Poland's legal ostracization of former spies

As reported By Adam Easton on the BBC News website Poland has passed a law in which former communist collaborators will be barred from working in business, government, or media. Priest are exempt from this law although it is said that one in ten priest collaborated.

The prosecution of former communist spies presents a serious issue of what defines "collaboration" and how it is proven. When we visited the National Center for Memory at Bratislava, one of the ethical issues that came up was that three categories of people one the list:
1. People whom the communists wanted to recruit,
2. People who were recruited but never reported anything or misreporting things so as not to harm anyone,
3. People who were true spies and provided information that resulting in harming people.

Will the Polish law only prosecute the "true spies" whose information resulted in the harming of other people or everyone on the list? If it is only the "true spies" then it seems this law is about justice, but if it goes for everyone on the list, then it opens the process to political and business corruption.

The article talks about how many of the "secret police files are missing and have been tampered with." Will the law make provisions for the burden of proof of collaboration, before prosecuting individuals?

These are questions that need to be answered.


Rock the Vote Poland

Rock the Vote Poland
Today I met Kasia Szajewska, a 23 years old student, who with her friends and colleagues started an organization called Wybieram, to increase youth voting partipation.

The image is a poster the group did with the help of volunteers to get youth interested in politics. They provided lists of books, music, films, and comic books tied to politics. Quotes from youth about what their issues. Quotes from local politicians. Results from a study that sociology students did on youth voting and partipation.

They produced TV and radio spots aired on Polish MTV and other video shows, for $3000.

I explained the election design work done by DforD, which got her very excited about doing something similar in Poland.

She has received a leadership fellowship to come to the US, when we hope to plan out what could become the Polish DforD.


Polish poster design

Polish poster design
Today I visited the Polish Poster Museum. My interview uncovered one key assumption about Design for Democracy like activities: in the US there is an interest and desire of the people to trust government. .

In Poland, the newness of the democratic process and the economic work that needs to happen seems to result in the desire to leave as opposed to making political life better.

This and the reliance on the State to provide makes it difficult to meet Ric Grefe's two factors for successful civic design engagements:

1 Willing and able government partner 2 Designers with the skills and interest to do high quality civic design work.

There are Polish designers doing some competition-based projects for urban furniture and city welcome signs, but it might be a challenge to find partners in the Polish government because they have other priorities.

It confirms my desire to hold a TransAtlantic conference/summit on Design and Governmentality. There seems to be a need to establish a dialogue in this area around:
1 Establishing and managing design councils and centers
2 Establishing and managing design policies 3 Case studies in successful civic design projects 4 Case studies in successful government supported design innovation projects 5 Case studies in grassroots design activism

The questions are when to do it, which European country (I'd prefer somewhere in Central Europe.), and who would sponsor it. But I believe it would be a good idea.


Auschwitz Birkenau

Auschwitz Birkenau
When going to a place like Auschwitz and Birkenau, the key question is what is the appropriate experience to have. At Auschwitz, people talk about breaking down and crying. But the tears didn't /wouldn't come. I felt the sort of nausea of sorrow in the face of true human tragedy, but it was all too strerile, too cerebral. I wondered, "Am I too distant from the experience? Is it because it is not my family experience?"

Then we went to Birkenau. Birkenau was 8 times the size of Auschwitz. It had the crematoriums as well as gas chambers and "dying" quarters. More importantly, you are better able to imagine the guards with guns pointed in watchtowers. You can touch the beds upon which people slept.

This all affected me, but the appropriate experience didn't come until we were making our way back to the car. I had walked ahead of the group to escape their chatter. They had already begun to intellectualize the experience, where I wanted to FEEL it.

I began walking faster and faster towards the gate. My heart started palpitating and I couldn't breathe. I realized that I was on the verge of running All I wanted was to get out. Once out, I sat on the bench to catch my breath.

Although it passed quickly, I had caught the essential feeling of the place which was the fear and the desire to escape. The great human tragedy is that while I could run out, so many did not.


Catholic Church in Poland

Catholic Church in Poland
To say that Poland is a catholic country is an understatement. The reason why is quite fascinating. As pointed out by Andrej, our host, there are 3 main reasons:
1 When Poland was divided between the Austrio-Hungarian Empire, Prussia, and Russia, the Catholic Church was the unifying symbol of Polish identity. 2 During Communism, it was where the opposition could meet and thus the heart of Poland's liberation. Even now, the government has to respect for the Church by meeting with the ArchBishop or attending Church holiday events. 3 The worlc and death of Pope John Paul ll, has lead the youth back to the Catholic Church. According to the priest who guided us through the Dominican Convent, each year they accept 30 out of 50-60 applicants.

The Catholic Church is important to remember when thinking about relations with Poland. Moreso, than other places we have visited.


Arrived in Poland

Cracow is beautiful. I have a lot to finish writing about Bilbao and will find an Internet café to do so tomorrow.

I must say that I have had my best vegetarian meal in Europe that was not pasta. I did not expect it to be in Poland.

It is strange to see monks and nuns in full habit. It is going to be a great program in Poland like the other ones.

More tomorrow. I must sleep.


Polish poster design

Recently I read on AIGA Voice, an article written by Andrea Marks about Polish poster designer, Henryk Tomaszewski called Meeting the Master. The article was fascinating in that it discussed how this innovative form came out of the contraints of the time: the destruction of the Warsaw after WWII, the lack of paper, and the need to promote foreign cinema.

My student designers often think that innovative design comes out of freedom (unlimited time and money), but I have found that innovation happens when one can create something meaningful within the most severe constraints (cultural and social). On my tour this summer, one of the places I hope to visit is the Poster Museum in Wilanow, Poland.