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October 2, 2011 – March 31, 2012
The Art Gallery in Koziniec
ul. Koziniec 8, Zakopane
The post-war history of Zakopane is largely unacknowledged. Meanwhile, the last witnesses are passing away, and together with them the unique chance to document the town's recent history. The exhibition ZAKOPIAŃCZYCY (THE PEOPLE OF ZAKOPANE) aims to partly fill this gap by presenting the significant personalities who were active in Zakopane between 1945 and 2010.


It is perhaps safe to say that the post-war history of Zakopane is the town’s least known period. The number of publications devoted to the beginnings of Zakopane, the town’s golden era (mid-1800s till 1914), as well as the interwar period has outgrown those devoted to the decades after 1945. In spite of the many advanced forms of documentation, it is easier to access published material – texts, photographs – dating back to the times of doctor Chałubiński, the man who popularized Zakopane in the second half of the 19th century, than from the 1960s and 70s. Meanwhile, witnesses are passing away, and together with them often the only chance of getting to know and understand Zakopane’s recent history.

The exhibition Zakopiańczycy (The People of Zakopane) seeks to partly fill this gap. As the contemporary Austrian writer and essayist Karl-Markus Gauss wrote: “An interest in the past is fading away together with self-confidence, the faith in the possibility of shaping one’s own future. The person who isn't able to see oneself and one’s own existence in a historical context, at the very least in the context of the history of one’s own family, not only loses the past but also loses the future (…) the future is only when one doesn’t try to exist in a state of eager non-memory. Minorities can survive only thanks to the continuous awareness of their own past, their origin, the troubles and failures of their ancestors, the struggle for survival. If they lose the collective memory, the knowledge about how they became, what they were, they will fail.”

The community of Zakopane, the Zakopane minority, is exactly in such a situation. A serious historical debate is missing, an awareness is missing that history is a mistress of life, also a public debate about the present time is missing. In the world, and to some extent also in Poland, an awareness of the need to wake up historical consciousness exists. Hence the growing popularity of so-called oral history – of spoken, private history, which makes up an important and essential part of our collective experience. Witnesses of events are passing away. Soon, those who remember these witnesses and who had personal contact with them will also pass away. One can say that memory is slowly disappearing. Now is the last moment to prevent this. The open formula of our project will allow its continuation and to fill the subsequent areas of Zakopane oblivion.

The purpose of our exhibition, which appeals to memory, is to restore and strengthen the process which has created and is continuing to create this local culture, thanks to which it is possible to participate in it and to feel a part of it. Portraits of people, being traces of their presence in the memory of people alive today, serve to recall the past and to continue the broken narration. The exhibition is not meant to impose any particular interpretation, it doesn't want to close or to determine anything. It sees its fulfilment in the incentive to recall the past, to revive memories, to revive the presence of the memory, which is made possible by the faces of people.

Kuba Szpilka, Maciej Krupa, Piotr Mazik


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Translated & edited by: Joanna Holzman, Adrian Smith, Anna Wende-Surmiak