Zbigniew Herbert: Karta Polaka
Posted on October 21, 2014
This 2012 postage-paid card commemorates the 30th anniversary of the founding — in 1982, during the time of martial law in Warsaw, Poland — of KARTA, an illegal underground publication documenting the repression of its people under Soviet occupation.
The jigsaw pieces represent the amalgamation of several independent Karta foundations and branches into one unifying foundation.
The KARTA Center Foundation (Polish: Fundacja Ośrodka KARTA) was established in 1991 and is a Polish non-governmental public benefit organization, documenting the “social” history of 20th century Poland and its immediate neighbours, dealing especially with subjects that have not been researched or that have escaped public awareness.
An “Eastern Archive” covers the tumultuous period 1900-1956, while an “Opposition Archive” covers the period of social resistance and opposition against the communist system of rule in the People’s Republic of Poland between 1956 and 1989. A photographic archive of more than 150,000 photographs spans the period 1890-1990, and there is also an extensive oral and written history archive.
If ever a typewriter deserved to be commemorated on a postage stamp, it’s a typewriter like this one …
… which, in September 2014, was on show at the National Museum of Polish History (Muzeum Historii Polski) as part of an exhibition which told the story of Polish wartime and post-war exile in London.
Thematically, the Muzeum Historii Polski covers the Socialist era after the end of WWII and has staged exhibitions such as “The Poland-Jaruzelski War” and “From Opposition to Freedom” – exhibitions that focussed on communist repression, in particular the imposition of martial law in 1981, and the political freedom that eventually came in 1989.
“Solidarity involved ten million people over a period of ten years. It freed Poland from Soviet domination. It contributed greatly to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. It killed precisely no one.” (Heather Kirk commenting on her book “Be Not Afraid: The Polish (R)evolution, Solidarity“)
Typewriters killed no one either. Although owning a typewriter was not without its risks:
“Warning to parents. Leaflet RKW NSZZ ‘Solidarnosc’ [Regional Executory Committee of Independent Self-Governing Trade Union Solidarity] dated 31 January 1982:
For several days we have been receiving information from nursery schools in Krakow about attempts to persuade teachers to question children as to whether their parents have typewriters at home and whether they use them. In one documented case, a uniformed militiaman actually questioned children himself. We have had similar information from Wroclaw. Parents be warned: We propose that children should be cautioned not to speak about family matters. KARTA Centre Archives Section, Stan Wojenny [Martial Law], Ref: AO IV/230.8″ (extract from the KARTA publication: History and Human Rights: A Resource Manual)
How did the Polish people oppose the rule of Jaruzelski? One way they opposed it was through the medium of poetry, music and theatre. In her book, Kirk describes how the poetico-political dream world of literature was of vital importance. It ensured survival, moral survival, no matter what the political reality.
Zbigniew Herbert was a member of the Polish Resistance Movement in World War II and one of the main poets of the Polish opposition to communism. During the 1980s, Herbert’s work was published by the underground press. In 1986, he moved to Paris to live in exile before he returned to Poland in 1992.
After his death in 1998, an Olympia Monica owned by the poet was donated to the Muzeum Historii Polski: