In Polish tradition, the notion of freedom refers first and foremost to the experience of pre-1918 partitions and the ascendancy of foreign totalitarian power that Poland witnessed after 1945. Hence. history will no doubt determine the narrative that will dominate the celebrations of the centenary of the country’s reappearance on the map of Europe. With such a historical burden, the existence of the nation and the well-being of the Polish ethnos have become a supreme value, overshadowing the rights of the individual and civil freedoms. Just as the generation born at the turn of the 20th century, we realize that without a sovereign homeland in which cultural identity, language and national community can thrive, freedom will not be complete. And yet, although independence of the state is a primary prerequisite, it will not suffice if the ideas of liberty are to be reified in their fullness.
Those to whom we owe our regained independence were thoroughly aware of that fact. They knew that the Polish state would have to be organized anew, taking contemporary social and political challenges into account. Therefore, the exhibition entitled Freedom is Only the Beginning is going to take a look back at the memorable figures of that period, though—it may be noted—it will not be confined to the pantheon of adamant, unyielding, and flawless heroes. We wish to remember the protagonists who strove to foster a community where all citizens have equal opportunities, supporting the disadvantaged first of all.
The notion of freedom that we aspire to propagate through our project is thus not confined to “safeguarding independence”. Poland today, a member of the European Union, is not at a particular risk of losing its sovereignty. However, mobilization and fabrication of external and internal enemies becomes a handy instrument with which to restrict the rights and liberties of its citizens.
Freedom is Only the Beginning aims to promote conscious,
community-building activity in the public sphere, which seeks to ensure the
right to life of dignity to all its members. Many of today’s obstacles to enjoying
the fullness of civic rights also had to be overcome in the past, when Polish
statehood was being reconstructed after 130 years of partitions. Let us see how
the activists of that period tackled those difficult issues.
Expert consultants and collaborators:
dr hab. Piotr Okulewicz, Institute of History, Adam Mickiewicz University
dr hab. Izabela Skórzyńska, Institute of History, Adam Mickiewicz University
dr hab. Urszula Glensk, Institute of Journalism and Social Communication, University of Wrocław