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Agnieszka Sadecka

Agnieszka Sadecka obtained her PhD from Eberhard Karls Universität in Tübingen, Germany and Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India in the framework of the Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorate Programme ‘Cultural Studies in Literary Interzones’, coordinated by the University of Bergamo, Italy. Her doctoral thesis, ‘Exotic Others or Fellow Travellers? Representations of India in Polish Travel Writing in the Communist Era’, focussed on socialist perceptions of otherness. In 2007, she graduated in European Studies at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and worked there as a teacher, researcher and student adviser between 2007-2012. Currently, she serves as academic coordinator for international programmes at the Centre for European Studies of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow.

Black Memory, White Present – Strategic Remembering and Forgetting in Contemporary Nationalist Discourses in Poland, as Illustrated in Marcin Kącki’s Białystok (2015)

The narratives of Polish national identity construction often revolve around past glory, featuring various forms of nostalgia. At the same time, they use a strategy of erasing of the uncomfortable elements of multicultural past. This paper follows the cue of Marcin Kącki, who, in his reportage Białystok. Biała siła, czarna pamięć (Białystok. White Power, Black Memory, 2015), skilfully presents the unavoidable link between what is removed and repressed, and what takes its place. The growth of aggressive, xenophobic, neo-Nazi movements, and the wiping out of Białystok’s Jewish heritage, are presented as two sides of the same coin. This contemporary ‘memorylessness’ is, however, accompanied by the nationalist movement’s emphasis on celebrating history and carefully selected heroes of the past.

Two other reportages will be considered in this paper, referring to two instances of problematic remembering/forgetting: Anna Bikont’s My z Jedwabnego (2004) and Teresa Torańska’s We Are. Separations of ’68 (2008)Like Kącki, the two reporters focus on important events in Polish-Jewish relations and debates surrounding them. These are the dramatic events of the Jedwabne mass killing of Jews by their Polish neighbours, and of the communist era anti-Semitic campaign of 1968 in Poland.

The three reportages mentioned in this paper all focus on the removal – symbolic, but also physical – of the Jewish Other from the national territory, imaginary and memory. Filling this void constitutes, according to Andrzej Leder, a crucial part of the post-war construction of the new middle-class identity, characterised by the erasing or repressing of guilt, by the sinking into mythical past and by the distrust of Others. The contrast between forgetting certain aspects of the past and emphasising others thus remains a defining feature of Polish national identity narratives today.