wtorek, 9 marca 2010

Instead of Aborigines...

I know: it was to be about my Picnic at Hanging Rock and dancing Aborigines. However, something happened recently that made me change these plans. So instead of Aborigines there will be... Poles.

I talked to my Aussie friend few days ago about Australian nature, mountains especially. When I mentioned that I'd love to see mountains near Melbourne called Dandenong (the name that is still impossible for me to say in a proper way:), he said Australia did not have any high mountains. “The only one is that... mount...Kociucko?”. He meant mount Kościuszki (2228 m above sea level). Although, I'm Aussie for a while, my Polish heart didn't allow me to waive it aside. So I explaine some basic facts.

First of all, that Kościuszko is our national hero and the name of the mountain itself did not come without the reason. The highest mountain in Australia was discovered by Polish explorer, Paweł Edmund Strzelecki in 1840. He emigrated to England after the November Uprising and since 1838 he decided to explore south of Australia and Tasmania. Do you know that Strzelecki was also the very first person who discovered gold at the continent. However, he concealed this fact on Australian and English government request.

The 19th century was the time of explorers. In fact, the diaries' of Edward Eyre, Charles Sturt or Ernest Giles are the beginning of Australian literature. Authors mixed facts and fiction to keep their readers attention (and people loved that “literature”). Two issues are interesting while reading these diaries: the notion of the emptiness and the so-called 'alienation relationship'. Burke and Wills, Wentworth and Lawson, Hume and Hovell, Ernest Giles, Ludwig Leichardt (his expedition inspired Patrick White to write Voss) – all of them faced the duality of the emptiness of the continent. On the one hand, it was the most important point of their expedition: the emptiness to discover, to fill and to posses. On the other hand,the emptiness that is... empty. They discovered, soon or later, that there was nothing, no impressive hills, lakes, mountains, rivers to be named. And why the 'alienation relationship'? It was the essence of their exploration. 'To discover', 'to get to know' this land meant 'to posses'. Although, it was impossible to do if you were the part of it. 'To be outside', 'to be stranger' were essential for discovering.

And Poles were a part of these discovering from the very beginning. In 1697, even before James Cook reached the shore of the Botany Bay, first Polish people (the eight of whom was from Gdańsk) came to the far away continent on board of the ship of Willem de Vlamingh, Dutchman. In 1790, when Sydney was fighting for surviving, Ksawery Karnicki, the Polish noble, reached land in the first Australian colony. He was on his way from Chile to France.

The first larger group of Poles came just after November Uprising, among them Władysław Kossak (Juliusz Kossak's brother). At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries: Bronisław Malinowski and Stanisław Ingacy Witkiewicz. There was the emigration wave after the WW2 (look -> Silver City directed by Sophia Turkiewicz), lots of Polish Jews at the end of the 50s and 60s. Finally, the so-called Solidarity generation in the early 80s (not all of them emigrated because of political reasons).

Poles have their own contribution to Australian culture and history. Prof. Jerzy Zubrzycki is widely regarded as the "Father of Australian Multiculturalism", prof. Jerzy Toeplitz, who moved to Australia in 1970, became the director of the very first film school in the country, in Sydney. It could be said that he brought up most of the film-makers connected with the Australian Film Revival in the 70s. More? Jerzy Domaradzki (the director of documentary movies and, for instance, the feature film, Lilian's Story,the adaptation of the very important piece of Australian literature by Kate Grenville), Gosia Dobrowolska, a favourite actress of Paul Cox, the most interesting Australian auteur, and Jacek Koman who played i.e. in Australia or Moulin Rouge of Baz Luhrmann. Do you remember the magic scene of El Tango de Roxanne? He is the Argentinian (sic!) who sings the song. And Cezary Skubiszewski, a Polish composer who recently has composed music for the Australian hit, Bran Nue Dae where you can watch Magda Szubanski, an actress with Polish roots. And I find myself at the starting point: the step-dancing Aborigines. So next time I will write about Bran Nue Dae – the first Aboriginal musical.

PS. We have also Harvek Milos Krumpetzki vel. Harvie Krumpet, the main character of the Academy Awarded short animation of Adam Elliot (look the picture above:).

And for the dessert: El Tango de Roxanne. Enjoy!

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