Friday, 23 November 2012

Warsaw's heroes on the walls

For my father, Bohdan, and for my daughter, Monika.

Left: an end wall of a kamienica (tenement) by Wilanowska Metro/bus station, commemorating Stanisław Grzesiuk, a noted Warsaw street musician. The street art depicts him as Syn Ulicy ('Son of the Street') with the sub-title Szemrane Piosenki ('murmured songs' or 'shady/dodgy songs'). Today's young artists have a fascination with the people who made Warsaw what it is; the characters, the lore, the slang, the unbreakable spirit. Grzesiuk, playing the banjo in the courtyards (podwórka) of Warsaw kamienice, embodied a tradition to be encountered today in the performances of Orkiestra z Chmielnej, who still play the old songs. Catch them by Metro Centrum after 11:00 most weekday mornings.

Below: an end wall of a kamienica between ul. Okrzei and Kłopotowskiego depicting four Home Army (AK) soldiers and the Polska Walczącza logo against a map of Our City and the Vistula running red, an allusion to Red Runs the Vistula, the book written by Ron Jeffery, an English PoW who escaped from the Germans and fought alongside the AK. I see in these faces of the young men the face of my father as a young man, who participated in the Warsaw Uprising from the beginning through to the bitter end. The hair styles, the faces, the clothing; each one looks familiar and brings to mind portraits of my father as a young man.

A propos of which - is it Warsaw Uprising - or Warsaw Rising? If you've not done this yet, do have a look at Google's fascinating NGram viewer. With this tool, you can track how words or phrases gain and lose popularity over the years. So I enter 'Warsaw Uprising' and 'Warsaw Rising'. And here's the result (click to enlarge):

This suggests that immediately after the event, the preferred English term for Powstanie was 'Rising', but by 1960, the term 'Uprising' had overtaken it. Why? And why the sudden spike in popularity for 'Rising' after 2000, but before Norman Davies' book Rising '44 The Battle for Warsaw was published in 2003? So - for the past half a century, Uprising has the edge on Rising in terms of the canon of published work in the English language.

This time last year:
Tax dodge or public service?

This time two years ago:
Warsaw's woodlands in autumn

This time three years ago:
Still here, the early snow

This time four years ago:
Another point of view


DC said...

Great stuff. I love when you post street art. Any idea who the AK faces are?

jel said...

Great photos and explanation. Thanks for them. Books written by Grzesiuk were the books of my youth. Love the graphite.