The Polish Social Council in Berlin
1982. Martial law rules in Poland. More and more Poles are arriving in West Berlin to escape the repressions of the communist government and in the hope of a new, better life. Most of them do not speak German nor do they know what steps to take. The German authorities and the corresponding institutions are unprepared for this new wave of migrants from the East. There is no information in Polish, and even the most basic support is missing. In the confusion, the Poles who are living in Berlin use informal support groups to absorb the new arrivals. Telephone numbers and addresses of private individuals who can be contacted for advice are passed on from mouth to mouth. Sometimes such information is even exchanged through aid organisations and their addresses.
As Witold Kamiński, co-founder, first chairman and now deputy-chairman of the Polish Council in Berlin, recalls: "The telephone at our home would be ringing until one o' clock in the morning." It was always the same problems. We would help the new arrivals to deal with the authorities, assist them in dealing with a wide range of issues and procure apartments, furniture and the most urgent items. But we were unable to help everyone "
It was against this background that the idea was born of founding an organisation based on the principle of mutual assistance. In this spirit the inaugural meeting of the Polish Social Council took place in September 1982. Since then it has been operating as a non-profit association. Its statutes were drawn up in accordance with the statutes of the German Workers' Welfare Association (AWO). The executive committee of the Polish Social Council originally included the two opposition figures Edward Klimczak and Wojciech Gruszecki, but they soon resigned from office because they did not agree with the idea that the council was by nature apolitical.
As early as 1983 the Polish Social Council began to organise its first cultural events alongside its emergency aid for the needy. The aim was to improve the image of Poles, who were often perceived at the time as little more than welfare recipients. With its “writer's evenings”, concerts and cabaret events, the Council wanted to attract as many people as possible and establish a lively Polish scene. Wojciech Młynarski, Jan Tadeusz Stanisławski and Jan Pietrzak, among others, came to Berlin. The then Berlin-based poet, Ewa Lipska, also agreed to put in an appearance. The solo performances gave rise to the idea of launching the “Polish Cultural Days” festival, which celebrated its premiere in 1987. Twenty-six theatrical performances, musical events and exhibitions took place over the ten festival days.