Tag Archives: River Vistula

The Struggle Against Communist Oppression in Poland

Solidarity Gary Cooper

In my previous post I wrote about oppression in Poland after World-War-Two and the struggle for freedom and this reminded me of a visit to the capital city of Warsaw the year before.

Walking in the city centre we approached the heavily guarded Presidential Palace and on the pavement outside there was a display commemorating some previous uprising or other and as a backdrop there was a huge canvas poster of Gary Cooper as Marshall Will Kane in the film High Noon.

I had no idea why until I looked it up later:

In 1989 there were some partially free elections in Poland and this was the official poster of the Solidarity movement and it shows Cooper armed not with a pistol in his right hand but with a folded ballot saying ‘Wybory’ (elections)  while the Solidarity logo is pinned to his vest above the sheriff’s badge. The message at the bottom of the poster reads: “W samo południe: 4 czerwca 1989,” which translates to “High Noon: 4 June 1989.”

Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa  explained it later:

“It was a simple but effective gimmick that at the time was misunderstood by the Communists. They tried to ridicule the freedom movement in Poland as an invention of the ‘Wild’ West, especially the U.S. But the poster had the opposite impact: Cowboys had become a powerful symbol for Poles. Cowboys fight for justice, fight against evil, and fight for freedom. ”

In 1953 Gary Cooper won the Best Actor Oscar for High Noon and in 1990 Lech Wałęsa became President of Poland.  The Soviet Force of Occupation (The Northern Group of Forces) did not leave Poland until 1993.

After the popular uprising in 1989 which overthrew Communist rule and following independence Poland planned to demolish around five hundred Soviet-era monuments and a mass demolition of reminders that are relics of the country’s Communist past which are seen as reminders of Soviet Russia’s invasion and subsequent decades-long political dominance of the eastern European nation until.  Thirty-five statues of Lenin and two of Josef Stalin were removed from towns and cities across Poland.

Sadly, Russia being an authoritarian,  militaristic state seems unable to understand a desire for independence and to be free of strutting jack boots from the East!

The picture above is ‘Stalin’s Boots’ a symbolic statue that stands in Budapest in Hungary.  Before it was torn down in 1956 it stood eighty foot tall and was clearly too big for its boots!

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union hundreds of statues of Lenin have been removed and demolished but there are still some to be found in more remote locations.  See this web post for details of Lenin Statue Spotting – Lenining

Most are in old Soviet Russia and its previously oppressed territories of course but there is a statue of Lenin in Montpellier in France, Potsdam in Germany (how bizarre), Athens in Greece and most surprising of all, Seattle in the USA.

Read another post about statues of Lenin.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Victory

Solidarity Gary Cooper

Victory for Democracy

On a visit to Warsaw I came across this interesting piece of street art – a huge canvas poster of Gary Cooper as Marshall Will Kane in the film High Noon.

I had no idea why until I looked it up later:

In 1989 there were some partially free elections in Poland and this was the official poster of the Solidarity movement and it shows Cooper armed not with a pistol in his right hand but with a folded ballot saying ‘Wybory’ (elections)  while the Solidarity logo is pinned to his vest above the sheriff’s badge. The message at the bottom of the poster reads: “W samo południe: 4 czerwca 1989,” which translates to “High Noon: 4 June 1989.”

Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa  explained it later:

“It was a simple but effective gimmick that at the time was misunderstood by the Communists. They tried to ridicule the freedom movement in Poland as an invention of the ‘Wild’ West, especially the U.S. But the poster had the opposite impact: Cowboys had become a powerful symbol for Poles. Cowboys fight for justice, fight against evil, and fight for freedom. ”

Victory?  In High Noon Will Kane kills the bad guys in a shoot out, in 1953 Gary Cooper won the Best Actor Oscar for his part in the film and in 1990 Lech Wałęsa became President of Poland.

Read the full story…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Symbol – High Noon and Solidarity

Solidarity Gary Cooper

In 1989 there were some partially free elections in Poland and this was the official poster of the Solidarity movement and it shows Cooper armed not with a pistol in his right hand but with a folded ballot saying ‘Wybory’ (elections)  while the Solidarity logo is pinned to his vest above the sheriff’s badge. The message at the bottom of the poster reads: “W samo południe: 4 czerwca 1989,” which translates to “High Noon: 4 June 1989.”

Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa  explained it later:

“It was a simple but effective gimmick that at the time was misunderstood by the Communists. They tried to ridicule the freedom movement in Poland as an invention of the ‘Wild’ West, especially the U.S. But the poster had the opposite impact: Cowboys had become a powerful symbol for Poles. Cowboys fight for justice, fight against evil, and fight for freedom. ”

In 1953 Gary Cooper won the Best Actor Oscar for High Noon and in 1990 Lech Wałęsa became President of Poland.

Read the full story…

Warsaw, The River Vistula, Gary Cooper and some Film Trivia

Warsaw and the Vistula

I’ll tell you how cold it was this morning, so cold that it stopped Kim from stopping every few metres and window shopping, so cold that my face was stinging and my eyes were watering.  It probably wasn’t such a great idea then to take a route to the old town along the banks of the River Vistula.

It was quite a long walk to even get there along a busy boulevard called Jerusalem Avenue on account of the fact that there was once a Jewish town around here and to mark the spot there is a curious fifteen metre high artificial palm tree which supposes symbolises the natural vegetation of Jerusalem.  To be honest I thought it just looked odd!

Eventually we reached the river and I knew straight away that I had made a mistake.  After all the hard work repairing the damage of the Valentine’s night evening meal fiasco I almost immediately flushed away any bonus points earned.

I had imagined the riverside walk to be a similar experience to strolling alongside the Danube in Budapest but it was immediately obvious that no one was going to write a dainty waltz and call it the Blue Vistula!  It was grey and ugly and there were no embankments just muddy no-man’s-land where the water met the silt and the river debris.

Kim wasn’t at all happy about this and to be honest neither was I. There was no one else around, just a busy road running adjacent to the path and we had to pass under several bridges where I imagined danger to be lurking in every shadow.  The bridges too were ugly, in complete contrast to those in Budapest.  In fact they were so ugly there were no love locks attached to any of them, which is of course a good thing, in fact they were so ugly that I imagine that the only lock someone would attach here would be a hate lock!

We walked quickly and as we got closer to the Old Town the environment became less threatening, there were more people and soon we were climbing steps and making our way to the restored streets and squares.  On reflection I am certain that there was no danger down by the river, it was just so unattractive and didn’t feel good.

Solidarity Gary Cooper

As we approached we passed the heavily guarded Presidential Palace and on the pavement outside there was a display commemorating some previous uprising or other and as a backdrop there was a huge canvas poster of Gary Cooper as Marshall Will Kane in the film High Noon.

I had no idea why until I looked it up later:

In 1989 there were some partially free elections in Poland and this was the official poster of the Solidarity movement and it shows Cooper armed not with a pistol in his right hand but with a folded ballot saying ‘Wybory’ (elections)  while the Solidarity logo is pinned to his vest above the sheriff’s badge. The message at the bottom of the poster reads: “W samo południe: 4 czerwca 1989,” which translates to “High Noon: 4 June 1989.”

Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa  explained it later:

“It was a simple but effective gimmick that at the time was misunderstood by the Communists. They tried to ridicule the freedom movement in Poland as an invention of the ‘Wild’ West, especially the U.S. But the poster had the opposite impact: Cowboys had become a powerful symbol for Poles. Cowboys fight for justice, fight against evil, and fight for freedom. ”

In 1953 Gary Cooper won the Best Actor Oscar for High Noon* and in 1990 Lech Wałęsa became President of Poland.

I digress for a moment.  Gary Cooper wasn’t present at the ceremony because of filming commitments and the award was accepted on his behalf by John Wayne.  In the speech Wayne said he liked the film so much he was going to try and find out why he hadn’t been offered the part.  This was rather hypocritical, he hated the film so much that he called it “… the most un-American thing I’ve seen in my whole life.”  With a town full of cowards and a scared Marshall (Cooper) he didn’t think it captured the true spirit of the old west as he personally preferred to represent it.  Soon after he collaborated with the film director Howard Hawkes to make the film Rio Bravo which presents a similar story line in a completely alternative way.  Wayne and Hawkes liked their own film so much that they remade it twice – El Dorado and Rio Lobo.

It was still quite busy today but nothing like as crowded and vibrant as the previous day so we walked around the remaining restored red brick walls of the Old Town which didn’t take very long and then at a previous fortress gate we made our way inside and really did nothing more than repeat the circuitous walk that we negotiated the day previously. In the Old Town square, the statue of Syrena, the mermaid symbol of the city, seemed hopelessly marooned in the middle of an artificial skating rink which looked cold, empty and uninviting.  It was raw and bleak, the stubborn mist hung low and the wind cut through our clothes like a sabre.

We needed to find somewhere warm, and this is how cold it was, Kim didn’t object for even a moment when I suggested that we make our way to the Royal Castle and take a look at the Museum inside.

Royal Castle Warsaw

I took this picture the following day when the mist had cleared and the sun came back out!

* Best Actor for a western is quite rare.  Warner Baxter won  for In Old Arizona (1929), Lee Marvin for Cat Ballou (1965), and John Wayne for True Grit (1969). The most recent nominations for actors in a Western include Kevin Costner in Dances With Wolves (1990), Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven (1992) and Jeff Bridges in True Grit (2010).

Entrance Tickets – The Oskar Schindler Enamel Factory in Krakow

Oskar Schindler's Factory Museum After a while we arrived at the factory, which was being converted into a museum but as the project was way behind schedule there was only a temporary exhibition to look around. When Podgórze became the site of the Jewish Ghetto many Germans set up businesses in the area in an attempt to profit from the Nazi invasion of Poland. Oskar Schindler was such a man, but in the end he came to save the lives of over eleven hundred Jews that worked in his factory, often at great risk to his own life and at personal expense.

 

 

 

 

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Entrance Tickets – Krakow Castle

Wawel Krakow Entrance Ticket

At the ticket office we had some difficulty working out the ticket options.  Our first choice of the Royal Palace was no longer available because the English speaking guides had all gone home already so instead we bought tickets for the State Rooms.

The tickets were timed and there was clearly no leeway but fortunately we made our entry time by the skin of our teeth and made the tour of the impressive rooms and displays.  This was a wonderful place full of treasures 0f inestimable value – we especially liked the room with the heads in the ceiling and everywhere there were remarkable tapestries and medieval furniture and treasures exhibited with generous space in which to appreciate them.   The rooms were huge, each one as big as a modern four bedroom detached house and I bet they were a bugger to heat in Winter!

The tour ended in the most impressive room of all, the Senators Hall, which was large and spacious with a balcony at one end, an interestingly slanting ceiling and an obsession with tapestries depicting Noah and his Ark.

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Krakow, the Jewish Quarter and Oskar Schindler

 

On the final morning we enjoyed our continental breakfast at the Ester, packed our bags and checked out and planned a morning around the Jewish quarter and the Second-World-War ghetto area in the Podgórze district across the river.  On the previous day we had made arrangements for a city guide in an electric street vehicle to meet us at ten o’clock and just ahead of schedule he arrived at the front of the hotel.  His name was Andrew and he explained that he would show us the principal sights of the area but this being Saturday the synagogues would be closed.

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