The Polish bookshop in West Berlin

The inside of the Polish bookshop in the 1980s.
The inside of the Polish bookshop in the 1980s.

The Polish bookshop was founded purely by chance, but the fact that it happened at all was down to the efforts of a group of enthusiasts among the Polish migrants in West Berlin. The philologist and librarian Wojciech Drozdek, who was one of the co-founders and subsequently ran the bookshop, spoke about its beginnings: “At the time, Adam Zagajewski and Ryszard Krynicki were staying in West Berlin at the invitation of the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service). The meeting with them was organized by the most important bookshop at the time, the Knesebeck Elf. There were collections of poetry there by both authors which had been published by the ‘Kultura’ in Paris. My friends and I thought that if they can manage to import these publications, why shouldn’t we be able to?”

To turn this idea into reality we needed a location. Then, ironically, in October 1979,  the German bookseller Thomas Stodieck opened its bookshop at Richard-Wagner-Straße 39 in Charlottenburg which had a modest corner with publications by Polish authors. Over time, a Polish bookshop in the true sense of the word developed from these beginnings.

1981, the year in which “martial law” was declared on 13 December, was the breakthrough year for the Polish bookshop. This day triggered a true exodus from Poland. During the state of emergency that lasted a year and a half, the ruling powers at the time were trying to get rid of the opposition activists, who had been stigmatised as troublemakers, which resulted in a lot of these people leaving Poland. Although the borders were closed when “martial law” was introduced, a large-scale campaign against the opposition activists had already begun in March 1982 and they were ultimately released from the jails and detention facilities and forced to leave the country.[1] Many of them travelled to West Berlin.

 

[1]  G. Wołk, Uchodźcy Jaruzelskiego, [at:] Dzieje.pl, https://dzieje.pl/artykuly-historyczne/uchodzcy-jaruzelskiego (retrieved on 7/2/2020).

 

Mediathek
  • The inside of the Polish bookshop in the 1980s.

    The inside of the Polish bookshop

    The inside of the Polish bookshop in the 1980s.
  • The inside of the Polish bookshop in the 1980s.

    The inside of the Polish bookshop in the 1980s.

    The inside of the Polish bookshop in the 1980s. On the chair to the right is the very popular record “Polish Summer” with original recordings from the time of the strike in Gdańsk and the fight agains...
  • The children and young people’s book department in the Polish bookshop in the 1980s.

    The children and young people’s book department

    The children and young people’s book department in the Polish bookshop in the 1980s.
  • A reading with the poet and opposition activist Zdzisław Jaskuła, 1984.

    A reading with the poet and opposition activist Zdzisław Jaskuła

    A reading with the poet and opposition activist Zdzisław Jaskuła, 1984.
  • Meet the author evening with Adam Zagajewski, 1985.

    Meet the author evening with Adam Zagajewski

    Meet the author evening with Adam Zagajewski, 1985.
  • The “Veto” publishing house in an exhibition of the Berlin Academy of Arts.

    The “Veto” publishing house in an exhibition

    The “Veto” publishing house in an exhibition of the Berlin Academy of Arts.
  • Barbara Nowakowska-Drozdek and Zbigniew Dominiak (1947-2002)

    Barbara Nowakowska-Drozdek and Zbigniew Dominiak (1947-2002)

    Barbara Nowakowska-Drozdek and Zbigniew Dominiak (1947-2002), poets and publishers of the quarterly publication entitled “Tygiel”, in the Polish bookshop, 1988.
  • Fortieth anniversary of Stodieck´s bookshop, November 2019

    Fortieth anniversary of Stodieck´s bookshop, November 2019

    Wojciech Drozdek (left) and Thomas Stodieck during the celebration of the fortieth anniversary of Stodieck´s bookshop, November 2019.