Pink Spectacles of Polish Communism: Queer Café

Project Overview

A series of presentations by experts on the role of the LGBT community in the People‘s Republic of Poland.

Identifying the Problem

From 1952 to 1989, Poland was a communist country known as the People’s Republic of Poland. As is true with most countries, the history of the People’s Republic of Poland is rarely told from the perspective of the LGBT community. Sexuality and its political consequences, including the country’s LGBT movement, are excluded from historical discourse and not given any serious concern in the Polish humanities. It is very rare for sexual minorities to have a platform from which to discuss their own history and the history of the larger LGBT community, so their personal narratives remain unknown.

Mieszko wanted to use academic discourse as a way to share true stories from the LGBT movement in the People‘s Republic of Poland, as well as the cultural achievements of those within the LGBT community. By proving the existence of sexual minorities at the time of Polish communism, Mieszko hoped to change people’s perception of Poland’s history and the role that sexual minorities have played – and continue to play – in the country.

Creating A Solution

Mieszko decided to partner with Culture for Tolerance Foundation, which aims to produce and provide high quality art, seminars and workshops with LGBT content. The Foundation is known for pioneering new approaches to queer art in Poland, and its projects have successfully promoted socially-engaged art as well as queer-oriented academic activities. Mieszko knew that the Foundation would be very helpful in reaching out to experts on LGBT issues in Poland’s history. He was also aware that the Institute of Sociology at Jahiellonian University was working on a research project called “PRL Love Stories between the Others.” Mieszko contacted the students conducting the research and asked them to participate in the event. He also worked with the Przestrzen Kobiet Foundation to organize a day trip around Krakow that followed the footsteps of women who lived in the People’s Republic of Poland.

“Pink Spectacles of Polish Communism” brought together experts to deliver a series of seminars dealing with non-heterosexual representations in visual arts, film, literature and theatre, with a focus on the lives of LGBT people in the People’s Republic of Poland. Several experts participated in the event, including Jerzy Nasierowski, an actor and writer, Agnieszka Weseli, a feminist, historian of sexuality and active member of Poland’s queer movement, Krzysztof Tomasik, a journalist, biographer and LGBT activist and Monika Talarczyk-Gubała, who specializes in Polish cinema.

Mieszko also created a blog to help describe and promote his project. Over the duration of the project, the blog published 40 posts, including announcements of the events, podcasts from the lectures, competitions and additional information related to the LGBT community in communist Poland. In addition to Mieszko’s blog, the Culture for Tolerance Foundation helped publicize the event on its Facebook page. Advertising materials (posters and leaflets) were distributed in various cultural and entertainment venues around Krakow. Mieszko also created a pin with project’s logo, which was handed out at the events. Overall, this combination of promotion helped to alert the media to Mieszko’s project, and several media outlets – from websites to radio stations – helped to promote the event.

Mieszko also partnered with the Bunkier Sztuki Gallery, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow, the publishing house and bookshop Korporacja Ha!art, the No Local Foundation, the Przestrzeń Kobiet Foundation and Queerowy Maj (Queer May), which organizes Krakow Pride.

Lessons Learned

Mieszko believes that his biggest challenge was sufficiently promoting the various presentations, especially because they were all so different from each other. Even though the project had a general LGBT theme, Mieszko was not always able to successfully promote the project using homogenous channels. Instead, he learned that every meeting should be promoted on its own terms, by using a particular channel chosen because of its target audience and reference to a particular theme, such as film, literature or history.

He also admits that it was difficult to maintain a gender balance in the list of speakers. In the first version of the program, it became clear to Mieszko that the story of sexual minorities in the People’s Republic of Portland was being told far more often from the male perspective. He wanted to avoid this. “The status quo conditions, in which the men are more often placed in the role of experts, would be reproduced by overlooking female speakers,” he says. He advises other activists planning similar events to take into consideration the perspectives of both men and women.

Get Involved!

“Pink Spectacles of Polish Communism” was a major success, and Mieszko is partnering with the Culture for Tolerance Foundation to publish a book about the topics covered by the series of presentations. The publication will consist of nine articles written by experts in the history of Poland’s LGBT movement. Since the book will be scientifically-reviewed, the articles can be included in scientific texts, which will greatly expand the reach of the material. 

Financial support is essential in order to produce a high-quality book, as well as to effectively publicize the book and help Mieszko to organize promotional seminars around Poland. Mieszko would also like to promote the book abroad through seminars lead by Humanity in Action Fellows. He would also like to recruit Fellows who can help with editing the publication and distributing books in their home cities. Please contact Mieszko through the “Pink Spectacles of Polish Communism” blog, or through his Humanity in Action profile, if you are interested in helping spread awareness about the history of sexual minorities in the People’s Republic of Poland.

Funding

The total cost of this project was $2,200, which ensured that Mieszko was able to invite the most renowned experts in the various fields. Mieszko secured funding from Humanity in Action Poland and the US Embassy in Warsaw.

Awards & Recognition

“Pink Spectacles of Polish Communism” was one of the winners of the “Let’s Get Down to Work!” grant competition, supported by Humanity in Action Poland the US Embassy in Warsaw.

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About This Project

HIA Program:

Poland Poland 2011

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