The 3rd Anniversary of the Opening of The National Museum in Szczecin - The Dialogue Centre Upheavals
The National Museum in Szczecin - The Dialogue Centre Upheavals | Plac Solidarności 1, 70-515 Szczecin, Polska

The National Museum in Szczecin invites for the events held on the occassion of the 3rd anniversary of the opening of The National Museum in Szczecin - The Dialogue Centre Upheavals. The entrance is free of charge. The events are held in Polish.

The National Museum in Szczecin - The Dialogue Centre Upheavals is an exceptionbal place, where we try to face controversial topics related to the newest history of Poland and Eurpe, that divide or unite the continent, but influence its future.

The establishment of the Centre was primarily aimed at restoring the memory of events that, during five decades, shaped the identity of people living in West Pomerania, and also influenced the fact that after 1989 Poland became a fully sovereign country. The reminder of the uniqueness of the place where, after the war, a complete exchange of population took place, where - despite the lack of social ties, the continuity of tradition and a sense of temporariness - there were freedom breaks permanently changing not only the history of this part of Poland, but also of the whole country and the world. One of the reasons for the creation of the Centre was the willingness to face the myths that have become embedded in the awareness of post-war generations. Another - the revision of complexes worrying the inhabitants of these lands for years.



January 18th 2019 | Friday

12.00 at noon | Dialogue space (level –1)
Press conference summarizing 2018 at The National Museum in Szczecin - The Dialogue Centre Upheavals nad presenting plans for 2019 

Jerzy Undro "I am a Witness” photography exhibition opening

January 19th 2019 | Saturday

11.00 A.M. | hall
The National Museum in Szczecin - The Dialogue Centre Upheavals exhibition anniversary guided tour for families

January 22nd 2019 | Tuesday 

10.00 A.M. | Open Storage / NMS/CDU education room
"Family Chronicles" competition winning works presentation

10.15 A.M. | Dialogue space (level –1)
"Three Days in Szczecin" film release

January 24th 2019 | Thursday

"Following Uniusual Stories. The National Museum in Szczecin - The Dialogue Centre Upheavals” - a competition for schools

"Thw Wind of Change Was Blowing" school competition results

January 25th 2019 | Friday

10.00 A.M. – 2.00 P.M. | Dialogue space (level –1)
Presentation of achievements of The National Museum in Szczecin - The Dialogue Centre Upheavals in 2018 (a video release) 

4.00 P.M. | Dialogue space (level –1)
Meeting with The National Museum in Szczecin - The Dialogue Centre Upheavals donors
16.30 | Dialogue space (level –1)
Meeting with Jerzy Undro, a reporter, "I am a Witness" exhibition author

Public debate on events important for the region, Poland and the world over the past decades - how much they have changed the mentality of Poles, how they affected the identity of the inhabitants of West Pomerania, what local upheaval event can expand the list of events widely recognized in Poland and the world as crucial, people of upheavals that were missing at the permanent exhibition of the National Museum in Szczecin - The Dialogue Centre Upheavals.

January 26th 2019 | Saturday

12.00 at noon | Dialogue space (level –1)
"Three Days in Szczecin" film release, meeting with shipyard workers who took part in the meeting with state and party authorities in January 1971

1.30 P.M. – 3.30 P.M.
| Dialogue space (level –1)
Presentation of achievements of The National Museum in Szczecin - The Dialogue Centre Upheavals in 2018 (a video release)

16.30 | Dialogue space (level –1)
Michał Siedziako's "Bez wyboru” book promotion



20160928 CDP 005 fot.Oczajdusza Michal Wojtarowicz




The Dialogue Centre Upheavals: The Idea


The Dialogue Centre Upheavals is, in fact, a unique place where we try to deal with controversial topics concerning the newest history of Poland and Europe, those that divide or unite the continent, but have an impact on its future.

The establishment of the Centre was primarily aimed at restoring the memory of events that, during five decades, shaped the identity of people living in West Pomerania, and also influenced the fact that after 1989 Poland became a fully sovereign country. The reminder of the uniqueness of the place where, after the war, a complete exchange of population took place, where - despite the lack of social ties, the continuity of tradition and a sense of temporariness - there were freedom breaks permanently changing not only the history of this part of Poland, but also of the whole country and the world. One of the reasons for the creation of the Centre was the willingness to face the myths that have become embedded in the awareness of post-war generations. Another - the revision of complexes worrying the inhabitants of these lands for years.

Poland after June ’89

June 1989. The elections to the Contract Sejm are really won by "Solidarity" and Poland is beginning to change. The following months bring changes that have not been dreamed about by previous generations: the government is headed by one of the opposition leaders, the last political prisoners are freed, the monopoly of the communist party has been abolished, the centrally managed economy is finally over, censorship is ended, the political police are dissolved.

People tired of the sadness and poverty of recent years, after the explosion of (still suppressed because of fear) euphoria, because in the end "Poland is ours". They try to find a new reality, quickly learn new rules of functionning. Fortunes grow, but also helplessness, because after years of living in a state that has usurped the right to make decisions for citizens in every field, you have to decide for yourself. The phenomenon of "escaping from freedom" is no longer just the title of a popular book.

Parallel to the struggle with everyday life, there are struggles for memory. The first years of freedom (and even moments before the upheaval) bear fruit in dozens of books that resemble topics absent in the Polish discourse over the years: deportations of Polish citizens into the depths of the Soviet Union, Katyn, the loss of the Eastern Borderlands of the pre-war Republic, labor camps for political prisoners, persecution of the so-called real and imaginary political opponents, the activities of Public Security Offices, then the Security Service, surveillance, denunciations, but above all the quiet heroism of many forgotten people. Finally, the threads that a limited group had accessed to are available to everyone who only wants to reach for it.

After a few years of the flood of such literature, the Poles turn away from it, tired of the intensity of the phenomenon. True history enforces a face with a past that, apart from heroism, has shameful episodes. True history embarrasses the beneficiaries of the old system. People who really believed in a communist utopia also refuse to accept it, because resignation from faith would undermine the sense of their lives or people who have simply adapted to the previous system, drifting without opposition where they just drifted - homo sovieticus anchored deeply in many of us.

There were still symbols of the old age in many places, and some of them were to last for decades. Changes in consciousness were much slower than in the surrounding world.

20160928 CDP 016 fot.Oczajdusza Michal Wojtarowicz


Myth Exchange

How was it in Szczecin? Here the changes took place quickly, but they went in a surprising direction. It turned out that the inhabitants of Szczecin are the most fascinated by history, not the one they could remember or know from the stories of fathers or grandparents, but the earlier, deeply hidden in the previous system - the history of the German city. A portal devoted to this issue was quickly created, nostalgic photos appeared, on which Szczecin was recalled as a city - garden, one of the European metropolises, providing its inhabitants with peace and comfort of life. Pre-war Szczecin was to be a place of happy people who left behind beautiful streets and squares, monuments, prosperous workplaces, full of relics of the past giving a sense of rooting and certainty.

There were many publications reminiscent of Stettin; postcards, calendars and albums. We stopped pretending that the city was born in 1945, that we found it empty, that only the Poles made it the capital of the region. We stopped looking suspiciously at the Germans who were traveling to Szczecin on sentimental journeys. We have become more open and complete about previous events.

Restoring the memory of pre-war times has, paradoxically, increased our complexes. Comparing the pre-war city with that rebuilt and tamed over the post-war years began. The symbols of the first one were Stoewer cars and several dozen breweries, the other - bundles of exiles and carts. The past seemed black and white, with no shades: recalling pre-war Szczecin was more eager to talk about a luxury Westend than about districts that did not have a sewer connected yet. Recalling the industry symbol - the Vulcan shipyard - the times of magnificence and production of four-Baikovans were more vividly emphasized than the gloomy period in which it closed (1927), became a camp for people recognized by the Nazis as enemies, and revived thanks to production for the needs of war bringing death and suffering to millions of people .

When comparing pre- and post-war architecture, public space development, the changes caused by the war in every area were not taken into account. The post-war ugliness of many rebuilt corners of the city was attributed to the fact that Poles did not treat these lands as a certain and durable "small homeland", only - as provided in the documents of the Potsdam conference - as transferred in administration. Somewhere in those considerations, the thread of aesthetics imposed by the socsystem prevailing in the middle of Europe lost, as well as the priorities of decision makers, among whom it is difficult to find a desire to revitalize the historic centre or create a space that is friendly to residents.

The threads that shadowed the pre-war Arcadian image of the city also escaped: the crisis that touched them so much that it was here that the perfect ground for one of the insane ideologies of the twentieth century - Nazism - arose. It was not by coincidence that Szczecin and West Pomerania were marked as the brownest on the maps depicting the next elections of the authorities of the Third Reich. Very soon, Adolf Hitler received the title of an honorary inhabitant of the city.

Perhaps these threads seemed less appealing, because they were the leitmotiv of the previous system, in which only one ideology that destroyed the old order and one enemy (Nazism) was pointed out. Knowledge about the second (communism) brought new times.

Recalling the history of the pre-war city gave the feeling of digging into the truth hidden under the mythology in force after 1945, which was to justify the coming of Poles to this land. The process of instantly replacing one myth with another was very interesting. Myths about "Piast lands", "lands of the forefathers, to which we returned", which were fed to generations on the so-called Recovered Territories after 1945, very quickly replaced the recalled "Arcadian" myths.

It is good to be aware that the attempt of polemic with myths, or their revisions, often ends in failure. Mythology is part of the identity, only some people feel like it is vivisection.

Are we now creating a new mythology, what are some people afraid of? The permanent exhibition The Centre of Dialogue Upheavals will be the answer to this.

But not only.

20160928 CDP 017 fot.Oczajdusza Michal Wojtarowicz

The Domino Rule

After the political transformation of Poland, the history of post-war Szczecin was not considered to be too fascinating by the inhabitants. It was possible to get to know it by visiting temporary exhibitions of The National Museum in Szczecin, which reminded who and why settled in those lands after the war, what "everyday history" looked like. Upheaval history moments were exhibitions of the Institute of National Remembrance evoking actions against the authorities. It was still not enough, as could be seen during the official celebrations of important events. Knowledge about them - as demonstrated by street surveys conducted by journalists - was less than modest, and the number of participants in the ceremony was systematically approaching zero.

War for memory was won by more active centres, and above all, their leaders, who realized how important an element of the future is reliable knowledge of the past. Szczecin and Pomerania were invisible, in the belief many were becoming more and more transparent in the memory of subsequent generations. Among the young people leaving massively from here to Warsaw or abroad looking for a better future, the question was often asked: what holds me here, why should I stay in this nondescript city, what happened here so that it would be worth identifying?

The 25th anniversary of Solidarity, which took place ten years ago, showed that the situation is becoming critical. The triumph was celebrated by all the Central and Eastern European cities involved in the transformation, and Szczecin - next to Gdańsk, the main centre of social revolts - was almost invisible.

It was then when there was a need to create something permanent, the idea of the Museum of Upheavals was born. It seemed obvious that it was time for Szczecin to talk about its role of the "defiant city". It turned out to be obvious not only for Poles: when Joachim Gauck was visiting Szczecin during the 25th anniversary of Solidarity, then the head of the institution, thanks to whom Eastern Germany could account for their past, asked about the museum of Polish political history. An embarassing silence fell.

The fact that it was necessary to create such an institution was mentioned sometimes by activists of the former democratic opposition, but they were mainly talking about the need to build a "Solidarity" museum. The concept of the emerging European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk undermined the sense of such an idea. Creating an institution - a giant, with global ambitions, naturally eliminated the idea that at ECS could take up at most the size of the regional chamber of memory. Anyway, the resignation from the presentation of earlier events that took place before August 1980 in Western Pomerania would be a misunderstanding. Without them August '80 simply would not be.


20160928 CDP 090 fot.Oczajdusza Michal Wojtarowicz


Why about Us?

During the period of the People's Republic of Poland, Szczecin was mainly spoken in the context of the ancient history of these lands - about Slavic traces. Such was the requirement of propaganda, as well as the one to not talk about the latest history, the "oppositional" one. Everyone in Szczecin could see excavations from hundreds or even thousands of years ago, remains of Gryffins. Contemporary Szczecin was presented as a maritime and port city, quite rich against the background of Poland, where ships were built and invited to the first (maybe all over Poland) strip-tease. It was some part of the truth, but a small part. Szczecin and West Pomerania were talked about as a melting pot of nations only in the context of the Polish language - the purest one, uncontaminated by any dialect or accretions. Issues of different nationalities and national minorities were treated marginally, for example about the French living here, Szczecin citizens heard when André Robineau, a French consul, was accused of espionage; about Jews in 1968, when part of the Jewish intelligentsia was forced to leave Szczecin. The case of the minority from the East, mainly Ukrainians, brought here as part of the "Wisła" campaign, was silent. People were silent as well. They fled to the western territories shortly after the war, because they were considered enemies of the people's authority, and only after years they were restored to their good name, some were considered heroes. In the end, the official history of the city did not include many events that showed what people living here wanted. Obviously, the authorities could not pretend that there were no December '70 or August '80 - these events were in the general consciousness, but their full picture was possible to be presented only after the political upheaval in 1989.

Even in the consciousness of the generation that remembered the last few decades, the role of Szczecin as the city initiating transformations has become blurred, faded. The lack of reliable information will cause that the next generations, who will start deciding about the future of the country, the city, will not have a chance to fully understand its past. What will they build on? This is first.

Secondly, it is easier to do something for a city that you can identify with, one that you can be proud of. It must be shown that this pride has a source. By losing memory, we lose our identity.

In 2005, the first concept of the Museum of Upheavals was created, which primarily involved a narrative about the road to freedom, and thus showing the groundbreaking history of these lands in the years 1945-1989. Public debates have begun on which events are the most important for us. After several years of convincing the politicians of all the options that it is worth building such a facility, work began on the concept's elaboration. Then the name of The Centre of Dialogue Upheavals appeared - indicating the direction of the development of the idea: "Centre" meant that we want more cultural institutions than a museum in the classical sense of the word; "Dialogue" assumed the admission of people and stories of a variety, which gave the chance to get a picture of the whole; "Upheavals" were a sign that events that permanently change reality will be the main theme of reflection and permanent exhibition. Despite attempts to move away from this concept in favor of showing the history of the post-war "in general", the idea of the "museum of freedom" managed to maintain. The first queries in the archives of institutions and individuals have begun.

20160928 CDP 027 fot.Oczajdusza Michal Wojtarowicz


"Upheavals" Upheaval

The upheaval for "Upheavals" was, organized in 2008 under the name of The Dialogue Centre Upheavals, the commemoration of Szczecin's August 2008 - for the first time in twenty years. Then a dramatic strike was recalled, which did not exist in the memory of the city at all, and which was one of the reasons for the authorities of the Polish People's Republic to declare their willingness to engage in a dialogue with the opposition. The celebrations were different than traditional ones, which were limited to the laying of wreaths at monuments. This time, the celebrations were to be primarily shared, and thus organized by many institutions, and addressed to very different groups of recipients. The program included three concerts, including the first and the only one so far in the port (entitled Among the Cranes), public debates with the participation of Solidarity leaders, honoring meritorious not only decorations, but also a common feast on which they met after many years, the heroes of that time, honoring people from the first ranks as well as those supporting the strikers, without whom the strikes would not last 18 days, generations meeting in the pub, scientific conference, publications, joint march through the city, a holy mass. It was after these five-day celebrations that the West Pomeranian Voivodeship Board decided that it was worth providing funding for The Dialogue Centre Upheavals project.

Initially, it was thought that The Dialogue Centre Upheavals should be placed in the building of the Old Slaughterhouse at Łasztownia, then that the exhibition should be located in the Main Building of the National Museum in Szczecin at Wały Chrobrego. Unexpectedly, the decision was made to build a completely new facility just for the needs of the Centre, in addition to a square particularly important for the residents of Szczecin, where twelve people died in December 1970. An architectural competition was announced, which was won by Robert Konieczny from KWK Promes. He proposed an underground project of the pavilion, which did not interfere with the surrounding architecture: the new Philharmonic building, the Provincial Police Headquarters, the church of St. Peter and Paul or the historic Royal Gate. The idea began to embody.

A team was created that developed assumptions for the script of the permanent exhibition. The concept of the exhibition has been extended - and rightly so - for the time of war. The beginning was to be 1939 - the year of the outbreak of World War II, as well as the end of Polish independence for half a century. The enlargement of the concept gave new opportunities: to the story of where and from what decisions the Poles appeared on these territories, what was Nazism and how they treated opponents, what role the Poles played in these territories during the Second World War (forced laborers, prisoners of war and AK intelligence in West Pomerania), why and how the Germans disappeared from here. First of all, there was a chance to put together two totalitarianisms oppressing the 20th century, to show their effects, which was to be a warning for the future.

Assumptions for the script were well received by reviewers, representatives of scientific and research institutions from the region and Poland. Public debates on the project took place - the comments submitted were made in the form of an annex to the Guidelines.

20160928 CDP 033 fot.Oczajdusza Michal Wojtarowicz


Under Criticism

It was obvious that the exhibition on the latest history of Poland would be controversial: witnesses of events are still alive, everyone has their own memory, what for some will be a reason for glory, for others - a reason for shame.

During the debates held, the dispute lines were very visible. The first one ran between those for whom the Polish People's Republic was a value, and those who considered the past system a curse for Poland. The second showed the division between the people of Solidarity: those for whom 1989 was the fulfillment of the dream of generations, and those who did not hide the disappointment of the Third Polish Republic. While this second group of arguers knew how to find common ground, the first was not very good.

The apogee of the criticism of The Dialogue Centre Upheavals was a letter from the Provincial Council of Spjusz Lewicy Demokratycznej, in which concerns about the bias of the DCU exhibition were expressed (alleged that the threads of the region's reconstruction from war damage were omitted). This letter provoked a violent reaction of the Szczecin elite - architects, doctors, teachers, lawyers - 64 people replied in spirit that the assumptions of the DCU exhibition are properly constructed, and the planned story of our way to freedom even indispensable for our identity. A sharp retort ended the dispute, echoes of which sometimes return. However, both then and now, it can be seen that the vast majority of critical judgments is primarily due to the ignorance of how the exhibition will look and what topics to emphasize. Information on this subject was widely disseminated to the public (long-standing debates, scenario of the exhibition sent to the media, local governments, parliamentarians, veterans, trade unions, etc., etc.). However, the final arrangement design of the exhibition was kept secret for a long time. The aim was to obtain the spectator's surprise effect, as well as to ensure that information about innovative solutions that significantly deviate from the ones used in most of the narrative museums that have been used so far has not been publicly available.

fot Michal Wojtarowicz

When Word Becames Flesh

Taking into account the criticism, parallel to the construction of the building, details of the exhibition's arrangement were created. This was done by Szczecin Redan company, supported by KWK Promes and a team of artists, graphic designers and programmers from all over the country. They received materials collected for years - pictures, documents, films, audio materials - found in home archives and in archives of Polish and foreign institutions. This is where the collections from the Polish, German and British state archives, foreign press such as the French, American foundations or associations from around the world dealing with the collection of memorabilia from the Second World War came to the exhibition. Often, unique collections and surprising souvenirs were in the basements and attics of history witnesses.

It was important how to use the acquired collections to fit the maximum of the message in a modern form. It was obvious that the exhibition must be of the 21st century - multimedia, addressed to a wide range of recipients: older and younger, engaged in history and indifferent to it, Poles and foreigners. It seemed necessary to maintain a balance in everything: the number of multimedia used in relation to traditional solutions, first of all to the museum exhibits and archives collected in display cases, balancing local and national issues, as well as European and world ones. Improper proportions result in the creation of a tiring space for the viewer who might feel unsatisfied at the moment when it turns out that there are too few objects from the period creating the atmosphere of the previous system. In turn, focusing on only local topics could lead to the creation of a regional chamber of remembrance and to eliminate once and for all the possibility of showing that events that took place in Western Pomerania were inspired or inspired by events of key importance to the history of Poland and Europe, that they are part of universal history.

20160928 CDP 035 fot.Oczajdusza Michal Wojtarowicz


Added Value – Events

Apart from the permanent exhibition, The Dialogue Centre Upheavals ran many educational and promotional projects. Educational activities quickly found recognition among schools at various levels from all over Western Pomerania. First of all, they were history lessons carried out in historical places, with witnesses of history or historians - experts in a given field. In projects implemented since 2010, youth from over fifty towns in the region took part together with the Marshal's Office of the West Pomeranian Voivodship. It is worth mentioning the meetings that were widely heard: lessons with Franak Wiaczorka, the leader of the young Belarusian opposition (on the subject that freedom is not given to everyone), lessons with Anna Maria Anders - daughter of General Władysław Anders (lesson about Monte Cassino), lessons in the Szczecin Shipyard, formerly Adolf Warski Shipyard, in the Szczecin port or in the basement of the church of the Jesuit fathers, where opposition gathered in the seventies and eighties. Young people learned about its representatives, people injured in December 1970 or strike leaders from the times of the "Solidarity carnival". High school students and junior high school students were participants in outgoing lessons, including to Kołobrzeg and Siekierki, to Sachsenhausen (for the ceremony of laying the obelisk commemorating General Stefan "Grot" Rowecki murdered in the camp), to the prison in Wierzchowo, where the West Pomeranian activists of "Solidarity" were interned, to Greifswald for the discussion of post-war times in the former East Germany and the Polish People's Republic, which The DCU organized as part of the Polish Culture Days. Youth, including students, willingly took part in the Oxford debates - the teams argued about the martial law, the action of "Wisła", "Cursed Soldiers", about whether the freedom of the nation is indeed the highest value. High school students from the legal class of one of the high schools in Szczecin also held a court in December 1970. More and more schools and educational centers take part in competitions: children created a board game "From August to August"; a comic book about the post-war history of the place where they live, or a newspaper published on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the events of August 1980.


CDP 0326


This Is just the Beginning

The idea of The Dialogue Centre Upheavals continues to grow thanks to the support of very different partners, involvement of institutions and authorities. The exhibition itself, even the most attractive and modern, is just the starting point. Literally, because in individual spaces of the permanent exhibition there will be postcards pointing to further places, which it talks about, eg. to Pennemünde, to the synthetic gas factory in Police, to the building of the State Repatriation Office, to the parish of various denominations, to the places of Stalinist execution, to the former Szczecin Shipyard Adolf Warski, port or church. St. Andrzej Bobola and many, many others.

The Dialogue Centre Upheavals permanent exhibition is to be a starting point for discussion on the most controversial topics concerning the recent history of Poland and Europe. Recalling the worst moments in the recent history, it is to be a warning against phenomena such as nationalism, totalitarianism, xenophobia, racism. Because today's events will become history tomorrow, debates also concern what is currently the most engaging public opinion. We have already discussed the Belarusian opposition and harassments used by the regime of Alexander Lukashenka in the DCU; unsuccessful attempts at Polish-Ukrainian reconciliation on the occasion of the next anniversary of the "Vistula" or Volhyn massacres, as well as involvement of the latest achievements of genetics to identify victims of Stalinism buried in nameless burial pits.

In addition to project activities, further enlarging of the collections, their development, creation of the Archive of Oral History "Non omnis moriar", in which accounts of historical witnesses are collected, The Dialogue Centre Upheavals has many other plans. It is primarily the establishment of the "Upheavals" Foundation helping "upheaval" people who find themselves in a difficult economic situation. The Foundation would organize assistance campaigns, and also include in activities such as "A present for the hero" (DCU already participated in this action). The plans are to set up a publishing house where publications on the most recent history of Poland will be published, first of all dealing with the history of West Pomerania and the Polish-German border. Another project is the organization of the Academy of Civic Education, which would create a coherent project of training and workshops for youth and adults in the field of history and culture of remembrance. The project is carried out jointly with the partners of The NMS-DCU from Poland and abroad conducting research and development activities. The Academy would invite authorities from Poland and abroad.

The principle of operation of The Dialogue Centre Upheavals is reaching out to various groups of recipients and operating in different spaces with very different means. Therefore, among the tasks, there is creating an Upheaval Festival in the future, the participants would then have the opportunity to take part in concerts, debates, outdoor exhibitions, implemented under a common slogan referring to values referred to by The Dialogue Centre Upheavals. The project would be implemented jointly with the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, the National Centre for Culture and the City of Szczecin.


Agnieszka Kuchcińska-Kurcz