Postcolonial Europe

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Colonial and Postcolonial Aspects of Polish Discourse on the Eastern „Borderlands"

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Far too often, literature and culture are regarded as politically and even historically innocent; in my opinion exactly the opposite is true ... [Said 2003, 63]
The explosion of knowledge in Poland about the Eastern „Borderlands"

In this article I shall discuss works of literary theory and cultural theory published in Poland after 1989 and dedicated to the subject of the so-called Eastern „Borderlands", i.e. the territories to the east of Poland's current border, which at various times in history were part of the Polish state. We have already witnessed a great wave of interest in émigré thinking and literature belonging to the so-called „Borderlands" discourse, and we have also seen a period of intense development in „Borderlands" thinking in such areas as history, literary theory, ethnology and sociology. Almost everything of worth has been reprinted from those works that arose in émigré circles. It is difficult to count the number of conferences, seminars, collective volumes and individual works that have dealt with various aspects of this matter. Many new literary texts, memoirs, scientific and academic works related to this field are still appearing. Several tenth websites established by aficionados of the „Borderlands" can be found on the Internet - currently these constitute a separate communication circle. The „Borderlands" surround us on all sides; I would even go so far as to say that their multiplication and hyperbolization in a country the size of Poland are an expression of collective experiences functioning for mythologizing rather than for genuine geographical, political or ethnic reasons.
The vivid fiction of the „Borderlands" in the Polish collective consciousness finds support not only in literary nostalgia. Its real expression is rather the scientific, academic and recollective literature about the „Borderlands". From the growing corpus of texts, there appears a characteristic image of the world, form of language and direction of thinking. It is worth considering in what kind of language the „Borderlands" are spoken of, and in what sources support can be found for the emerging image of the world. The term „Borderlands" belongs to a wider structure of thought and image, possessing a specific magical-mythical nature and exerting a considerable influence on the social and political attitudes of the Polish community. The „Borderlands" seen in this perspective become after all that which is most Polish, although - and precisely because - they have been lost, that which ennobles ex definitione everyone who talks about them. And conversely - any criticism encounters a sharp reaction and even the accusation of betraying the nation.

„The baseless power of discourse..."


Daniel Beauvois, author of the recent book Trójkąt ukraiński. Szlachta, carat i lud na Wołyniu, Podolu i Kijowszczyźnie 1793-1914, reflects on the astonishing vitality of the „Borderlands" myth, where the Ukrainian borderland assumes both an Arcadian and a catastrophic image [Beauvois 2005, 8-13]. He indicates the close connection between them:
The idyllic note dominated in Polish speaking about Ukraine and it is best to state immediately that it was the source of the, usually catastrophic relations between Ukrainians and Poles. [Beauvois 2005, 11]
Beauvois, when describing the nostalgic attitudes of Poles, does not hide his surprise:
To tell the truth, it is not clear why Ukraine still filled the soul of the average Pole with nostalgia and enchantment even in Communist times. [Beauvois 2005, 8-13]
In this context, the role of literature cannot be underestimated. The overriding discourse that fulfilled the role of supplying source knowledge about the „Borderlands" to Polish public opinion over the last hundred years or more was that of literary fiction, which mythologized reality, drove out any rational historical assessment, particularly at the time of the Partitions and then again during the Communist isolation, and created the mythology of a lost homeland, suffering and sacrifice. It is worth noting, however, that the position of literature as the source of historical, political and patriotic knowledge is not some aberration in the Polish consciousness, maniacally attached to the „Borderlands", but the psychological effect of a complex of severance, particularly during the Communist period, as well as the need to base that knowledge on a source which could not be entirely falsified - namely the national literature.
For émigrés the inevitable idealization of the past created an even stronger impulse, symbolised by the cult of lost lands, irrespective of rational historical circumstances. The results of this literary attachment to the „Borderlands" push the collective consciousness into the sphere of myth, where every claim for restitution is possible. Even today the formula gente Ruthenus, natione Polonus still seems to many Poles to be the most beautiful of all possible conceptions of identity in the „Borderlands"[1] while they entertain no thoughts about its colonial nature.
Beauvois is sceptical about the cognitive value of the „Borderlands" literary discourse in Polish culture. He writes:
The impressive library of books about the „Borderlands" is not capable of providing an imaginative assessment of the sources of misunderstandings. The baseless power of discourse nearly always drowns out the significance of documents, which sometimes leads - as in the case of Ryszard Przybylski's Krzemieniec - to a clear twisting of reality. [Beauvois 2005, 19].
This „baseless power of discourse", constitutes a kind of spiritual power, and becomes the expression of an overriding consciousness that takes the force out of rational arguments.
Beauvois avoids the term „colonialism", not wanting to encroach on an area of dispute that he finds uncomfortable. He writes:
This is rather about a conscious ignoring of the other side of the coin, about a continuous construction of a myth concerning the harmonious multiculturalism of the former Republic. And it is precisely this kind of literature that has proliferated after 1989. Myth has this feature that it proposes a second nature, sometimes even stronger than reality. [Beauvois 2005, 8-13].
In contrast to Beauvois, I would like to indicate more forcefully certain features of Polish „Borderlands" discourse that are connected with a colonial type of consciousness, although that discourse is now deprived of the object of colonization, situating itself in the sphere of the language used, the images summoned up, the stereotypes and styles of academic and scientific discussion. Fortunately today, the „Borderlands" discourse, which fulfils the role of a specific supranational historical consciousness, does not lead to the subjugation of anyone other than the Poles themselves. This does not mean, however, that it is received only as a harmless Polish obsession. The former „Borderlands" react negatively after all to their continual „Borderlands-ization".

„The Polish Borderlands" - a symbol of exclusion

I use the term „Borderlands" in inverted commas because I am aware of the fact that former and, particularly, present inhabitants of this area do not wish to be regarded as Polish „Borderlands" in any sense understood by the Poles and, therefore, that this term is politically incorrect and determines the kind of relations which they might feel as symbolic of Polish colonialism. In times of sensitivity on the subject of history, identity, ethnic, cultural and political identity, such reactions may be significantly mollified by the use of pragmatic dialogue. No-one in Poland asks whether the Lithuanians, Belarusians or Ukrainians want to be, metonymically, the „Borderlands" of Poland within either its historical or its present borders, or what they think about it. The „Borderlands" discourse loudly proclaimed as a form of dialogue and above all of multiculturalism reveals its emptiness already at the outset. In this discourse there is no discussion. „Borderlands-ness" and „Borderlands studies" are in any case reserved for Poles and only rarely can we find any active Lithuanians, Belarusians, Jews or Ukrainians here.
The well-known and respected researcher, Jacek Kolbuszewski, published in 1996 a popular work entitled Kresy [Borderlands] in the series A to Polska właśnie [This is Poland as a matter of fact]. Kolbuszewski writes about the great, although no longer present, Polish culture in the lands now known as Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine [Kolbuszewski 1996]. There is no significant mention here of the history or culture of these countries. There is only historical Poland. It would come as no surprise if in the opinion of the inhabitants of these countries Kolbuszewski's work were received as an attempt at domination, an exclusion of their cultures, an attempt at subordination and the promotion of a mythologised (un)truth about the splendour of the „Polish Borderlands". The contemporary Ukrainian, Belarusian or Lithuanian reacts to this type of work emotionally - the world described therein is not in his understanding the „Borderlands", it is not even Poland, particularly „as a matter of fact", - it is not and never has been. It is as if a German researcher were to write a work entitled Kreisen in a series entitled „This is Germany as a matter of fact" about Silesia, Pomerania or Masuria. One can imagine how much ink and paper would be wasted here on polemics full of righteous indignation. Many traps of this kind, concealed in seemingly stunning mental shortcuts, can still be found in the contemporary Polish language, and not only in its colloquial form but also in its academic form.
For at least one hundred years, the word „Borderlands" (understood universally as the „Eastern Borderlands", since other geographical designations, e.g. „Western Borderlands", are of a secondary nature) has occupied a central place in the national and state mythologising discourse. The „Borderlands" were a place of specific political confrontation and struggles for Polishness, which means that they were de facto about maintaining the Polish possession. In the word „Borderlands" there lies the unconcealed great power of local patriotism (transferred in the twenty inter-war years as well as today to the official patriotism of the Polish state), exoticism, otherness, colourfulness and uncommonness, which are attractive not only to Poles. On the other hand, there is also in this word the hint of a lowering of status, a specific message indicating the peripheral nature of the „Borderlands" as a world far from the Polish centres and, of course, not exclusively Polish (for both reasons the term „Borderlands" was and still is attacked in Ukraine and rejected as absurd in Lithuania).
According to Edward Said in his Orientalism [Said 2003], the word „Borderlands" would be a typical lexeme in the dictionary of colonial discourse, even though the practice of this „colonialism" is now exclusively historical; in other words, it does not possess a designatum and its world consists exclusively of words and symbols. This testifies to the power of the construction of mythologizing historical experiences, concealed by the language of social communication, particularly in literature and in documentary and political texts. The anachronistic word „Borderlands" lives on in social emotions. Even a supposedly unquestioned authority, such as John Paul II, comes in for criticism. During the „Borderlands" conference (Warsaw, 26-28.11.1996), Ryszard Kiersnowski criticised the Pope's statement in which he talked about the Lithuanians of Polish descent (namely, the citizens of Lithuania of Polish origin)[2], and not about repressed Poles. Kiersnowski included these Poles in the world of the „Borderlands" and excluded them from Lithuania as their motherland. Meanwhile, the Catholic citizens of the city of Przemyśl, which is not only Catholic, closed the doors of the garrison church to the highest dignitary of this faith when he wanted to hand over the shrine to the Ukrainian Greek Catholics in the name of good-neighbourly relations. According to Kiersnowski's manner of thinking, the „Borderlands" are to be exclusively Polish. Like the churches. If they are not Polish, then they have no right to exist. And no Pope can change that.
The „Borderlands" constitute, therefore, a site of tribal community. A saccharine image of good, paradise, community, harmony. And at the same time a symbol of suffering and sacrifice. The „Borderlands" are the key to national martyrology and the holy, unquestionable truths. Everyone who raises a wistful voice on the matter of the „Borderlands" is a real Pole. Others are simply, well, Others. Speaking out on behalf of the „Borderlands" situates the speaker at the centre of the Polish national discourse and signifies at the same time the confirmation of an identity based almost on some magic spell. The „Polish Borderlands" are, therefore, a definition of identity that excludes Others.

The „Borderlands" and the marches

The issue of the „Borderlands" is obviously connected with the issue of the ethnic and cultural marches. The difference between these consists in the fact that the „Borderlands" are treated as a phenomenon belonging to the field of collective memory and above all to national axiology [Kolbuszewski 1996, 128], while the term „marches„is in essence neutral and does not arouse such associations. The marches are around and about us, in the places where we meet our neighbours, but the „Borderlands", because they belong to the field of national consciousness and ideology, are central and everywhere.
Each march-land may receive today an enhancing package of ideological „Borderlands-ness"[3]. It will then be a frontier, a line of defence of Polishness. In the semantic field of the term, an important role is still played by military elements - battles, the shedding of blood, the chivalric ethos, guarding the borders, like in the scouts' song about „the knights of the Borderlands' watchtowers"[4].
Another paradoxical effect of the ideologization of the „Borderlands" is the situation in which the marches are perceived as common (i.e. multinational) and the „Borderlands" as exclusively Polish - in such terms as „Polish Borderlands", „our Borderlands", „the lost Borderlands" they belong only to the Polish dominium, even if today this is merely a symbolic presence.
The sociologist, Krzysztof Kwaśniewski, has isolated those features of the „Borderlands" which, in his opinion, express conquest, expansiveness, aggression:
zonality, understood, however, more as a tendency than an area; 2. emphasis more on the peripheries than on the centre, particularly the strictly ethnic; 3. aggressiveness and the increasing of the state's possessions (the advantage of state thinking over national thinking, state assimilation over national counter-culturization); 4. one-sidedness and the feeling of strength, advantage, the automatic sense of belonging to a higher ethno-class, entitled even to arrogance; 5. satisfaction derived from acquisition; 6. a primeval attachment to youth and masculinity and adventure; 7. satisfaction from gaining foreign but loyal followers who will realise one's own aspirations. In contrast to the marches, the Borderlands are not recognised by both sides as Borderlands and they do not even have to neighbour directly onto the central ethnic territory. Their mythologizing effects can, however, modify the imaginings and the aspirations connected with defining the national territory externally and with defining one's own centre of culture internally."[Kwaśniewski 1997, 80]
The author indicates also the peculiar mental attitude of „Borderlands" identity:
For this are needed a feeling of superiority, advantage, aggressiveness, one-sided aspirations of appropriation, annexation or aggressiveness, a disproportion in the use of force to the resistance encountered. [Kwaśniewski 1997, 69„There appears the mentality of the sahib, namely of the lord and master (of his country), and the defender (usually, however, against the same people whom he has conquered but sometimes also against a rival conqueror)." [Kwaśniewski 1997, 72].
A Polish colonial discourse?
For over one hundred years, the Republic disappeared completely from the map of Europe, existing solely - as Said would say - in 'imagined geography'. The greater part of the last two centuries was spent by Poland, therefore, in bondage to one or other power. It would be difficult to find more impressive postcolonial references,
writes the American Polish Studies specialist, Clare Cavanagh [Cavanagh 2003]. Poland experienced this side of the coin deeply and painfully. The other side is shown to us by Beauvois in the previously cited work, Trójkąt ukraiński [Beauvois 2005]. It is not stated anywhere, after all, that a colonised community cannot display colonising features. That is why Poles know very well what the world both of the colonised and of the colonising looks like. They know, but they are not interested in thinking in the categories of responsibility for this dichotomy.
On the basis of works by Said, Gayatri Spivak and Homi Bhabha, a broad definition of „colonial discourse" can be formulated which will take into account the above-mentioned experiences. This would be a combination of linguistic, colloquial and institutional (literary, scientific, political) convictions indicating the justified (within its own discourse) feeling of superiority and the right to rule over other areas, peoples and cultures and also a sense of mission towards them. Quite often these convictions are combined with a refusal to allow the colonised community or people the capacity for independent existence (because of their social and political immaturity, so-called ahistoricity, low civilizational level). Colonial discourse is characterised by paternalism, the conviction of the indisputable domination of one's own world, which nevertheless gives a voice to so-called multiculturalism, namely controlled multiculturalism. Said states that colonial discourse does not refer to the corpus of texts directly expressing colonial ideology but rather to the arrangements of practices and rules which produce texts and which make up the methodological organization governing their intellectual content.
To date no-one in Poland has directly asked the question as to whether the so-called „Borderlands novel" or the mass-produced „Borderlands" memoirs from before 1939 and published by émigrés were a symptom of colonial consciousness. Were there any reactions at that time anticipating today's thinking in postcolonial categories? If the question was never asked, then there can be no answers. As early as the inter-war period we were confronted by tensions expressed in the relations represented in texts such as Pożoga [Conflagration] (1922) by Zofia Kossak-Szczucka or Bunt rojstów [The Revolt of the Marshes] (1938) by Józef Mackiewicz. The first of these expresses a colonial attitude and the second a weaker, because less audible, anti-colonial attitude. Similarly, if the later poem by Andrzej Kuśniewicz Słowa o nienawiści [Words about hatred] (1956) can be seen to constitute an ideological (and therefore false) representation of an anti-colonial attitude, then the émigré memoirs of Father Walerian Meysztowicz Poszło z dymem [Up in smoke] (1973), or the artistic prose of Zbigniew Haupt, could be said to belong to the territory settled by the émigré colonial discourse. I am deliberately not including nineteenth-century writing, e.g. Nad Niemnem [On the banks of the Niemen] by Eliza Orzeszkowa, since the understanding of Polishness and its right to exist is represented differently there from in the period of Polish state independence. Between these extremes is situated Wysoki Zamek [High Castle] (1966) by Stanisław Lem - one of the few Polish novels set in Lviv or Galicia to be accepted by Ukrainian readers.
The vast array of „Borderlands" memoirs is a separate and specific problem. A typical example might be the introduction to the memoirs of the well-known film director, Janusz Majewski, whose roots were in Lviv, Retrospektywka [Retrospective]. In particular this fragment:
... our next servant was Ukrainian. I think she was called Witka, or maybe Olena. In any case she was definitely a 'Ruthenian małanka' - as my father called those women who passed through our house. The one whom I remembered tried to reach me to read - but unfortunately she muddled up Latin letters with Cyrillic ones. [...] I suspect that my undoubted dependence on Wikta had a subconsciously erotic foundation, because I liked it when she pressed me to her breasts, which were as enormous as loaves of rustic bread. [Majewski 2001, 8]
This is a colonial image in an almost crystalline form: The young master from the city, and beside him, the servant, a Ukrainian, initiating him not only into the wealth of culture or civilization, but also into the mysteries of biological, erotic experiences (albeit subconscious ones). We can see here the influence of the literary, artistic and social stereotypes of the „lordly" literature dating back several decades. Perhaps Majewski's imagination had been influenced by nineteenth-century literary stereotypes? The narrator could not remember the woman's name accurately but he did remember her low level of education, the scornful description of the woman as a „Ruthenian małanka", suggestive of unsophisticated entertainment (małanka in Ukrainian is a New Year's Eve party), and the stereotypical erotic experience. The image is full of kindliness but it is a kindliness which is directed towards lower beings; it is patronising, and with the necessary dose of superiority for the author to establish his own self-confidence, and to show the hierarchy in the family home, in the social environment, in the multinational city of Lviv.
Said has described the features of colonial consciousness produced in the nineteenth century by scholars and writers, who successfully created an image of the Orient perceived more as a component of Western knowledge than as a society and a culture functioning in its own conditions. The image of the Orient was produced in such a way so as to confirm the positive image of British society, and not the other way round. So what was the aim behind the creation of the Polish image of the „Borderlands", particularly in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? Was the aim not the same? And why was the portrait of the Ukrainian servant in Retrospektywka so clearly stereotypical? Because it confirms the stereotype of Polish superiority - in Poland.
The presentation of the East in Anglo-Saxon literature, according to Said, was constructed to suit the expected values of the colonisers. Authors showed idyllic nature, antiquity, intimacy, the eternal nature of relations between the coloniser and the colonised, which always remains the same, while at the same time there is the familiar intimacy and the existence of uncrossable barriers. The colonised culture was also differentiated from the colonising culture by representing it as existing on a different spatial-temporal plane. By locating the colonised country in distant times, or to one side somewhere (e.g. in the Ukrainian or Belarusian countryside), the authors of the colonial texts applied a particular kind of time, which Said calls the „ethnographic present". This might be compared to an open-air museum. A similar space-and-time surrounds the figure of the Ukrainian woman in Majewski's memoirs.
From such elements, claims Said, arises a national epic about a civilising mission, about the superiority of one's own culture, about the defence of values and moral norms, about the duty to propagate one's own religious beliefs and about a higher style of life than that of the colonised.

Postcolonial criticism

In Poland postcolonial criticism does not have its own tradition. Yet we can see here not so much a scientific weakness as a mental one. The Poles - who in their own national ideology have a powerful feeling of being victims of history, of being underappreciated, of defeat; who eagerly remain in regressive utopias talking about their historical greatness; who are doggedly reconstructing their shattered historical discourse, - do not accept the voices which might weaken this reconstructed edifice. Postcolonial criticism, meanwhile, is first and foremost an unmasking of language, including the deeper structures of the collective consciousness hidden in literary and non-literary texts. We know well how difficult it is to rid ourselves of such strong structures, even in science, which usually takes a more critical attitude. The literary tradition of scoffers, particularly in the second half of the twentieth century (Gombrowicz, Mrożek, Kisielewski and others), gives these issues a wide berth. No-one wished to „scoff" at „Borderlands" history and no-one could. It would simply be too painful.
The fundamental task of postcolonial theory in Poland would be to reveal those forms of language, image and text used in public life (in literature, science, politics etc.), which in a more or less veiled manner store and accept convictions that disable, differentiate, exclude Others, or accept ethnic or cultural domination. Postcolonial criticism emphasises in detail the following: 1/ the verification of a priori demands made by way of literature, criticism, the humanities, which expect recognition of the dominant position of their world in the face of other ethnic groups or cultures; 2/ research into the prejudice about the inferiority of the East, i.e. everything that is east of us; 3/ exposure of the prejudices that allow the presentation of anyone apart from Western Europeans as exotic or immoral Others; 4/ research into the language of literature and science, which includes within it the above convictions and hides a priori, colonial structures of thinking; 5/ an approach to the individual person and to personality as possessing a split or mixed identity, composed as if of parts of the coloniser and of the colonised; 6/ cultural interaction, and research into the representation of other cultures in literature and science; 7/ the revelation of the linguistic hypocrisy of literature and the humanistic sciences, which apply different criteria to themselves and to Others; 8/ investigation into the foregrounding of differences in culture and of diversity; 9/ analysis of the celebrated hybridity and multiculturalism, particularly in situations where persons or groups belong simultaneously to more than one culture; 10/ research into the states of marginality of the Other, seen as a source of energy and potential change.
The theorists of postcolonial criticism underline the significance of research, that aims to expose established and naturalised systems of representation, which are in fact attempts to create reality from the perspective of the dominant - and regarded as natural - ethnic, cultural and political discourse; to undermine totally the ideologemes of that discourse, such as ethnos, history or identity; to distrust the language constructions devised on one's own ground and to reject those categories in which there appears the intention of marginalising other cultures; to emphasise the local nature of every culture. „The basis of postcolonialism is the decolonization of thought," writes Dorota Kołodziejczyk in her excellent sketch [Kołodziejczyk 2004, 22]. This is probably the most difficult task that awaits every Polish user of the national discourse, at the centre of which we find the magic word „Borderlands".

The works of „Borderland" studies

The large number of works dealing with the „Borderlands" constitutes a challenge to the reader. I propose to look at a number of these works in which the word „Borderlands" appears, from the perspective of postcolonial theory. Naturally, I can present only my own conclusions. These are the established classics: Kresy w literaturze. Twórcy dwudziestowieczni (The Borderlands in literature. Twentieth-century authors) [Kasperski 1996]; Literatura i różnorodność. Kresy i pogranicza (Literature and diversity. The Borderlands and the marches) [Czaplejewicz 1996]; Od Pigalle po Kresy. Krajobrazy literatury (From Pigalle to the Borderlands. Landscapes of literature) [Kolbuszewski 1994]; Kresy (The Borderlands) [Kolbuszewski 1996]; O dialogu kultur wspólnot kresowych (On the dialogue of the cultures of the Borderlands communities) [Uliasz 1998]; Galicja (Galicia) [Fras 2000]; Literatura kresów - kresy literatury. Fenomen kresów wschodnich w literaturze polskiej dwudziestolecia międzywojennego (The literature of the Borderlands - the borderlands of literature. The phenomenon of the Eastern Borderlands in Polish literature in the twenty years between the wars) [Uliasz 1994]; Kresy w literaturze polskiej. Studia i szkice (The Borderlands in Polish literature. Studies and sketches) [Hadaczek 1999]; Kresy, czyli obszary tęsknot (The Borderlands, or Lands of longing) [Chrzanowski 2001]. One of the earliest works on the „southern school", as it used to be called euphemistically, Ewa Wiegandt's Austria felix, czyli o micie Galicji w polskiej prozie współczesnej (Austria felix, or The myth of Galicia in Polish contemporary prose) [Wiegandt 1988], rarely makes use of the term „Borderlands". The place of Polish colonial discourse is occupied in Wiegandt's book by the Habsburg myth, which was devoid of the feature of desiring to regain possession and which tended to be aesthetic, decadent and catastrophic. For reasons of censorship, 1988 was far too early to make open use of „Borderlands" epiphanies. It was only the 1990s that brought the boom in „Borderlands-mania", which is still current today.
As there is no space here to discuss the content of these works, I will summarise their common features, which together constitute the formula for the „Borderlands" discourse after 1989. These works are characterised by: 1/ the idealization of multiculturalism with Poland as the centre and as the only key to explaining that world in its entirety; 2/ the rejection of languages recognised as „Borderlands" or minority ones, even if a minority constituted a majority in the Borderlands and marches; 3/ the demonising, exoticising or idealising of the Other, the non-Pole; 4/ the treatment of the phenomenon of „Borderlands-ness" as a component of the Polish historical and civilizational mission; 5/ the avoidance of actual real contact with the Other (the non-Pole) through the erection of a barrier of apparent dialogue, that is of a dialogue which in essence is a monologue of superior Polishness; 6/ „Borderlands-ness" as a pluralism that is only apparent, because it is concentrated around the most important value, which is perceived to be Polish culture; 7/ paternalism; 8/ the Polonisation of the cultural diversity of the marches and the „Borderlands"; 9/ the imposing on Others of one's own perspective, terminology and „Borderlands" culture.
Generalizations always falsify the perspective and it must be added that not all of the above-mentioned works fit neatly into the model I have just outlined. However, in none of these works can we find any concrete references to other cultures existing alongside Polish „Borderlands" culture. We will not find any footnotes in which the researchers refer to the views of Other researchers, even though the term „multiculturalism" features in their works as an important research category. Polish culture is considered to be fully sufficient in this matter, offering from one side only the images of the Other which it devised and stored. It is surprising to see such an ostentatious lack of interest in how this „multiculturalism", written about so many times from the Polish perspective, might look through the eyes of the Others, in their research and in their dialogue with Polish literature and culture.
It is not surprising that the Others, our neighbours, do not want to participate in the multicultural „Borderlands adventure", because it is not their „adventure", and that they so eagerly participate in projects concerning Galicia and Central Europe.
There is probably no single work of literary or cultural theory at least touching on the subject of the „Borderlands" which does not mention the word „multiculturalism," and yet there is probably no contemporary work which makes this multiculturalism the real subject of accurate research, with a knowledge of the various languages, history and customs, and taking into account these Other perspectives, which would make the discourse credible and reliable.
Any attempts to state that Polish culture, in certain situations, still behaves as if it were a colonising culture are at best made timidly. But since it is a long time since there has been an object of colonization, then we are dealing here with a nostalgic theatre of gestures, a theatre of shadows in which we celebrate the rite of Remembering, resulting in nothing more than a revival of a fading memory. The colonial discourse, based in Poland on recalling the past, depends in this situation upon centralization and upon bringing the whole multiculturalism of the „Borderlands" into the Polish perspective, as the one that can universally explain the entirety of the matter with an almost total disregard for other perspectives and sources. This is accompanied by nostalgia, paternalism, and idealization. If, however, this seems to us to be just an innocent game with memory, then we are mistaken. Above all for this reason: that it makes the dialogue between Polish culture and the neighbouring ones more difficult or even impossible and as a result weakens its own position.

Others on the Polish „Borderlands" discourse

In this discourse, the concept of „exclusion" is crucial. Exclusion from identity and therefore, in principle, assimilation. Is it not the case that in many propositions put forward by Polish „Borderlands" scholars the Other inhabitants of the „East" are treated as members of a formation that is superior to all others - namely, the „Polish Borderlands"? This means that all the other non-„Borderlands", because non-Polish, literary worlds, such as those of Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Latvia, face exclusion from the world of the „Borderlands". Said says of this:
The written expression exists for the reader because of exclusion, being driven out, the making redundant of something like the real Orient. [Said 2003, 56]
„Borderlands" studies are the product of Polish culture and Polish thinking about „community"[5]. They realise the ideological purpose of this culture and at the same time hide its more or less conscious aim: subordination:
Orientalism was more susceptible to the influences of the culture that had created it than to the supposed aims of its research, also created by the West; hence its history shows both cohesion and clear connections with the culture dominating in its surroundings. [Said 2003, 57]
Just how reluctant the reactions of Poland's neighbours are to the Polish myth of the „Borderlands" and to Polish notions connected with this ideological project of existence in the East, can be seen from the Ukrainian reactions in recent years. In 1995 the Ukrainian émigré writer, Ostap Tarnavsky published his memoirs of World War II, entitled Literaturnyi Lviv 1939-1944 [Literary Lviv], which are also now available in Polish [Tarnawski 2004]. These memoirs completely deny the idyllic charm of „Borderlands-ness" as recalled by Polish writers and essayists (leaving aside the fact that Lviv is not exactly part of the „Borderlands"). The Ukrainian writer mentions only in passing the forms of exclusion experienced by the Ukrainian community, the lack of perspectives, the feeling of hopelessness, the tendency of Western Ukrainian intellectuals towards anti-Polonism. This explains their attitude during the war. Poles in their assessment of these events usually confuse causes with effects.
The distinguished Harvard expert of Ukrainian and Slavic studies, George G. Grabowicz published a gloss on Polish „Borderlands" discourse, namely an article entitled Mythologizing Lviv/Lwów: Echoes of Presence and Absence [Grabowicz 2000]. Grabowicz isolates two perspectives in Polish views of Lviv: the first is the conciliatory, empathic perspective of Mój Lwów [My Lviv] (1946) by Józef Wittlin, Wysoki zamek by Stanisław Lem and Adam Zagajewski's volume Jechać do Lwowa [Going to Lviv] (1985), while the second writes the city exclusively into a Polish national context to the total exclusion of other nations and cultures: the studies by Stanisław Jaworski, Stanisław Wasylewski, Witold Szolginia, Kazimierz Schleyen and dozens of their imitators who exploit the national myth of Lviv, Galicia and the „Borderlands".
We can see here the fundamental task of the essentialist approach: dematerialising the Other. In time this will become harsher and more brutal, [Grabowicz 2000, 51]
writes Grabowicz, having in mind Poland's policy towards Ukrainians in Małopolska, particularly in the inter-war period. A certain weakness in Grabowicz's article, however, is that he attacks certain Polish mythologists of Lviv from the beginning of the twentieth century and then certain Polish émigrés for their, it would seem, understandable nostalgia for Lviv, particularly those groups of émigrés who never recognised the division of Central and Eastern Europe agreed at Yalta; that he forgets that the years 1939-1989 were a time of unavoidable degeneration caused by the political situation; and that he does not probe the enormous state of research that has been growing since 1989 in Poland, since he would undoubtedly find there not so few confirmations and support for his theses. Grabowicz does, however, notice the contemporary Polish feeling for Galicia and treats it almost as a symptom of revisionism. The American-Ukrainian researcher finds it reprehensible that Poles should be interested in Lviv, that their interest is so deep and emotional and that, unfortunately, it eliminates from the field of vision today's inhabitants. He does, however, accept the exclusion of all Polish traditions in Lviv in Ukrainian literary and scientific works. So we are dealing here with a particular kind of revenge - the expulsion of the Other (the Pole) finds understanding in the work of a literary historian who accepts exclusively the Ukrainian myth of Lviv.
The authors of the work »Schidni kresy« - pid znakom polśkoho orła [Vlasiuk 2005, 135], which is about the 1919-1939 period but which is presented from the perspective of the contemporary Ukrainian assessments and needs, see the problem of the „Borderlands" in terms of a sharp political polemic. The note on the title-page already says much about the leanings of the work. It talks about the battle „against the Polish occupying regime in the 'Eastern Borderlands'" and about „the liberation from social and national pressure and from foreign bondage." The work is a typical work of propaganda and it combines national and Communist elements in an image of „pressure on the Ukrainian nation" which is decidedly inimical towards Poland and the Poles. It emphasises the assimilation policies of the Second Republic and its exploitation to this end of the Orthodox Church and its cooperation with Russia:
Both the reborn Poland and the White Guards of Russia to an equal degree were interested in removing an independent Ukraine from the map once and for all. [Vlasiuk 2005, 13].
Later the authors indicate the cooperation between Poles and Bolshevik Russia in the suppression of Ukrainian independence aspirations. The authors conduct a polemic with Poland's inter-war policy as if it were contemporary policy, zealous in pursuit of its aims and dangerous for Ukraine's existence. This is all the more surprising in that in Poland's recent historiography there have been no serious attempts to justify the actions of Piłsudski's governments regarding the Ukrainian question. The history of the Ukrainian minority, meanwhile, is presented in the Kiev work as the actions of a national liberation movement with all the features of Marxist, anti-colonial discourse, i.e. in terms of nation and class. The term „Eastern Borderlands", quoted in inverted commas, is used to emphasise the usurpation and occupation of the Ukrainian lands, such as Volhynia, Podolia and Galicia; the terms „occupiers", „Polish chauvinism" etc. are all too eagerly used here.
The attitude of Ukrainian researchers, both historians and literary theorists, particularly from Western Ukraine, is decidedly against the loaded meaning of the term „Borderlands", which is identified with colonising discourse. When it appears in Ukrainian publications, the (at best) ironic use of the term is intended to undermine its value as a category in the field of historiography or literary studies. However different their research or worldview, Ukrainian researchers decidedly reject the term „Borderlands", just as they reject the majority of studies on the „Borderlands", which make of their culture an abstract exemplum serving exclusively Polish culture.

New proposals

Many Polish „Borderlands" scholars involuntarily repeat, on the one hand, theses belonging to colonial discourse while, on the other, they invalidate and undermine them, by expressing opinions and postulates that already belong partly to postcolonial theory. It could be said that this reflects a characteristic way of thinking in Poland today, which tries to reconcile, to use the language of semiotics, the fear of appropriation with the shame caused by its consequences. This is a state typical of the majority of Polish „Borderlands" studies, which find themselves caught half-way between two discourses.
Polish isolationism in „Borderlands" studies (particularly ennobled by references to the theories of Mikhail Bakhtin, which are used to legitimise the reflections undertaken), which accepts the Polish perspective as central, is still popular, but I have no doubt whatsoever that knowledge of postcolonial theories in research about the „Borderlands", the borderlands and the marches will alter the balance, thus allowing Polish scholars to become more aware of something they have so far not recognised in their thinking, their language, their collective and individual identity. If someone were to tell these researchers, who are serious and worthy of respect, that their works bear the traces of colonial discourse, I am sure they would feel incensed and even insulted. „Personally, we are friends of Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Jewish tradition," they would state firmly. And there is no reason to doubt this. So where does the problem lie? It lies not in declarations, whose sincerity no-one doubts, but in the structures of their language, in the images, in defined research routes, in the methodology, in the consciousness that continues to store the same postulate of the „Polonisation" of a multinational historical heritage.
In Poland there are only a few experts in the field of Polish literature and culture with competence in Lithuanian, and a few also make use of Ukrainian sources (but not to research into the „Borderlands", because as soon as they enter the consciousness of Ukrainian literature, they lose their will to continue). To date, no well-known Polish studies expert has tried to address the question of Belarusian literature and culture in the context of „Borderlands" studies. In my own academic milieu the view is quietly propounded that in writing about Ukrainian literature I am dealing with „second-rate literature". This expression in itself proves how strong the stereotype is of the colonial conception of the „Borderlands" with its „first-rate" Polish literature to the fore. To date, no-one in Poland has attempted to confront the several different perspectives of the „Borderlands".
I am convinced that the matter of the borderlands and the marches requires a new scientific language in Poland. Postcolonial discourse is in principle a comparative theory and also in principle, an interdisciplinary one. The idea of integrated comparative studies, which I proposed in my work Historia i komparatystyka. Szkice o literaturze i kulturze Europy Środkowo-Wschodniej XX wieku. (History and Comparative Studies. Sketches on the literature and culture of Central and Eastern Europe in the 20th century) [Bakuła 2000, 7-29] comes close to this. Comparative studies today impose new methodological and educational standards; they democratise, teach parallel thinking and thinking deprived of national solipsism. We will not change our post-Soviet world if we continue to live in a zone contaminated by colonial ideology and with a feeling of distrust and fear in the face of Others. This fear will pass if the language in which we communicate enables authentic dialogue to take place. Polish „Borderlands" discourse remains an ostensible dialogue, but and in essence it is a monologue with images of the past in which Others play the role of extras. Recent research studies merely repeat this situation. Meanwhile only a common reading of the Borderlands makes sense - without mutual exclusions and treated as the recognition of a common heritage on the basis of integrated comparative studies. In order to achieve this, it will be necessary to wait for a new language, in which the contradictory experiences of all the subjects of the history of the Borderlands will not turn away from one another but will be enabled to reach understanding. Much depends on those who, instead of trying to regain the „Polish Borderlands" on paper or constantly renegotiate Ukrainian, Belarusian etc. injustices, could create an authentic space for dialogue about the Borderlands - in a future language of comparative studies and postcolonial theory.

Bilbliography

Bakuła, B., 2000, Historia i komparatystyka. Szkice o literaturze i kulturze Europy Środkowo-Wschodniej XX wieku, Poznań.
Beauvois, D., 2005, Trójkąt ukraiński. Szlachta, carat i lud na Wołyniu, Podolu i Kijowszczyźnie 1793-1914. Translated from French into Polish by K. Rutkowski Lublin.
Cavanagh, C., 2003, Postkolonialna Polska. Biała plama na mapie współczesnej historii, „Teksty Drugie", nr 2/3.
Chrzanowski, T., 2001, Kresy, czyli obszary tęsknot, Kraków.
Czaplejewicz, E., Kasperski, E., 1996, Literatura i różnorodność. Kresy i pogranicza, Warszawa.
Fras, Z., Galicja, 2000, Wrocław.
Grabowicz, G.G., 2000, Mythologizing Lviv/Lwów: Echoes of Presence and Absence. Lviv: A City in the Cross-currents of Culture. "Harvard Ukrainian Studies" 2000 [2002], vol. XXIV, pp. 313-342. (The article first appeared in the English version: Mythologizing Lviv/Lwów: Echoes of Presence and Absence... and also in the Kiev "Krytyka", 2002, no. 7-8, pp. 11-17 and in a book by the same author Teksty i maski, Kyiv 2005). Quoted after: Grabowicz, G.G., 2004, Mitologizując Lviv/Lwów: echa obecności i nieobecności, Transl. from Ukrainian by Bogusław Bakuła, [in:] „Porównania. Czasopismo poświęcone zagadnieniom komparatystyki literackiej oraz studiom interdyscyplinarnym", no 1.
Hadaczek, B., 1999, Kresy w literaturze polskiej. Studia i szkice. Gorzów Wielkopolski.
Kiersnowski, R., 1997, Kresy przez małe i przez wielkie „K" - kryteria tożsamości. [in:] Kresy - pojęcie i rzeczywistość, Handke, K. (edit.), Warszawa.
Kolbuszewski, J., 1994, Od Pigalle po Kresy. Krajobrazy literatury, Wrocław.
Kolbuszewski, J., 1996, Kresy, Wrocław.
Kołodziejczyk, D., 2004, Trawersem przez glob: studia postkolonialne i teoria globalizacji, [in:] „Er(r)go", nr 1(8), s. 21-39.
Koter, M., 1997, Kresy państwowe - geneza i właściwości w świetle doświadczeń geografii politycznej, [in:] Kresy - pojęcie i rzeczywistość, Warszawa.
Kasperski, E., Czaplejewicz. E,. (ed.) 1996, Kresy w literaturze. Twórcy dwudziestowieczni, Warszawa.
Kwaśniewski, K., 1997, Społeczne rozumienie relacji kresów i terytorium narodowego, [in:] Kresy - pojęcie i rzeczywistość, Warszawa.
Majewski, J., 2001, Retrospektywka, Warszawa.
Panas, W., 1996, „O pograniczu etnicznym w badaniach literackich" [in:] Michałowska, T., Z. Goliński, Z., Jarosiński, Z., (edit), Wiedza o literaturze i edukacja,Warszawa.
Said, E. W., 2003, Orientalizm, Translated by Monika Wyrwas-Wiśniewska, Warszawa.
Uliasz, S., 1994, Literatura kresów - kresy literatury. Fenomen kresów wschodnich w literaturze polskiej dwudziestolecia międzywojennego, Rzeszów.
Uliasz, S., 1997, Kresy jako przestrzeń kulturowa [in:] Kresy - pojęcie i rzeczywistość, Warszawa.
Uliasz, S., (edit.). 1998, O dialogu kultur wspólnot kresowych, Rzeszów.
Tarnavsky, O., 1995, Literaturnyj Lviv 1939-1944, Lviv. (The Polish edition: O. Tarnawski, 2004, Literacki Lwów. Wspomnienia ukraińskiego pisarza z lat 1939-1944. Translated to polish by A. Chraniuk, Introduction and editing by B. Bakuła. Poznań).
Vlasiuk, O.V., Sidoruk, B.J., Ciatko, W.M., 2005, „Skhidni kresy" pid znakom polskogo orla, Rivne.
Wiegandt, E., 1988, Austria felix, czyli o micie Galicji w polskiej prozie współczesnej, Poznań.

Translated into English by Tadeusz Z. Wolański



[1] „The voluntary Polonisation of a few aristocratic Ruthenian dynasties gave the a right to such speculations," writes Beauvois, [Beauvois 2005, 12]

[2] „The Borderland renaissance has suffered a severe blow ... from the least expected side. The awful words of John Paul II spoken in the Dominican church in Vilnius about the 'Lithuanians of Polish descent' gathered there sounded like a sentence of death for the identity of the 'Borderlands' Poles. Because if Roma locuta, and this in the words of the Polish Pope, then the matter was is definitely closed. This was the end of a the Polish presence in the 'Borderlands' and therefore the end of the „Borderlands" themselves." [Kiersnowski 1997, 118]

[3] From the scientific point of view, it ['it' refers to what?]is different. As M. Koter writes: „Not all marches, however, deserve to be called Borderlands, just the oppositequite the contrary in fact." [Koter 1997, 9]. Uliasz sees this differently: „The Borderlands appear because of this as a community of the suffering and the exiled, as an entrenchment of Polishness or, just the opposite[or quite the contrary], as an Arcadian world; they are also regarded as a community of communities." [Uliasz 1997, 136]

[4] The Borderlands ethos - „the ethos of enduring on at a threatened border-post in the defence of fatherland and faith" [Koter 1997, 31]; the myth of the bulwark of Christianity: „the myth of national unity within the Republic in the matter of Polish consciousness, as if integrating, like the children of one mother - the Crown of Poland - the various nations living there, whose consequence was the stubborn dreams dream about of Poland stretching „from sea to sea." 'from sea to sea.'." [Koter 1997, 31]; „From the time of the nineteenth century, there took place in Poland an interferencea merging [an integration?] in the notions of the Borderlands and Ukraine and they became almost synonymous. But the sphere of meanings and values of surrounding the notion of „Polish state borderlands" should be broadened to include other areas with similar features and historical pedigrees." [Koter 1997, 31]

[5] Even the most distinguished Polish „multicultural" researchers cannot rid themselves of this perspective: „On the one hand there appears the possibility of broadening the notion of Polish literature and through this the notion of Polish culture beyond the boundaries defined by language. It could be said that this would be the perspective of the Polonisation [emphasis mine - B.B.] of Others, including the Polonisation of utterances in a language other than Polish." [Panas 1996, 605-613]

[From: Korek. J. (edit.) From Sovietology to Postcoloniality. Poland and
Ukraine in the Postcolonial Perspective, Södertörn Academic Studies 32,
Stockholm, 2007, ss. 41-59]
 

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