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Stories From The Eastern West

Stories From The Eastern West

Author: Culture.pl

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A podcast telling little-known histories from Central & Eastern Europe that changed our world...

Heard of how The Rolling Stones played for the Communist Party? The bear who fought in WWII? Or the man who single-handedly created an entire language?

Each episode of our narrative podcast tells incredible stories that all have one thing in common: the Eastern West.

#SFTEW
40 Episodes
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PETRILA

PETRILA

2019-10-1800:21:13

How a Romanian mining town that lost its mine fought to turn its remains into a cultural hub.  In our second and final episode on Ion Barbu and the town of Petrila, we learn how the mine, the town's main employer, was unable to achieve profitability in the new era of capitalism and was closed down for good. Ion had spent 15 years of his life at the mine, and for him and many others it was more than just a place of work. So when the mine's crumbling buildings were in line for demolition, Ion decided to try and save them by using art to revitalise the town. What happened to the town once the mine closed? Did Ion manage to save the buildings of the former mine? What happened next? Find out in this episode of The Final Curtain. Like our show? Sign up for our newsletter! Time stamps [01:23] Why the mine was closed? [03:07] Meeting another miner: Cenusa Catalin [09:55] Ion gives us a tour around a gallery in Deva [11:30] What does the process of closing a mine look like? [16:26] Ion gives us a tour around the Plumber's Museum [19:05] The many more museums that Ion wants to open [20:38] Credits Further reading / watching Ion Barbu // on BeyondCoal.eu Photo gallery from our trip to Petrila // on Culture.pl Beneath the Surface: The Occult Inspirations of Poland’s Legendary Naive Artist Coal Miners // on Culture.pl Author Małgorzata Rejmer on Romania & Albania // interview on Culture.pl Planet Petrila: Documentary Feature Trailer // on Youtube Credits Written & produced by Monika Proba Clara Kleininger was our associate producer for this story Edited by Adam Zulawski & Wojciech Oleksiak Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski
ION

ION

2019-10-1100:19:21

How a Romanian miner made political caricatures at a time when making fun of the country's leadership could mean a visit from the secret police.  After finishing university in 1978, Ion Barbu was assigned to the Petrila mine as a topographer. He only intended to be there briefly, but despite attempting other jobs such as local reporter and museum curator, he ended up staying at the mine for the next 15 years... How did Ion balance being both a miner and a political caricaturist? What happened when the secret police arrested him for mocking the Romanian president? How does he recall the sudden and violent fall of the Ceaușescu regime? Find out in this episode of The Final Curtain. Like our show? Sign up for our newsletter! Time stamps [02:04] How Ion became a miner... [05:04] ... and a caricaturist [09:50] The Securitate, the dreaded secret police of communist Romania [12:34] How did the political changes look from inside the Petrila mine?  [16:47] Ion explains why 'We should say goodbye to the past laughing'  [18:42] Credits Further reading & watching 'Islands of culture' shape the future of the Jiu Valley, Romania // on Just-Transition.info Beneath the Surface: The Occult Inspirations of Poland’s Legendary Naive Artist Coal Miners // on Culture.pl Author Małgorzata Rejmer on Romania & Albania // interview on Culture.pl Planet Petrila: Documentary Feature Trailer // on Youtube Credits Written & produced by Monika Proba Clara Kleininger was our associate producer for this story Edited by Adam Zulawski & Wojciech Oleksiak Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski The last song was performed by Fanfara Minerilor din Cavnic
IRYNA

IRYNA

2019-10-0400:19:44

How a single mother in Kyiv experienced the end of the USSR and survived the harsh economic realities of life in post-communist Ukraine in the early 1990s. Part of our mini-series The Final Curtain. Iryna Tkachenko is a music conservatory graduate and journalist who became a single mother just a couple of years before the demise of the Soviet Union and the political and economic turbulence that followed the fall of the Iron Curtain. Her wage as a radio journalist wasn't really enough to survive, but after the complete collapse of the Ukrainian economy,  you were considered lucky to have a job at all. She bought clothes at second-hand shops and travelled to Moscow to buy things that you couldn't get in the mostly empty stores of Kyiv. She took on extra jobs and did whatever she could to survive but never lost her positive outlook on life. How did Iryna end up selling toy cars on the streets of Kyiv? How did she and her friends react to the putsch of August 1991? How did she cope with the early days of capitalism? Find out in this episode of The Final Curtain. Like our show? Sign up for our newsletter! Time stamps [01:10] An unusual single mom [06:00] How Iryna became a businesswoman... for one day only [07:50] The August Coup & the uncertainty it brought on [11:17] Why didn't she go to work abroad? [14:15] And what was she doing instead?  [19:10] Credits Further reading Photos of Everyday Life in Ukraine in the 1990s // on Slate.com Wearing Adibas & Fuma: Memories from Growing up in the 1990s  // on Culture.pl Anne Applebaum Recalls Poland's Food Revolution // on Culture.pl Coup of August 1991 // on Wikipedia.org Andrei Sakharov // on Wikipedia.org Credits Written & produced by Wojciech Oleksiak & Żenia Klimakin Edited by Adam Zulawski Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski
EDGAR & MICHAEL

EDGAR & MICHAEL

2019-09-2700:22:29

How East Berlin's leading political cabaret tried to get their message through despite strict state censorship... and what happened when the system they were laughing at ceased to exist.  For the citizens of the GDR, laughter was often the best medicine when dealing with the absurdities of the political system they lived under. And if you were a resident of East Berlin, there was no better place than Kabarett Distel (meaning 'thorn' in German). The content of Kabarett Distel shows was strictly censored, so performers had to find clever ways to fully communicate with their audience – who would be focussed on every word and facial expression. Even if it was likely that the Stasi secret police was watching. As the regime began to crumble, late 1980s members of the cabaret joined other East Germans on the streets to demand democratic reforms. How did the cabaret respond to the tumultuous events of 1989 and the opening of the Berlin Wall? How did Kabarett Distel adapt to the new democratic reality, where you were suddenly free to say what you like? Find out in this episode of The Final Curtain. Like our show? Sign up for our newsletter! Time stamps [01:01] Laughing at the system [06:00] Testing the boundaries of censorship [10:13] The final years of the GDR [12:43] The fall of the Berlin Wall and what it meant for Kabarett Distel [14:32] Unification, scandal & the Stasi [18:22] Staying relevant & funny in a free system [19:59] Almost time to pack our suitcases Further reading History of German Kabarett // on Wikipedia.org Polish Cabaret under the Communist Regime // on Culture.pl Kabarett Distel // official website (German only) Credits Written & produced by Piotr Wołodźko Edited by Adam Zulawski & Wojciech Oleksiak Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski
TYMON

TYMON

2019-09-2000:18:34

Meet the headstrong musician who's been viciously rebelling against both of the systems he lived under... and created some truly worthwhile art along the way.  Tymon Tymanski came of age in the 1980s, probably the bleakest years of the communist regime. Much like teenagers in the West, he turned to punk rock and artistic rebellion as a way of protesting the stagnation of the society he lived in. He met like-minded young people at the University of Gdańsk, played in various bands, and formed the avant-garde art group Totart, whose absurd, and often obscene, performances and happenings aimed to provoke disorder and outrage. Then, in 1989, the whole system came tumbling down. Like other artists, Tymon had to adapt to the new reality of total artistic freedom and economic uncertainty. How did Tymon and his band Miłość (Love) end up creating a whole new musical genre? What did the arrival of free-market capitalism in the 1990s mean for artists and musicians? Is it possible to remain uncompromising as an artist and still pay the bills? Like our show? Sign up for our newsletter! Time stamps [01:25] Coming of age in the 1980s [04:08] The origins of Totart [06:12] Absurdity & transgression [08:43] 1989 & the end of censorship [10:48] A new band & a new music genre [13:29] Disillusionment & surviving as an artist Further reading Tymon Tymanski // biography on Culture.pl Yass: The Jazz, The Filth & The Fury // on Culture.pl 9 Politically Influential Singer-Songwriters from Europe under Communism // on Culture.pl Rock Music and the Fall of Communism // on Wikipedia.org The Walls Must Tumble: 10 Polish Songs about Freedom // on Culture.pl Credits Written & produced by Wojciech Oleksiak Edited by Adam Zulawski Music by Tymon Tymański, Sni Sredstvom Za Uklanianie, Tymon Tymański & The Transistors, and Totart Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski
JACEK

JACEK

2019-09-1300:24:04

How a banned singer-songwriter became an unwilling musical hero through his home-copied cassettes.  Jacek Kleyff was an increasingly popular topical songwriter in 1970s Poland. But he was unwilling to bend to the demands of the communist state's censorship, so the authorities reacted by banning him from appearing in public, including radio and TV. But he didn't stop recording, and his songs, circulated through the underground on home-made cassettes, became anthems for the Polish democratic opposition.  What did Jacek do when he was blacklisted by the communist authorities? How did he become a cult figure within the Polish opposition? What did he do when the regime fell? Find out in the latest episode of The Final Curtain. Like our show? Sign up for our newsletter! Time stamps [01:25] Coming of age during the grim 1970s in Poland [03:56] Jacek founds the Salon of Independents and becomes an oppositionist [06:23] Salon gets banned, Jacek goes on to play solo [09:57] Jacek writes a song which... starts a revolution [15:22] Jacek gets banned for life and casts himself away... [18:15] ... but still makes some noise from the underground [20:35] The system's gone. What does it mean for Jacek? Further reading Jacek Kleyff // biography on Culture.pl 9 Politically Influential Singer-Songwriters from Europe under Communism // on Culture.pl Solidarność: Poland, Word by Word // on Culture.pl A Long Way To Freedom: Banned Photos From Poland's 1980s // on Culture.pl Rock Music and the Fall of Communism // on Wikipedia.org The Walls Must Tumble: 10 Polish Songs about Freedom // on Culture.pl Credits Written & produced by Wojciech Oleksiak Edited by Adam Zulawski Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski Special thanks to Lauren Dubowski for her brilliant translation of 'Sejm'
SIEGBERT

SIEGBERT

2019-09-0600:24:21

How an East German cameraman filmed the first major demonstrations in the GDR from the top of a church steeple in Leipzig. A month later, East Germany would effectively cease to exist. Part of our mini-series The Final Curtain. Siegbert Schefke was officially unemployed after being fired from his job as a building engineer. Unofficially, he began to arrange for diplomats to smuggle videotapes from East Germany to be broadcast on West German TV stations. As it happens, most East Germans could also pick up Western TV on their receivers. Siegbert didn't really know how to use a video camera, but that didn't really matter, what mattered was that the world could see what was really going on behind the Wall. How did Siegbert and his friend Aram Radomski end up filming the first major protest in the GDR on 9th October 1989?  How did they outfox the Stasi and get the footage to the West? Find out in the newest episode of The Final Curtain. Like our show? Sign up for our newsletter! Time stamps [01:08] Born in the GDR [03:50] From part-time revolutionary to full-time revolutionary [06:22] Smuggling videotapes to the West [08:40] Foreign diplomats & secret codes [11:11] The Monday Demonstrations in Leipzig [14:27] Making history [18:22] The day the Berlin Wall fell [21:12] What next? Further reading Siegbert Schefke // short biography on Revolution89.de The Monday Demonstrations in East Germany // on Wikipedia A Peaceful Revolution in Leipzig // on Spiegel.de 'I was very angry for 30 years' // interview on AlJazeera.com Sex, Karate & Videotapes: The VHS Craze of the 1989 Transformation // on Culture.pl Credits Written & produced by Piotr Wołodźko Edited by Adam Zulawski & Wojciech Oleksiak Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski
WOJCIECH

WOJCIECH

2019-08-2900:23:44

How Polish opposition activists began transmitting their own pirate radio and 'hacked' communist-run state TV. Part of our mini-series The Final Curtain. Wojciech Stawiszyński was an opposition activist, who suddenly found himself in charge of running Radio Solidarność, a mobile radio station that would be the voice of the pro-democracy Solidarity movement. Their success depended on a sophisticated game of cat and mouse with the authorities, with each broadcast taking place at a new location. In the darkest period of martial law, they had to resort to incredibly complicated ways of operating, funding, broadcasting and even communicating with each other. Did they make it through? Did they manage to outmaneuver the communist secret services? What happened when communism was gone? Find out in the latest episode of The Final Curtain. Like our show? Sign up for our newsletter! Time stamps [01:08] How Wojciech found himself in charge of the outlawed Radio Solidarność [03:50] How do you reach listeners when the secret police is on your back? [05:55] Radio Solidarność programme content [09:05] Outsmarting the communist regime with technology [14:35] Hardships and low points [16:42] How to live a dangerous dual life [20:36] Adjusting to capitalism after 1989 Further reading Radio Solidarity, On The Air, Defies Polish Regime // on NYT.com Poland's Walk to Freedom in 13 Iconic Photos // on Culture.pl Solidarność: Poland, Word by Word // on Culture.pl Posters of Solidarity from 1980 to 1989 // on Culture.pl Credits Written & produced by Wojciech Oleksiak Edited by Adam Zulawski Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak Music by Blue Note Sessions Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski
CHRIS

CHRIS

2019-08-2300:19:47

How a photographer from London gave the rest of the world a glimpse of everyday life behind the Iron Curtain. Part of our mini-series The Final Curtain. The Polish-British photographer Chris Niedenthal found himself in the heart of Communist Poland in the 1970s and 80s, documenting both how ordinary people lived, as well as the major political events leading up to the collapse of the Soviet-backed regime. His photographs ended up in major Western periodicals, such as Newsweek, Time, Der Spiegel and Forbes. Through his camera, he created a window into the Polish People's Republic for the rest of the world to peer through.  His iconic photograph of an armoured vehicle in front of a poster for the film ‘Apocalypse Now’, taken after martial law was declared in Poland, remains one of the defining images of the period – but how did he end up taking it, and what happened next?  Like our show? Sign up for our newsletter. Time stamps [01:07] How he came to Poland [04:15] The election of John Paul II and how it changed Chris’ life [05:30] Martial law and Chris’ most iconic photo [10:04] Other revolutions Chris witnessed and photographed [12:59] How he happened to be the first photographer to shoot the fall of the Berlin Wall [16:00] What did Chris do after communism had ended? Further reading Chris Niedenthal // biography on Culture.pl The Communist Regime in Poland in 10 Astonishing Pictures // on Culture.pl Solidarność: Poland, Word by Word // on Culture.pl Capturing a Country's History in One Single Picture // on Culture.pl ChrisNiedenthal.com // Chris's official website Credits Written & produced by Monika Proba Edited by Adam Zulawski & Wojciech Oleksiak Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski Music by Blue Dot Sessions & SIR HARDLY NOBODY (Chris Niedenthal's band) 
ZBIGNIEW

ZBIGNIEW

2019-08-2300:25:02

How a well-known opposition leader evaded capture by the communist authorities for almost five years. Part of our mini-series The Final Curtain. In the early 1980s, Zbigniew Bujak was the head of Solidarity in the Warsaw region, a pro-democratic labour movement that was gaining in strength. So much so, in fact, that the communist leadership declared martial law in December 1981 in order to stop the opposition dead in its tracks. Hundreds of political activists were arrested, including much of the leadership of Solidarity. But Bujak managed to go into hiding before they had a chance to find him. Making use of an underground oppositionist network as well as methods of masking his movements, he managed to evade capture for five years. Keeping Zbigniew in hiding became crucial for the underground opposition since not only was he orchestrating anti-regime actions, but his continued freedom remained a symbol of the secret police’s weakness. How did his hiding end? What was the long-term impact of his activity? What did freedom mean for Bujak himself? How does he remember the shift of power from his own perspective? You’ll find all the answers in the opening episode of Stories From The Eastern West’s new mini-series The Final Curtain. Like our show? Sign up for our newsletter! Time stamps [01:45] Life in 1970s Poland [04:51] Zbigniew Bujak starts his anti-regime activities [09:47] Martial law [11:25] Going into hiding [17:17] Arrest. What next? [19:37] Glasnost: what it means, and what it meant for Poles [22:37] Communism is gone. Who takes over now? Further reading Zbigniew Bujak // biography on Wikipedia.com Poland's Walk to Freedom in 13 Iconic Photos // on Culture.pl Solidarność: Poland, Word by Word // on Culture.pl Posters of Solidarity from 1980 to 1989 // on Culture.pl One Photo, One Story: The Round Table Talks // on Culture.pl Credits Written & produced by Wojciech Oleksiak Edited by Adam Zulawski Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski
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