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70th Anniversary of Kultura Paryska Magazine

When the first issue of “Kultura” * appeared in June 1947, no one suspected that one of the most important cultural and political centres of Polish post-war emigration had been born. The money for the establishment of Instytut Literacki (the Literary Institute) – which over the subsequent five decades published not only 637 issues of the monthly “Kultura”, but also 171 issues of “Zeszyty Historyczne” (Historical Notebooks) and more than four hundred books – came from the funds of the Polish 2nd Corps led by General Władysław Anders. However, the magazine’s founder Jerzy Giedroyc (1906–2000) quickly paid off the debt, and moved the headquarters of the institute from Rome to Maisons-Laffitte near Paris. Away from the main centres of Polish political emigration – which were located in the United Kingdom and the United States – he built an increasingly prominent centre exerting influence not only on the Polish diaspora, but also on Poland, whose fate remained the main focus of interest for Giedroyc and his closest associates. The most important among the latter included his brother Henryk, who lived with Giedroyc in the legendary mansion at avenue de Poissy, as well as Zofia and Zygmunt Hertz, and Józef Czapski.

Outside of Giedroyc himself, the political stance taken by ”Kultura”, built in opposition to the majority of Polish exile communities, was mostly influenced by the editorials of Juliusz Mieroszewski. In his writings he argued that – after the predicted disintegration of the USSR – the sovereignty of Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus (ULB) would be one of the foundations of Poland’s geopolitical security. The most important contributors of “Kultura” also included, among others, Gustaw Herling-‑Grudziński, Konstanty Jeleński, Leopold Unger and Czesław Bielecki.

The consecutive issues of “Kultura” that were smuggled to Poland – usually in the form of miniature publications – and the books with the characteristic Ionian column and the letters “ILP” (Instytut Literacki Paryż) were among the most sought after reading materials. Thanks to them, Poles were able to come into contact with the works of authors such as Witold Gombrowicz, Czesław Miłosz, Marek Hłasko, Stefan Kisielewski, Leopold Tyrmand or Leszek Kołakowski, which were untouched by Communist censorship. Although possession of publications from “Kultura” and especially publishing cooperation with Jerzy Giedroyc posed a risk of repression from the Communist government of the Polish People’s Republic, subsequent generations of Poles visiting France headed to Maisons-Laffitte.

* “Kultura” – a periodical published in 1948–2000 in Paris; banned during the Communist regime in Poland. “Kultura” is also customarily referred to as “Kultura Paryska” (Paris Culture).

Prof. Antoni Dudek, PhD. Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw