when dealing with the absurdities of the political system they lived under. And if you were a resident of East Berlin, there was no better place than Kabarett Distel (meaning 'thorn' in German).

The content of Kabarett Distel shows was strictly censored, so performers had to find clever ways to fully communicate with their audience – who would be focussed on every word and facial expression. Even if it was likely that the Stasi secret police was watching. As the regime began to crumble, late 1980s members of the cabaret joined other East Germans on the streets to demand democratic reforms.

How did the cabaret respond to the tumultuous events of 1989 and the opening of the Berlin Wall? How did Kabarett Distel adapt to the new democratic reality, where you were suddenly free to say what you like? Find out in this episode of The Final Curtain.

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Time stamps

[01:01] Laughing at the system [06:00] Testing the boundaries of censorship [10:13] The final years of the GDR [12:43] The fall of the Berlin Wall and what it meant for Kabarett Distel [14:32] Unification, scandal & the Stasi [18:22] Staying relevant & funny in a free system [19:59] Almost time to pack our suitcases

Further reading Credits

Written & produced by Piotr Wołodźko Edited by Adam Zulawski & Wojciech Oleksiak Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski

Sep 27 2019

22mins

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TYMON

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Meet the headstrong musician who's been viciously rebelling against both of the systems he lived under... and created some truly worthwhile art along the way. 

Tymon Tymanski came of age in the 1980s, probably the bleakest years of the communist regime. Much like teenagers in the West, he turned to punk rock and artistic rebellion as a way of protesting the stagnation of the society he lived in. He met like-minded young people at the University of Gdańsk, played in various bands, and formed the avant-garde art group Totart, whose absurd, and often obscene, performances and happenings aimed to provoke disorder and outrage. Then, in 1989, the whole system came tumbling down. Like other artists, Tymon had to adapt to the new reality of total artistic freedom and economic uncertainty.

How did Tymon and his band Miłość (Love) end up creating a whole new musical genre? What did the arrival of free-market capitalism in the 1990s mean for artists and musicians? Is it possible to remain uncompromising as an artist and still pay the bills?

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Time stamps

[01:25] Coming of age in the 1980s [04:08] The origins of Totart [06:12] Absurdity & transgression [08:43] 1989 & the end of censorship [10:48] A new band & a new music genre [13:29] Disillusionment & surviving as an artist

Further reading Credits

Written & produced by Wojciech Oleksiak Edited by Adam Zulawski Music by Tymon Tymański, Sni Sredstvom Za Uklanianie, Tymon Tymański & The Transistors, and Totart Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski

Sep 20 2019

18mins

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JACEK

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How a banned singer-songwriter became an unwilling musical hero through his home-copied cassettes. 

Jacek Kleyff was an increasingly popular topical songwriter in 1970s Poland. But he was unwilling to bend to the demands of the communist state's censorship, so the authorities reacted by banning him from appearing in public, including radio and TV. But he didn't stop recording, and his songs, circulated through the underground on home-made cassettes, became anthems for the Polish democratic opposition. 

What did Jacek do when he was blacklisted by the communist authorities? How did he become a cult figure within the Polish opposition? What did he do when the regime fell? Find out in the latest episode of The Final Curtain.

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Click here to listen to the Polish version of this episode!

Time stamps

[01:25] Coming of age during the grim 1970s in Poland [03:56] Jacek founds the Salon of Independents and becomes an oppositionist [06:23] Salon gets banned, Jacek goes on to play solo [09:57] Jacek writes a song which... starts a revolution [15:22] Jacek gets banned for life and casts himself away... [18:15] ... but still makes some noise from the underground [20:35] The system's gone. What does it mean for Jacek?

Further reading Credits

Written & produced by Wojciech Oleksiak Edited by Adam Zulawski Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski Special thanks to Lauren Dubowski for her brilliant translation of 'Sejm'

Sep 13 2019

24mins

Play

SIEGBERT

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How an East German cameraman filmed the first major demonstrations in the GDR from the top of a church steeple in Leipzig. A month later, East Germany would effectively cease to exist. Part of our mini-series The Final Curtain.

Siegbert Schefke was officially unemployed after being fired from his job as a building engineer. Unofficially, he began to arrange for diplomats to smuggle videotapes from East Germany to be broadcast on West German TV stations. As it happens, most East Germans could also pick up Western TV on their receivers. Siegbert didn't really know how to use a video camera, but that didn't really matter, what mattered was that the world could see what was really going on behind the Wall.

How did Siegbert and his friend Aram Radomski end up filming the first major protest in the GDR on 9th October 1989?  How did they outfox the Stasi and get the footage to the West? Find out in the newest episode of The Final Curtain.

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Time stamps

[01:08] Born in the GDR [03:50] From part-time revolutionary to full-time revolutionary [06:22] Smuggling videotapes to the West [08:40] Foreign diplomats & secret codes [11:11] The Monday Demonstrations in Leipzig [14:27] Making history [18:22] The day the Berlin Wall fell [21:12] What next?

Further reading Credits

Written & produced by Piotr Wołodźko Edited by Adam Zulawski & Wojciech Oleksiak Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski

Sep 06 2019

24mins

Play

WOJCIECH

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How Polish opposition activists began transmitting their own pirate radio and 'hacked' communist-run state TV. Part of our mini-series The Final Curtain.

Wojciech Stawiszyński was an opposition activist, who suddenly found himself in charge of running Radio Solidarność, a mobile radio station that would be the voice of the pro-democracy Solidarity movement. Their success depended on a sophisticated game of cat and mouse with the authorities, with each broadcast taking place at a new location.

In the darkest period of martial law, they had to resort to incredibly complicated ways of operating, funding, broadcasting and even communicating with each other.

Did they make it through? Did they manage to outmaneuver the communist secret services? What happened when communism was gone? Find out in the latest episode of The Final Curtain.

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Click here to listen to the Polish version of this episode!

Time stamps

[01:08] How Wojciech found himself in charge of the outlawed Radio Solidarność [03:50] How do you reach listeners when the secret police is on your back? [05:55] Radio Solidarność programme content [09:05] Outsmarting the communist regime with technology [14:35] Hardships and low points [16:42] How to live a dangerous dual life [20:36] Adjusting to capitalism after 1989

Further reading Credits

Written & produced by Wojciech Oleksiak Edited by Adam Zulawski Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak Music by Blue Note Sessions Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski

Aug 29 2019

23mins

Play

CHRIS

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How a photographer from London gave the rest of the world a glimpse of everyday life behind the Iron Curtain. Part of our mini-series The Final Curtain.

The Polish-British photographer Chris Niedenthal found himself in the heart of Communist Poland in the 1970s and 80s, documenting both how ordinary people lived, as well as the major political events leading up to the collapse of the Soviet-backed regime.

His photographs ended up in major Western periodicals, such as Newsweek, Time, Der Spiegel and Forbes. Through his camera, he created a window into the Polish People's Republic for the rest of the world to peer through. 

His iconic photograph of an armoured vehicle in front of a poster for the film ‘Apocalypse Now’, taken after martial law was declared in Poland, remains one of the defining images of the period – but how did he end up taking it, and what happened next? 

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Time stamps

[01:07] How he came to Poland [04:15] The election of John Paul II and how it changed Chris’ life [05:30] Martial law and Chris’ most iconic photo [10:04] Other revolutions Chris witnessed and photographed [12:59] How he happened to be the first photographer to shoot the fall of the Berlin Wall [16:00] What did Chris do after communism had ended?

Further reading Credits

Written & produced by Monika Proba Edited by Adam Zulawski & Wojciech Oleksiak Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski Music by Blue Dot Sessions & SIR HARDLY NOBODY (Chris Niedenthal's band) 

Aug 23 2019

19mins

Play

ZBIGNIEW

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How a well-known opposition leader evaded capture by the communist authorities for almost five years. Part of our mini-series The Final Curtain.

In the early 1980s, Zbigniew Bujak was the head of Solidarity in the Warsaw region, a pro-democratic labour movement that was gaining in strength. So much so, in fact, that the communist leadership declared martial law in December 1981 in order to stop the opposition dead in its tracks. Hundreds of political activists were arrested, including much of the leadership of Solidarity. But Bujak managed to go into hiding before they had a chance to find him. Making use of an underground oppositionist network as well as methods of masking his movements, he managed to evade capture for five years.

Keeping Zbigniew in hiding became crucial for the underground opposition since not only was he orchestrating anti-regime actions, but his continued freedom remained a symbol of the secret police’s weakness.

How did his hiding end? What was the long-term impact of his activity? What did freedom mean for Bujak himself? How does he remember the shift of power from his own perspective? You’ll find all the answers in the opening episode of Stories From The Eastern West’s new mini-series The Final Curtain.

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Click here to listen to the Polish version of this episode!

Time stamps

[01:45] Life in 1970s Poland [04:51] Zbigniew Bujak starts his anti-regime activities [09:47] Martial law [11:25] Going into hiding [17:17] Arrest. What next? [19:37] Glasnost: what it means, and what it meant for Poles [22:37] Communism is gone. Who takes over now?

Further reading Credits

Written & produced by Wojciech Oleksiak Edited by Adam Zulawski Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski

Aug 23 2019

25mins

Play

Announcing: The Final Curtain

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THE FINAL CURTAIN: a new series of personal tales from the Eastern Bloc’s demise. Launching August 23rd in the Stories From The Eastern West feed!

The year 1989 saw a big change. All of Central and Eastern Europe took a U-turn within less than three years and transformed from the grey land behind the Iron Curtain into several independent, quickly developing, free market democracies. 

The team behind Stories From The Eastern West is marking this occasion with The Final Curtain, a special mini-series featuring personal tales from the Eastern Bloc’s transformation.

Through these remarkable accounts told by people who lived through circumstances we would now hardly believe, The Final Curtain offers an important snapshot of a pivotal moment in Europe’s history. 

Find out more on SFTEW.com as well as our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also sign up for our newsletter.

Aug 09 2019

1min

Play

CRACKED

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Finland + technology = Nokia, doesn’t it? Yes, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Finland is responsible for many technological breakthroughs from the last couple decades, such as the SSH cybersecurity protocol used on over half of the world’s web servers, and Internet Relay Chat, which people born in the 1980s will remember as the first instant messenger.

But back in the early 1990s, Finland’s tech scene was mostly just a lot of teenagers pirating software illegally. They would code at squat parties filled with cigarette smoke. None of the glossy corporate world that lay ahead was on anybody’s mind.

In this episode, Molly Schwartz, who lived there for almost two years, goes on a journey to the roots of Finland’s tech transformation. She dives deep into 8-bit music, pixelated computer screens and the days when games were distributed on C-cassettes. Just how did this small, cold, dark and sparsely-populated country become an IT powerhouse?

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Time stamps

[02:26] Wili Miettinen runs away from home and starts coding and… pirating[03:58] What were the beginnings of the Demoscene? [06:45] Demoparties![08:28] Why was it so difficult to create demos back in the early 1990s?[09:39] Demosceners start using their skills to make money...[12:28] … and serious business players take notice[14:40] Introducing Taneli Tikka[17:40] Taneli Tikka invents proto-Twitter[19:28] The demoscenes’ impact on the startup scene[23:02] Molly’s final monologue[24:45] Credits & thanks

Further watching Further reading Thanks
  • Wili Miettinen / for telling us about his personal experiences throughout his long career and how the tech industry grew out of squats and parties. You can find him on Twitter (where his username is, of course, OG): @wili
  • Taneli Tikka / for talking to us about his experiences at Assembly as a teenager and how his forays into inventing social media. You can also find Taneli on Twitter: @tanelitikka
  • Molly would also like to thank all the people who helped her along the way. Her special thanks go to Jussi-Pekka Harviainen, Pekka Aakko, Marko Reunanen and Jukka Kauppinen.

Credits

Written & produced by Molly SchwartzEdited by Adam Żuławski & Wojciech OleksiakScoring & sound design by Wojciech OleksiakHosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Żuławski

Feb 28 2019

26mins

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HUNT

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During WWII, the Third Reich had a systematic policy of plundering artwork from countries they invaded. In occupied Poland, this took place on a massive scale. Over half a million individual works of art were taken over the course of the war, including countless national treasures.

But while some of these works of art were destined for the walls of high-ranking Nazi party officials and the planned Führermuseum, others were marked for destruction. In fact, there was one particular painting that the Germans were really keen to get rid of.

‘The Battle of Grunwald’ was painted by Jan Matejko in the late 19th century and portrayed a battle that had happened over 500 years ago, so why did the Third Reich want it gone so badly? And just how would it avoid being captured seeing as it was 10-metres long and weighed nearly a tonne?

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Time stamps

[00:58] How big is this painting then? [03:00] The evacuation begins [04:43] What makes this painting so wanted? [07:32] The journey continues and tragedy strikes [10:19] Time to hide this enormity somewhere safe... [14:48] ...with the hunt at its peak [16:09] The Germans are gone. What next? [18:20] Where is the painting today and is it worth seeing? [20:10] Credits

Further watching / listening Further reading Thanks

Prof. Maria Poprzęcka / for talking to us about the history of the painting and its incredible war-time adventures. Poprzęcka is a professor of Art History at the University of Warsaw and presents an art history show on Polish Radio.

Piotr Lisowski / for talking to us about the painting and its restoration, and sharing with us its many secrets. Lisowski is a paintings conservator at the National Museum in Warsaw.

The National Museum in Warsaw / for their assistance.

John Beauchamp / for becoming Piotr Lisowski's English voice. John is a seasoned radio journalist, currently working on Unseen Warsaw, a series of soundwalks located in Warsaw. 

Grażyna Soczewka / for becoming the voice of Maria Poprzęcka. Grażyna is head of the Artists & Works section at Culture.pl and is our go-to voice for many of our videos.

Credits
  • Written & produced by Piotr Wołodźko

  • Edited by Adam Żuławski

  • Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak

  • Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Żuławski

Feb 14 2019

21mins

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TRANSMUTATION

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Alchemy – the supposed ancient art of turning everyday objects into gold – is widely believed to be obsolete. Interestingly, however, every bit of this notion is wrong.

First of all, as it turns out, alchemy is still being practised today and, according to one of our guests, is doing better than ever. And second of all, it apparently was never actually an art of the physical transmutation of objects, but a very profound blend of philosophy, chemistry, physics and religion.

Join us on SFTEW as we travel back to the Middle Ages and meet Michael Sendivogius, an alchemist who contributed to the discovery of something absolutely essential...

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Time stamps

[01:10] A transmutation in Emperor Rudolph’s court[03:37] Why were alchemists sought after? [04:43] What actually happened at the Emperor’s court?[06:39] What was alchemy really all about?[08:42] Were alchemists nothing more than a bunch of fraudsters?[10:53] Alchemical code[12:51] ‘There’s a secret substance in the air’[13:47] How Sendivogius came to his startling discovery [17:29] Alchemy is not dead[21:07] Credits

Further watching

Zbigniew Andrew Szydlo’s latest Ted Talks Appearance / on YouTube.com

Zbigniew Andrew Szydlo sets things on fire / on YouTube.com

Further reading

How to turn things into gold / on scientificamerican.com (the thing we promised in the podcast!)

The Origins of Alchemy & The Pole who Played with Oxygen / on Culture.pl

Who Was Michael Sendivogius? Biography Of An Alchemist / on Culture.pl

Water Which Does Not Wet Hands / a book by Dr Szydlo on Sendivogius and Mediaeval alchemy, on Amazon.com

Thanks

Zbigniew Andrew Szydlo / for revealing all the secrets of transmutation and alchemy to Adam, our editor and host. Dr Szydlo is an acknowledged chemist, educator and a great performer with a mission of presenting experiments outside of the classroom.

Mark Stavish / for talking with us about the state of alchemy today. Mark is the director for the Institute for Hermetic Studies in Pennsylvania and a life-long student of esotericism with over 25 years experience in comparative religion, philosophy, psychology, and mysticism with emphasis on Traditional Western Esotericism.

Rafał T. Prinke / for explaining how close Sendivogius really was to the world of science. Dr Prinke is a historian specialising in astrology, esotericism and ancient games. John Beauchamp / for his Sendivogius impersonation. John is a seasoned radio journalist, currently working on Unseen Warsaw, a series of soundwalks located in Warsaw.Credits

Written & produced by Elizabeth Lawrence & Wojciech OleksiakEdited by Adam ŻuławskiScoring & sound design by Wojciech OleksiakHosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam ŻuławskiResearch by Monika Proba

Jan 31 2019

22mins

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NAKED

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The German Democratic Republic was known for being one of the more politically repressive countries in the former Eastern bloc, with its Stasi secret police keeping a firm grip on any form of dissent. But it is also known for its long tradition of nude bathing – known in Germany as Free Body Culture or FKK. In the mid-1950s, this tradition came under threat as the GDR government tried to ban nude bathing completely.

Unexpectedly for a country that had no tolerance for dissent, the East German fans of Free Body Culture fought back…

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Time stamps

[00:19] Imagine it's the middle of summer [02:21] Train across the border [03:43] Meeting Dr Wolle [04:57] A bit of history [06:45] Lake Motzener [08:33] The 1930s & WWII [09:57] The birth of the DDR [12:39] FKK outlawed [15:07] Opening of the floodgates [17:13] Mass popularity [18:07] The Iron Curtain falls [20:00] Free Body Culture survives? [21:35] Conclusion [22:46] Credits

Further watching Further reading Thanks

Dr Stefan Wolle / for sharing with us his knowledge about the origins of Free Body Culture and its popularity in the former East Germany. Dr Wolle is the Head of the Research Department at the DDR Museum in Berlin.

Reinhard Gens / for inviting us to visit the AKK Birkenheide eV: FKK Verein (Birkenheide General Body Culture Association) at Lake Motzener, and for speaking to me about the history of FKK and his own experiences. Reinhard is retired and an FKK enthusiastic since the late 1950s.

Jürgen Krull / for inviting us to his club and talking to me about the history of FKK and Adolf Koch. Jurgen Krull is the President of the Familien-Sport-Verein Adolf Koch e. V. (Adolf Koch Family Sports Association) in Berlin.

Mark / for talking to us about this experiences with FKK. Mark is an FKK enthusiast and member of the Adolf Koch Family Sports Association.

The DDR Museum in Berlin / for their assistance. The DDR Museum is located in Central Berlin and is open 365 days a year.

Colin Delargy & Sabrina Schaffarczyk / for their linguistic assistance and helping Piotr navigate the Berlin FKK scene.

John Beauchamp / for becoming Dr Wolle's English voice. John is a seasoned radio journalist, currently working on Unseen Warsaw, a series of soundwalks located in Warsaw. 

Credits
  • Written, produced & presented by Piotr Wołodźko

  • Edited by Adam Żuławski

  • Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak

  • Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Żuławski

Jan 17 2019

23mins

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Rabbithole Two

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In this bonus episode, you’ll get to hear a song that usually doesn’t leave the thick walls of the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards in Italy. 

If you want to know more about Grotowski, check out our two-part story about him in the episodes SEARCH and CONTINUATION.

Keep up to date with SFTEW by following us on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram. And if you like our show, sign up for our newsletter!

Jan 14 2019

6mins

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MESMERISED

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The story of a man who mesmerised half a continent...

Get it on: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | Google Podcasts | Overcast | RSS | Direct download

In 1989 the Cold War was coming to an end. Soviet Union and the whole Eastern Bloc were crumbling. There was confusion everywhere. One day, state television channel started showing something really strange. A man, looking like Doctor’s Spock muscly brother, was staring at the camera promising to programme people’s brains and free them from all the pain and suffering.

Who was he? Where did he come from? Did his methods have anything to do with medicine or science? Or, was he just another charlatan who profited from people’s insecurities in turbulent times? Listen to MESMERISED, a Stories From The Eastern West episode on the rise and fall of Anatoly Kashpirovsky, a man who mesmerised half a continent.

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You can also follow SFTEW on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.

Further reading Further watching Thanks

Żenia Klimakin / for recounting his meeting with Kashpirovsky from a few years back. Żenia is a journalist at Culture.pl/ru.

Krzysztof Rowiński / for delivering wonderful voice over for Żenia Klimakin to open and close this episode. Krzysztof is a PhD scholar in Comparative Literature at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Maria Litwin / for being resistant to Kashpirowsky's super powers and telling us what she saw, when nobody else was looking.

Polina Justova / for becoming the English voice of Maria Litwin. Polina is an editor for Culture.pl/ru and also works as a literary translator and language teacher.

Jan Morawicki / for helping us build a political perspective on those hectic times. Jan Morawicki was born in Saint Petersburg in Russia. He is a journalist and anthropologist working at the University of Łódź, Poland

Jerzy Oleksiak / for devoting his time to becoming Jan Morawicki’s English doppelganger. Jerzy is a former intern at Culture.pl, but now digs holes in the desert, looking for traces of extraterrestrial presence back in Ancient Egypt.

Romuald Polczyk / for explaining why hypnosis can actually work. Dr Polczyk works at the Institute of Psychology at the Jagiellonian University. He wrote his doctoral thesis on hypnosis.

John Beauchamp / for becoming Kashpirovsky’s dusty English voice. John is a seasoned radio journalist, currently working on Unseen Warsaw, a series of soundwalks located in Warsaw.  

Zuzanna Grębecka / for helping us dig into the meanderings of Soviet pop culture and science. Dr. Grębacka works at the Institute of Polish Culture at the University of Warsaw.

Grażyna Soczewka / for becoming the voice of Zuzanna Grębecka. Grażyna is head of the Artists & Works section at Culture.pl and is our go-to voice for many of our videos. Marcin Kuropatwa / for inviting us into his childhood memories where Kashpirovsky was capable of anything. Marcin Kuropatwa is an ethnographer and a musician, and works for the National Museum of Ethnography in Warsaw.

Credits
  • Written & produced by Monika Proba

  • Edited by Adam Żuławski

  • Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak

  • Hosted by Adam Żuławski, Monika Proba & Nitzan Reisner

Jan 03 2019

27mins

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CONTINUATION

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After having to leave Poland, Grotowski continued his ground-breaking work in the United States, before finding a permanent home in Pontedera, Italy. There he began work on Art as Vehicle, the final stage of his work at the newly-established Workcenter. This work, based around songs of tradition and objective movements, arranged into performance structures, is done more or less in secrecy, away from the prying eyes of the media and mainstream theatrical world.

In the late 1990s, the Workcenter started to show its work to select groups of people, and open itself to the world. Listen to Part 2 of our episode on Jerzy Grotowski to find out for yourself what happened there, and what goes on at the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards today…

You can catch up with Part 1 of this story here. Both these episodes are a Stories From The Eastern West collaboration with the Theatre History Podcast, produced by Howlround Theatre Commons, a free and open platform for theatremakers worldwide, based in Boston, Massachusetts. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram.

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Time stamps

[01:15] Intro [02:26] Meeting Thomas Richards [04:19] Work on acting and songs of tradition [06:57] Period in the US coming to an end [08:28] Transmission of the work [09:34] Flight to Italy [11:00] Beginnings of the Workcenter [12:30] Who are we? [14:24] Members of the Workcenter [16:00] Sacrifices and controversies [18:06] Performance of The Living Room [22:02] Conclusion [24:30] Thanks & credits

Further reading Also worth visiting Thanks

Prof. Paul Allain / for talking to us about Grotowski's life, work, and his important influence on the world of the performing arts. Paul is a Professor of Theatre and Performance at the University of Kent and former director of the British Grotowski Project.

Maja Komorowska / for sharing with us her experience of working with Grotowski and the Theatre of the 13 Rows in the early 1960s. Maja is an acclaimed theatre, film and television actress.

Thomas and Cécile Richards / for giving their time and helping make this episode possible. Thomas Richards is the Director of the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards in Pontedera, Italy. Cecile is Richard’s assistant and a member of the centre.

The members of the Workcenter in Pontedera / especially Lynda Mebtouche and former member of the Open Program Alejandro Thomas-Rodriguez for sharing their experiences.

Grażyna Soczewka / for skillfully providing the English voice-over for Maja Komorowska.

Episode credits
  • Michael Lueger (Theatre History Podcast): co-presenter

  • Wojciech Oleksiak: sound design, mixing

  • Piotr Wołodźko: co-presenter, script, production

  • Nitzan Reisner: co-host, sole beacon of light

  • Adam Zulawski: co-host, editor

Dec 20 2018

25mins

Play

iTunes Ratings

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Love this podcast!

By sthubert - Feb 23 2020
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Really enjoy each episode.

Great podcast

By jsdckjsdcn - Aug 31 2017
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An informative and entertaining podcast!