Friday 8 May 2015

Ash (Popioł) and Diamond (Diament)

Two vodkas, please!
It's Polski Piątek here on Edinburgh Housewife, even though I cannot sit still because my SNP friend has won his seat, and it is all very exciting. B.A. and I actually have a friend who has been elected to the House of Commons. It is all very thrilling. Not sure any of my pals were elected to Student Council, even.

Anyway, yesterday was election day in the UK, and today is the 70th anniversary of VE (Victory in Europe) Day. And, by a happy coincidence, I went to see a film about VE Day in Poland yesterday afternoon. It is called Popioł i Diament ( in English, Ashes and Diamonds), and it is a highly subversive film by Andzej Wajda about an anti-communist assassin. It was released in 1958, so how he got away with it is a mystery to me.

The assassin is supposed to be the bad guy, but he is one of the cutest assassins ever. The star, Zbiegniew Cybulski, wears sunglasses and coiffs his hair like a Polish James Dean. He's like a beat king of youth, only it's supposed to be May 8, 1945, so he's a wee bit ahead of his time there. But never mind. Take it from me he is terribly engaging. Not exactly a good Polish Catholic boy, but never mind. He was in the Warsaw Uprising and all his friends but one are dead and his city has been obliterated.  He has no family. He just wants to live life to the fullest and assassinate Communist Party officials. What's not to love?

At any rate, Wajda probably got away with it because Communist Party censors were stupid or because they alll saw themselves in the majestic, ponderous, noble Party Provincial Chairman who calls upon some feckless princess/countess, his sister-in-law, to demand his son back. He is cross because he did not want his sister-in-law to raise his son when he was away in Russia or fighting or whatever a man of his age and size has been doing for the past six years. He was afraid the boy would be corrupted and turned into a aristocrat-bourgeois reactionary---and lo!

Amusingly, even when the good Commies get their hands on the bad teenage reactionary, he wins our admiration by sassing back to his military captor, even after he is slapped in the face.  Maybe the Communist censors thought that wasn't particularly admirable. Maybe they watched the whole thing drunk. "Who's this kid?" "I don't know. Where's that Ewa Krzyżewska? Hubba hubba."
Maybe I will. Maybe I won't. I don't care either way. Tra la. 

Krzyżewska plays a dispossessed aristocrat-turned-barmaid, and she is not exactly a good Polish Catholic girl herself, but on the other hand, her parents are dead, her estates are gone, and she's an overworked barmaid. Who knows what else has happened to the poor girl? She likes violets, which is surely a sign in her favour, and she does a very convincing impression of someone who is not going to go to Z. Cybulski's hotel room, which is surely another.

Anyway, it is a brilliant film, and Martin Scorsese says so too, so you should all definitely see it. Despite the sparks that fly between the Polish James Dean and the Polish Brigitte Bardot, it is even safe for little brothers. Well, maybe not little brothers. Nuns. Definitely safe for nuns. Unless they really don't like seeing cement factory workers being accidentally machine-gunned at close range. Still, even then it's in black and white.

After seeing this dramatic, improving and strangely cheering film, I went to the local hipster café and did my Polish homework. Then I went to Polish class where we all quizzed each other on the homework reading and then got down to more Polish political songs.

The two songs we were asked to translate and then watch on the classroom screen were Przeżyj to sam ("Live it yourself," 1982) and Hej czy nie wiecie ("Hey, don't you know," 1987), which are known by all Poles my age and older--- and probably most of the younger ones too. One of the endearing qualities of Poles is that they seem to know all the same songs and groups of them can be easily prodded into singing them together.

These ones are secondary national anthems (like "Flower of Scotland" in Scotland), and our teacher says the younger generation is nostalgic for the old anti-communist days and wishes it could [risk death/imprisonment and] fight against something itself. I decided not to pipe up about my young friends who want Poland to extricate themselves from the EU. Yeah....not to go there, especially as our homework song, which brings us to 2006, is entitled Antyklerykał.

Here is Przeżyj to sam, which is a ballad:

And here is Hej czy nie wiecie, which is punkish:


  1. Dorothy, bardzo wzruszające jest to Twoje zainteresowanie Polską...
    Ewa (jedna z Dzielnych Niewiast)

  2. Dziękuję, Ewo! Pozdrawiam!


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