To celebrate the Centenary of Polish Independence, Ognisko Polskie and the Polish Landowners Association are proud to jointly host an Exhibition entitled “Europa w Rodzinie” to open at Ognisko on Sunday 4th March 2018. The Exhibition pays tribute to a significant sector of Polish Society, the ‘Landed Gentry’ which for centuries constituted the backbone of Poland’s cultural economic and political life. Ognisko Polskie is the natural venue for the exhibition considering its background and patronage. The author of the exhibition is the Polish Institute of National Remembrance, “Instytut Pamieci Narodowej” who kindly agreed to bring it over to London. It was first displayed in the Royal Castle in Warsaw and has subsequently been shown in most of the major cities in Poland.
The exhibition will also be in the member's room from the 8th to 16th March.
The exhibition traces the achievements and ethos of this social group and its virtual demise in the 20th Century during the period of communist rule. Personalities such as Witold Lutoslawski, Josef Czapski, Witold Gombrowicz, Witold Pilecki are famous figures in the 20th Century, all very different characters and all from Landed Gentry families.
2018 is the centenary year of Poland regaining her independence The exhibition focuses on the contribution of the Landed Gentry to the preservation of the Polish spirit during the 123 year period of the ‘partitions’ when Poland as a state was wiped off the map of Europe. It shows the significant role played by this group in the fight for independence and subsequent rebirth of the Polish State after WW1.
The Landed Gentry felt particularly responsible for preserving the Polish language and culture, maintaining traditions and developing national awareness and civic responsibility. With this ethos the Landed Gentry, generally took on the role as social and political leaders and provided a degree of security to the local population on their estates. Landed estates were economic centres in the countryside, promoting also good standards of agricultural management and innovation, setting up agricultural associations (kola rolnicze), promoting education etc.
The exhibition is also important from the point of view that it counters the propaganda directed against this sector of Polish society during the 45 years of communist rule in Poland. The exhibition focuses on 12 particular families taken as a typical cross section of the Landed Gentry. The authors wish to paint a collective portrait of the milieu and the destiny of individual families and to record the loss suffered with the liquidation of this social stratum by Nazi and Soviet totalitarianism and its dispossession by the communist regime under Stalinist decrees.
Over 20,000 Polish landed families were thrown off their land with no compensation paid. This entire sector of Polish society was deprived of a home and a means of livelihood. It was a policy designed to annihilate this social class which also led to the dispersion of many of the Landed families all over the world. The exhibition however illustrates this group’s remarkable resistance to life’s hardships and its ability to adapt and maintain family ties despite territorial dispossession.