OPPOsite

Opposite nr 1

Mniejszości narodowe i etniczne w sztuce polskiej po 1945 roku. "Dla ciebie chcę być biała"

Joanna Filipczyk / Between Poland and Germany: Attitudes of indigenous fine artists in Opole region after 1945

Until 1945 the area of today's Opole voivodeship was comprised within the German state. After the war it was included in the Polish state, as lands which came back to "Mother Country". In contrast to the remaining so-called "Recovered Lands", the swap of the population subsumed only less than 50%. The population that remained is described as "indigenous". It is difficult to define the national identity of the "indigenes" spanning the area between Poland and Germany. The labile concept of nationality, so characteristic of the inhabitants of the borderlands, was a characteristic of this group already in the interwar period. Frequently the nationality declarations were imposed. From this group - too Polish for the Germans and too German for the Poles - there originated several artists active after the war in Opole Silesia. Their attitudes changed dependently on the times, in which they came to live. A particularly fruitful research topic seems to be the times of Polish People's Republic (PRL), when, (in particular in the Opole region), the manifestations of any liaisons with German culture were purposefully banned, and cultural policy was a powerful weapon for re-polonization. This period was crowned by the year 1989, when a fissure in a seemingly monolithic national model could be revealed.
Particularly epitomic of the oldest generation are the walks of life of the painter Jan Cybis and eight years younger sculptor Antoni Mehl. Parallel life sketches start similarly: Opole's village, first studies in German academy in Wroclaw, military service in German army and then choosing Polish citizenship and Polish academy in Cracow. But there the similarities stop. While Mehl wants to be a Silesian in the Polish Silesia, Cybis opts for being an European in Poland. Yet another choice was that of Wincenty Mrzygłód, who, in order to be able to stay after the war in Nysa, had to undergo a process of official national verification. Among the artists from the Opole region and educated in Poland in the post-war period (medium generation), we can discern two groups: these who are still artistically active in Poland (Adolf Panitz) and these who chose the opportunity of living in Germany (Ernest Kuklik, Emil Wawro, Zygbert Porada). The youngest generation of artists can make free avail of their double citizenship without being faced with the necessity of making dramatic choices. It seems that the category of 'nationality', so difficult to determine in the discussed group, is becoming less and less useful in describing the surrounding phenomena.