ZAMEK Culture Centre


The perceptions of World War I have long been dominated by the visions of trench warfare in the Western Front. The dramatic events in Eastern Europe have only recently become an object of interest. A paramount role in this respect should be attributed to one of the major theatres of the war, namely Poland, which since the late 18th century had remained divided between Germany, Russia and Austria. 

Poland vanished from the maps as a sovereign state in 1795. In the latter half of the 19th century, following a series of unsuccessful uprisings, the various territories of erstwhile Poland were integrated even further into the structures of the powers which had partitioned it, while the “Polish issue” was perceived only as their internal affair. Shortly prior to World War I, and in particular after it broke out, Polish striving for unification and independence witnessed a resurgence and sparked a fervent debate concerning whose Poland actually was.

Thus, through 60 propaganda postcards from Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, Poland and France, the exhibition shows both the circumstances and the sentiments of Poles at that decisive juncture, demonstrating their complicated status in international politics.  The display is essentially based on a private collection, supplemented by specimens from Polish libraries and museums. Naturally, the postcards constitute only a fraction of the abundant volume of material featuring Polish motifs that was printed at the time.

The aim of the exhibition is to offer the viewer an overview and an insight into the notions of Poland and the motifs propagated during World War I.  Thus, it seeks to illustrate the various facets of the “Polish issue”: patriotic self-representation of Poles themselves, the supportive attitudes of the French, as well as the viewpoints of the three partitioning powers: Russia, Germany and Austria-Hungary.  It is only through a juxtaposition of competing perspectives that one can appreciate the diversity of alternatives which were disseminated as well as the visual forms through which they were conveyed.

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