Cultural Diversity Means Participation

After nearly a year break, we are back with a new issue of RTV Magazine dedicated to minorities living in Poland. 

The texts published in this issue were selected through an open call. The jury were made up of people from the arts with representatives from the Roma (Małgorzata Mirga-Tas), Jewish (Zuzanna Hertzberg), and non-binary (Tomeka Kitlińska) communities. We wanted this issue not only to represent a plurality of voices and attitudes, but also to be produced from the outset with as diverse a team as possible.

In doing so, we want to remind ourselves that Poland has always been a multicultural place where different ways of shaping social reality have been practiced. Situated between two empires (German and Russian), it was a territory where languages, religions, and customs overlapped and mixed. This heterogeneity came to an end with the Holocaust, post–war pogroms, border changes, and resettlement policies that took shape after World War II; the nationalist governments of the inter–war period, to which the far-right Law and Justice party (PiS) liked to refer to, and the xenophobic policies of the Catholic Church did not help. For many years, Poland was one of the most homogeneous countries in Europe, with a high emigration rate, which increased especially after it joined the EU in 2004.

Since 2016, the situation has changed and more and more people have started to consider Poland as a migration destination. This has been linked, on the one hand, to the country’s improving economic situation and, on the otherand perhaps most importantlyto the ongoing war in Ukraine since 2014, and the repression experienced by the population in authoritarian Belarus. Today, Poland is home to 3.8 million Ukrainians, 100,000 Belarusians, more than 38,000 Germans, 10,000 Russians, around 8,000 Lithuanians, Roma and Lemkos, 7,000 Jews, and other minorities, including more than 200,000 people who identify as Silesians.

Despite the fact that many Poles have experienced migration, this has not led to greater openness towards newcomers. Migrants and refugees all too often face discrimination, ethnic-based exclusion, and even physical violence, often with fatal consequences.

By dedicating this issue of RTV Magazine to minorities, we want to remind ourselves of Poland’s multicultural history, which is once again becoming our present.

In the Critique section, we have Macau-born artist Kate NganWa Ao, Ukrainian-born translator Julia Zalozna, and Belarusian theatre critic Dmitry Ermalovich-Dashchynski. They write about their experiences of migration and their relationships with Poles. Their texts are a testament to the fact, that as a society, we still have a lot of work to do; multiculturalism is not just a matter of statistics, but it above all requires a change in the practice of social relations. Its aim must not be the domination of the majority through the assimilation of the minority, but the active co-creation of conditions for equal participation.

In the section, Affirmation, artist and cultural researcher Lesia Pcholka presents the VEHA Photo Archive, which she initiated to collect private images depicting life in Belarusian society, images that exist outside of official collections and are in opposition to the regime’s vision of history. The editor and regionalist Mariusz Wieczerzyński, on the other hand, describes forced migrations that do not increase diversity but, on the contrary, homogenize society. In his essay, he recounts the history of his home town of Żagań, which was marked by the displacement of its German inhabitants.

In the Art Channel, Hleb Burnashev, Sara Stupiec, and Zuzanna Hertzberg present their artistic practices, which work with memory and their complex identities: Belarusian, Yugoslav and Jewish.

Finally, we recommend the interview with Anna Mirga-Kruszelnicka, Director of the European Roma Institute for Art and Culture in Berlin. You can read about what it means to be Roma in today’s world, about the rising and established stars of Roma art, but also about antigypsyism and the memory of the Porajmos (Romani Holocaust), which has only in recent years begun to function in official historical narratives.

On behalf of the RTV Magazine team, we wish you an engaged reading,

Editor-in-Chief: Zofia nierodzińska


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