Solidarni zza Muru – For Solidarność. Behind the Wall
“Versuch in der Wahrheit zu leben”
(Vaclav Havel – Czech author, opposition activist and politician)
The mathematician Ludwig Mehlhorn (1950–2011), a former civil rights campaigner in the DDR, is a protagonist of the exhibition with photos by Marian Stefanowski[*]. He inspired the Krzyżowa Foundation, and was a friend of Poland and of Solidarność.
Why am I starting with that? Because the exhibition could just as easily be called “For Solidarność. On BOTH sides of the Wall”.
So, “For Solidarność. Behind the Wall” represents just a snapshot of what happened in the divided Berlin, and this snapshot is often poorly lit, out of focus and incomplete. A single scene in a film that will most certainly not happen again ... At the exhibition in Łódź, the Gazeta Wyborcza quoted Stefanowski as saying “Lots of people showed good will. They all broke a small or a larger stone out of the wall. You would need a thousand rooms to be able to show the pictures of all these people”. The 58 black and white photograms are just a tiny piece of the enormous puzzle that historians have been putting together for quite a while now. When confronted with the exhibition, the witnesses of the events back then can only complete the fragments with their own experiences and stories, and what appears to be even more important is that they do this with experiences that are “different” to those of the photographers, the people involved in the exhibition and the curator, and this produces a high depth of focus. Ultimately, this was our aim, and has been since this exhibition was born. This aim was also achieved by viewing thousands upon thousands of negatives, even more of which were irretrievably lost in damp flats, during moves or due to the poor film quality.
In one of my interviews, I pointed out that the photographer wanted to take us back to the mood of West Berlin in the 1980s and to share this mood with others. But above all, he wanted to put the people that lived on both sides of the wall and stood together on the side of truth in this city. In this respect, the exhibition is a thank you to all individuals and to all institutions and organisations that helped or provided assistance, whether from the very start or just every so often; at least, as far as it was possible, and always from the perspective of the solidarity of people or even just out of sympathy for Poles, irrespective of political convictions, religion or skin colour ...
The “For Solidarność. Behind the Wall” exhibition consists of three topic blocks and ends with an epilogue entitled “Up @ Down”. The first section, under the heading “Berlin Zachodni – zachodni Berlin/ Berlin (West) – West Berlin”, tells the story of the divided town, its particular atmosphere and the border between two foreign, hostile worlds. But it is also about the Wall and about how the inhabitants of Berlin adapted the city’s unique character: some in their “golden cage” – the others in the capital of the workers’ paradise ...
In the second topic block “Solidarni / Für Solidarność”, there are ten portraits of people, in alphabetical order, who accompanied the photographer on a Solidarność pilgrimage through Berlin from December 1981 to the fall of the Wall. They seem to be individual characters, from completely different professions and often with completely different political convictions as well. Philologists, doctor, graphic artist, trainer or bookseller – all unified in one goal: to help Poland and the underground movement Solidarność.
[*] Marian Stefanowski: Solidarni zza Muru – For Solidarność. Behind the Wall. Photography – Photographs. Berlin – Warsaw 2014. Organiser: Association of Polish Journalists in Germany. Under the patronage of the President of the Republic of Poland Bronisław Komorowski. Cooperation and coordination of the project: Ewa Maria Slaska and Joanna Trümner et al. Curated by W. Drozdek. Vernissage on 25 June 2014 at IG Metall in Berlin. Exhibition sites outside Berlin: Warsaw, Dom Polonii, 22/8/2014 (the exhibition was closed after two weeks without any reason being given), Toruń, Galeria Wejściówka, 12/12/2014, Łódź, Dom Literatury, 25/4/2015, Darłowo, Zamek Książąt Pomorskich, 13/12/2016.