Materiality and Memory at Pulse

In June, 2016 a gunman entered the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida and murdered 49 people. In the aftermath of the murders the club has been routinely invoked in a wide range of political causes, but materially it has become a place that illuminates the depth of homophobia, complicates gun rights, and recognizes domestic terrorism. […]

via Memorializing Uncanny Histories: Materiality and Memory at Pulse — Archaeology and Material Culture


The Baltic Way. Memory of solidarity and non-violent fight for freedom

The Baltic Way. Memory of solidarity and non-violent fight for freedom

23 August 1989: Human chain linking Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania
in their drive for freedom

Vilnius – Širvintos – Ukmergė – Panevėžys – Pasvalys – Bauska – Iecava – Ķekava – Rīga – Vangaži – Sigulda – Līgatne – Drabeši – Cēsis – Lode – Valmiera – Jēči – Lizdēni – Rencēni – Oleri – Zasi – Rūjiena – Koniņi – Nuija – Karksi – Viljandi – Türi – Rapla – Tallin

UNESCO Memory of the World
Dr Algirdas Jakubčionis, Lietuvos Nacionalinis Muziejus

On 23 August 1939 foreign ministers of the USSR and Germany – Vyacheslav Molotov and Joachim von Ribbentrop, as ordered by their superiors Stalin and Hitler, signed a treaty which affected the fate of Europe and the entire world. This pact, and the secret clauses it contained, divided the spheres of influence of the USSR and Germany and led to World War II, and to the occupation of the three Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

50 years later, on 23 August 1989, the three nations living by the Baltic Sea surprised the world by taking hold of each other’s hands and jointly demanding recognition of the secret clauses in the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and the re-establishment of the independence of the Baltic States. More than a 1,5 million people joined hands to create a 600 km long human chain from the foot of Toompea in Tallinn to the foot of the Gediminas Tower in Vilnius, crossing Riga and the River Daugava on its way, creating a synergy in the drive for freedom that united the three countries.The Baltic Way was organised by the national movements of each of the Baltic States: the Popular Front of Estonia Rahvarinne, the Popular Front of Latvia and the Lithuanian Reform Movement Sąjūdis.

The preparation for the Baltic Way took place in the summer of 1989. According to the plan, the Baltic Way had to start at the Gediminas Tower in Lithuania, continue through the Latvian capital Riga by the Freedom Monument and end at Tall Hermann’s Tower in Tallinn. The Baltic Way was 650 kilometres of freedom, in which ca. 1,5 million Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians had to stand with their hands joined in a live human chain, though actually their number reached 2 millions. Lithuania was assigned a 200 kilometre section of the way. It was divided into 50 smaller sections symbolizing the years of the occupation. These sections had to be filled with inhabitants of various Lithuanian cities and towns. Certain sections of the way were allotted for representatives of various occupations and organisations. For example, the section from the Vilnius Cathedral to the Green Bridge over the Neris river was assigned for the deportees.

The Baltic Way was a phenomenon which showed how three small countries – the Baltic States, regardless of their unique individual national characteristics, created a cross-cultural spiritual synergy both internally and between the Baltic States in the name of a common goal – to overcome the consequences of World War II and to destroy the totalitarian regimes. The Baltic Way is a historic symbol that is alive in the collective memory, enriching the understanding of the sense and values of solidarity and freedom of expression.

* * *


Tannenberg-Denkmal and the cult of memory

Tannenberg-Denkmal and the cult of memory

History, is devoted to its memory. It is built from collected fragments of information, the detritus of knowledge about the past, and the relics of memories lost.

Memory, in this case it is not a record of experienced recollections but an attempt at an orderly re-assembling of lost memory. It is memory arranged in the form of an archive.

Oblivion, is tantamount to the erasure of the memory of the monument. Devastation experienced years ago, pillage and the dispersion of its unwanted (alien) remains provokes a set of basic questions:

Should one speak about the Tannenberg-Denkmal now?
How should one speak about it?

Dorota Nieznalska, Tanneberg-Denkmal. The cult of memory!

Dabrowka Stepniewska

The Tanneberg – Denkmal, built in 1925-1927, was once a monumental building, located between Olsztynek and Sudwa villages, in former East Prussia and present Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship of Poland. It commemorated the victory of the Prussian army over the Russian in the Battle of Tannenberg 1914. Later on it became also the mausoleum of Paul Hindenburg, a German military man, a field marshal (Generalfeldmarschall) and politician – the President of the Reich during the Weimar Republic and the early Third Reich in 1925-1934.

In 1934, Hindenburg’s body was ceremoniously buried in a special crypt in the monument. Adolf Hitler, appointed by Hindenburg to be the Chancellor in 1933, participated in the funeral. In 1935, Hindenburg’s remains were transferred to the specially prepared mausoleum located in one of the Tannenberg-Denkmal towers.

In January 1945, the Germans, fearing the possibility of the profanation of his remains by the Russian army, managed to take his coffin at the last moment and transport it deep into German territory. A few days later, the mausoleum was partially destroyed by an explosion caused by retreating German troops. Currently, Hindenburg’s remains rest in St. Elisabeth’s Church in Marburg, Germany.

Some of building blocks of the Tannenberg-Denkmal were used for the construction of the stairs at the building of The Central Committee of the Polish United Workers’ Party in Warsaw (1948), for the construction of The Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw (1952–1955) and the Monument of the Liberation of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn (1954).

* * *

Dorota Nieznalska, a Polish visual artist engaged in critical art, creating installations, sculptural objects, vide art and photographs, accomplished her project “Tannenberg-Denkmal. The cult of memory!”, supported by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and devoted entirely to history – remembrance – oblivion issues.

Dorota Nieznalska’s works – the movie and the website, juxtapose archival documents, photos and videos of the Tannenberg-Denkmal monument with Wagner’s music and the words of Pierre Nora, a French historian and precursor of studies on “the sites of memory”. The project is an attempt to deal with the memory of the historical and cultural heritage of former East Prussia.

Kult pamięci! Tannenberg-Denkmal | Dorota Nieznalska 2014
“Kult pamięci! Tannenberg-Denkmal”, 2014


Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part III

Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part III


Dąbrówka Stępniewska

Part III
The unity of place, time and action.

The movie is the third part of the “Chopin. Memory and musical landscape” series. It maintains the principle of decorum and the unity of place, time and action. The Pianist was performing Chopin music on historical piano, from the Chopin era, at the place of his birth, his early infancy and later summer stays. The concert lasted approx. 45 min and the whole video material has been recorded within that time.

The sound is playing the main role in this picture. The piano melodies are very reminiscent of the sounds of the surrounding nature. The singing birds blend in the music and the subsequent passages strikingly resemble the rustle of the trees and the babbling brook. The music is spreading around the park through the open windows and from hidden speakers. It reverberates all around and makes one stop, calm down and sink into the sounds.

The first part https://archaeologyofmemory.wordpress… focuses on people and objects, their interrelation and mutual impact, their shared being and intertwined biographies. The issues of embodiment of things and objectification of human beings emerge from the text as well as the power of human perception and emotions. The music and the artist are treated as memory medium, which enables to travel throughout time and space, within the world of music.

The second part https://archaeologyofmemory.wordpress… further explores the concepts of biography of place and biography of landscape, the issues of construction and de-construction of national monuments and national heritage sites. The case of Fryderyk Chopin birthplace in Żelazowa Wola is a great example of creating and sustaining national memory and national monuments using historical and artistic expressions.

* * *  Epilogue * * *

Photo: Chopin concert at Łazienki Royal Park, Warsaw
Chopin Recital at Łazienki Royal Park, Warsaw 2016

The Fryderyk Chopin Monument, facing one of the gates to the Łazienki Royal Park, was designed by Wacław Szymanowski in 1909 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Chopin’s birth. It was not erected in the Łazienki Royal Park until 1926 with the plans cancelled by the World War I as well as by controversies surrounding the solid design itself.

During the World War II the Chopin Monument was one of the first in Warsaw to be blown up by the Nazis. Reconstructed in strict conformity to the original, it remains an essential symbol of the capital city of Poland.

For more than fifty years Chopin concerst have been held at the foot of the Chopin Monument. Emminent pianists perform here every Sunday from mid-May until late September at 12 noon and 4 p.m.

The atmosphere in the park is unique, both carefree and raised, like listening to classical concert and enjoying an open air festival at the same time! Perhaps this is the reason why these recitals are hugely popular with Warsaw residents and tourists alike.


Irena Saława. The Guardian of Place of National Remembrance

Throughout her life Ms Irena Saława takes care of the World War I cemetery in the Nieprześnia village. There lie bodies of 123 fallen soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian armies. Together with her husband, 8 other people and a couple of horses, they built the graves with their own hands.

After years, she wrote a beautiful and poignant poem dedicated to a 22 year old soldier, who died ‘in hero’s death for the Fatherland’ on 10 December 1914 nearby  Sobolów village, one among many sites of a tragic warfare in present-day Lesser Poland Voivodeship.

Irena also shares  a memory of grand famine and great poverty she, her family and many others experienced during the war and post-war  times. She tells a short story about picking berries in the wood and hunting for a deer, which eventually passed into the hands of the landlord.

For her noble attitude and taking care for many years of the cemetery in Nieprześnia, she enjoys the recognition and gratitude of the Austrian Black Cross – Österreichisches Schwarzes Kreuz.

She has been also awarded by the Council for the Protection of Struggle and Martyrdom Sites with the Golden Medal of Guardian of Places of National Remembrance on the 100 anniversary of the cemetery and her 80th birthday.

* * *

Production – Joanna Kowieska
Filming- Jakub Stoszek
Editing – Joanna Kowieska, Jakub Stoszek

Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part II

Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part II

Dąbrówka Stępniewska

Part II
Biography of place and landscape. Memory and monuments.

The Birthplace. The composer’s mother, Justyna nee Krzyżanowska, from an impoverished gentry family, helped with the house keeping as a resident of the Skarbek’s manor house. She met Mikołaj Chopin, a French immigrant who became tutor to the Skarbek’s children at Żelazowa Wola. The Chopins married in 1806 and set up home in the right part of the annexe of the Skarbek’s estate.

Nothing is known about the furnishings of the flat where Fryderyk’s parents lived in the annexe of the Skarbek’s manor house. It could have contained furniture belonging to the Skarbeks, but the Chopins might also have possessed their own. There is no doubt, however, that the interiors were furnished modestly and in a stylistically inconsistent way. The existing books belonged to the family and certainly have been kept in a bookcase.

The Birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin in Żelazowa Wola. Photo M. Czechowicz
The Chopin’s Room. Permanent display at the Birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin and Park in Żelazowa Wola. Photo by M. Czechowicz

After moving to Warsaw in the autumn 1810, the Chopin family maintained close and warm contacts with the Skarbek family. Żelazowa Wola became a destination for  Chopins summer excursions. Only one letter addressed to Fryderyk’s friend Jan Białobłocki survived, where the composer describes his summer holiday in Poland. Fryderyk and Jan spent the summers of 1824 and 1825 in close proximity. Their visited one another on regular basis. Białobłocki died at 21, most probably of tuberculosis of the knee. Chopin wrote 13 letters to his friend, the last dated 12 March 1827.

Descriptions from the period, which are not always reliable, speak of the composer giving concerts on a piano carried out from the house and placed beneath a spurt, on which occasions his music would have been heard by all around.

The Park Monument_Żelazowa Wola
The Park – Monument in Żelazowa Wola

The Museum. The idea of creating a museum devoted to Fryderyk Chopin in the annexe of the Skarbek’s estate dates back to 1891, but it was not until the inter-war period that concepts for its display began to be realized at Żelazowa Wola. None of them was fully implemented at that time. The intention was to furnish Chopin’s birthplace partly with historical furniture, in an effort to recreate the atmosphere of the times. The plan was to fill the display devoted to Chopin with souvenirs connected with the composer and his family.

During the period when the Chopin Family was living at Żelazowa Wola, the right part of the annexe was residential, while the left part, with a cellar, served functional purposes. The display in this room presents the history of this modest manorial annexe, with its successive renovations and functions from beginning of the XVIII century, when the landed estate of Żelazowa Wola was acquired by Count Skarbek, up to the 1930s, when the neglected building was rebuilt and turned into a museum – a place devoted to the memory of Fryderyk Chopin.

Broadwood & Sons piano 1843 in Żelazowa Wola
Broadwood & Sons piano 1843 in Żelazowa Wola

Although the display was not officially opened until 1949, it is known that the Chopin’s death mask was already here in 1930 and later also two pianos, copies of portraits of the composer by Delacroix, Scheffer and the Bissons, a collection of Chopin-related drawings and probably a cast of his hand.  Few of the items from the pre-war interiors survived the World War II.

In post-war display, the furnishings were more in line with current conceptions of the interiors of a XIX century Polish manor house than the humble annexe in which Chopin was born. At that time, the left side of the annexe was not distinguished as having been non-residential, with a fictive vision of a manor house created throughout the building.

Żelazowa Wola, First Chopin's Monument 1894
The First Chopin Monument in Żelazowa Wola, 1894

The Monument. On 14 October 1894, the first Chopin monument on Polish lands was unveiled. Modest in form, referring to the tradition of obelisk commemoration and given such a form due to censorship restrictions. It was shaped like a gravestone, since that was the only form allowed by the Russian imperial authorities of those times. The medallion with an effigy of Fryderyk Chopin was designed by Jan Woydyga whereas the whole monument was designed by Bronisław Żochowski.

The unveiling ceremony represents a symbolic watershed in the history of the commemoration of Chopin’s birthplace. It also marked the start of lengthy efforts to set up a museum devoted to the composer. From the beginning of the XX century, many initiatives designed to popularize the birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin were undertaken, like numerous concerts, trips and exhibitions, accompanied by the collecting of donations initially towards the purchase of the annexe from private hands and then for the creation of a museum.

The Chopin Monument in Żelazowa Wola
The First Chopin Monument in Żelazowa Wola, 2016

Mily Balakirev, a Russian composer, pianist, conductor and musical activist and an enthusiast of Fryderyk Chopin’s music, secured the permission of the Russian imperial governor of Warsaw to erect a monument to the composer. Aleksander Poliński, a member of the Committee of the Warsaw Music Society, sought to buy the historical annexe from the then owner of the estate. Although the plan fell through at that time, a monument was raised in front of the annexe.

During the unveiling ceremony, works by the Polish composer were played by Aleksander Michałowski, one of the leading pianist in the transmission of the Chopin pianistic tradition, Mily Balakirev, and the pianist and journalist Jan Kleczyński. The official programme featured a performance of Zygmunt Noskowski’s polonaise-style cantata On the Banks of the Utrata/ Nad Utratą, and the Lutnia choir sang vocal transcriptions of works by Chopin.

The Park – Monument. The rebuilt annexe of the Skarbek family estate was to be the centerpiece of a modernist park-monument designed by Franciszek Krzywda-Polkowski, founder and head of the Parks and Landscape Architecture Department of the Warsaw University of Life Sciences, who broke with the idea of an idyllic garden detached from the context of the surrounding Mazovian landscape. The modernist character of the design was manifest in the treatment of the park as a closed, individual work of art, characterized by the geometrisation and rhythmisation of the spatial elements such as architectural features, paths and avenues. Their composition with the flora, laid out in a free and picturesque way, indicates the character of a landscape park.

The Park Monument at Żelazowa Wola
The Park – Monument in Żelazowa Wola

The work on laying out The Park – Monument began in the early spring of 1933. In many places the lie of the land was altered mostly new flora was planted, not all of it native to Poland, and paths and avenues were marked out, including the road leading from the new gate to the Chopin’s birthplace. Terraces, steps and bridge were built, the River Utrata was regulate, water bodies were created and architectural features were raised, like bowers, rain shelters, a pergola and a summer concert stage. The 1894 monument was moved from in front of the annexe to the western part of the park, and in its place a pool was created, in which the annexe’s façade is reflected. The work was completed in December 1937.

Skarbek family estate in Żelazowa Wola
Remains of the Skarbek family estate in Żelazowa Wola

The decision not to recreate the surroundings of the annexe from Chopin’s times gave rise to numerous polemics in that times. Opponents of the modern vision argued that a garden typical of the impoverished gentry of the period ought to be created around the composer’s birthplace. That argument was countered with notions of the revolutionary and innovative character of Chopin’s music, which should be reflected in a bold design. Finally, the revolutionary vision was realized.

The latest archaeological research revealed that the annexe in which Chopin was born stood opposite the larger building referred to in documents as the Old Manor – probably the only residential building besides the annexe on the Skarbek’s estate.

* * *

Detailed information is derived from the New Display at the Birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin in Żelazowa Wola, 2015



Żelazowa Wola Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes


Related article:
Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part I. People and objects. Music, memory mediums and emotions.

Palmiry. Memory of the Kampinos Forest

Palmiry. Memory of the Kampinos Forest

The history of the Kampinos Forest, especially the military events during the war and uprisings that took place on its territory, its strategic value, the role it played for the resistance movement and Polish underground organizastions, is a very significant episode in the history of Poland. This mutual infiltration of nature and history makes this forest complex exceptional and different from any other similar place.

Jerzy Misiak_History of the Kampinos Forest

Sometimes innocent walk in the woods becomes a poignant journey into the past. This has become our experience last weekend. The Kampinos Forest is a very popular destination for many Warsaw residents seeking a break from the noise and bustle of the capital city. As a primeval forest with preserved diversity of biological life and landscape it is a scientific and cultural phenomenon on a European scale. The Forest as a unique complex is under protection of the status of the Kampinos National Park  since 1959. It covers the area of 38 500 hectares.

Kampinos National Park

The Kampinos Forest was always at the gates of Warsaw and its history was for centuries connected with the history of the Masovian District and the city itself. Today, despite all the spatial modifications, a common border line with the city is situated merely 15 kilometers from the Warsaw city centre. A signpost to the village of Palmiry can be easily seen from the national road No.7 Warsaw – Gdańsk (Danzig). After turning left you should always stick to the main asphalt road. 5 kilometer-long section of the route leads through picturesque backwoods of the Kampinos Forest. If you reach the end of the asphalt road it means that you are on the spot.

Palmiry is a Polish national memorial – a testimony of the crimes of the Nazi Germans commited on the Polish territory during the II World War. It was a symbol of those terrific events for the people of Warsaw and the rest of Poland since the beginning of the occupation. In 21 mass executions conducted on the Palmiry’s glade of death 1700 Polish citizens were shot to death, both Native Poles and Jews. The executions took place also in other parts of the Kampinos Forest, in Góry Szwedzkie, Wólka Węglowa, Laski and Wydmy Łuże. The victims of those massacres were mostly selected prisoners from the Pawiak prison, the people who were respected in the Polish society and therefore considered by Nazi Germans extremly dangerous as potential future leaders of  the Polish Underground State.

Directly after the end of the II World War the search of the mass graves in Palmiry began in places pointed by the forester Adam Herbański, as employee of Polish Forests Service and the local people. The excavations were difficult because the terrain was overgrown by the young pine trees. The signs left by the witnesses of the executions, e.g. shells pounded in stumps, cuts on trees, helped in the search of those graves. Sometimes you could see marks in barks left by the bullets from the guns of the execution platoons. Exhumation works started in the selected places on November 25th 1945 and after the winter break from March 28th 1946 until the summer.

The results of the findings were confrontred with the testimonies of the witnesses and involved families. The data acquired with this method were confronted with preserved names registries of some transport of prisoners who were sent from Pawiak. This allowed to recreate the course of events with the whole groups of prisoners. The pupils and local villagers were assisting with the exhumation works. 24 mass graves were found scattered on the area of 1,5 kilometer. More than 1700 bodies were excaveted. Only a part of them was identifed. In some of the pits bodies were lying in layers. After the exhumation works were finished in Palmiry, similar operations were conducted in other regions between 1946-1947.

The mausoleum-cemetery on the glade in Kampinos Forest was created in 1948. 2115 victims of the massacres of the Polsih and Jewish population are buried in this place, around 1700 from the execution in Palmiry and others from different places in the Kampinos Forest and Chojnowski Forest. Only in few situations family decided to bury a relative in other location. There are 577 graves with the names of identified people. Names of the 485 people are known because they were buried in Palmiry but their bodies were not identified. Until today there has been no information about the remains of ca.1000 victims. On many graves there is only a date of the execution and a place where it was conducted.

The Palmiry National Memorial Museum

The Palmiry National Memorial Museum commemorates victims of those crimes – Polish citizens, who were killed in mass executions conducted in secrecy in Palmiry and in other places of Kampinos Forest and also in Chojnowski Forest between 1939 – 1943. It also shows a significant role which of the Kampinos Forest played in the Polish history of the struggle for independence, since the Kościuszko Uprising of 1794 until the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. The exhibition presents photographs, records, items recovered during the after-war exhumations which allowed the identification of victims and family memorabilia donated to the Museum by the relatives of the victims.

Palmiry is a special place, therefore, the Authors of the exposition intended to create an expressive and emotional exhibition. This required the simultaneous impact on the visitors at the substantive and decorative level. Some ideas regarding arrangements were taken from theatrical scenery, including introduced variable light (cyclic highlighting of site plans), the soundtrack (call of names of murdered people), the micro-histories (to listening on headphones) and a large size graphics in the background, which enhance emotions involved in the perception process.

The new building (2011) and the multimedia exhibition in The Palmiry National Museum perfectly fit into the natural landscape of the Kampinos Forest. The role of nature and the trees in particular as the memory media of past events is heavily exposed. Despite the difficult issues and the close proximity of the mausoleum-cemetery you do not feel overwhelmed or miserable after visiting Palmiry. This place is filled with light and the sound of the forest, which gently invites you to travel back in time …


Dąbrówka Stępniewska

Curator: Joanna Maldis
Cooperation: Julian Borkowski, Małgorzata Berezowska, Jacek Korpetta, Katarzyna Mikrut, Jerzy Misiak
Consultation: Karol Loth
Conservators’ supervision: Robert Kołodziejski
Space arrangement and scenography: Marek Mikulski
Graphic design: Maciej Mikulski
Translation into English: Grażyna Błaszczyk