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Stories From The Eastern West


Little-known histories from Central & Eastern Europe that changed our world... Heard of how The Rolling Stones played for the Communist Party? The bear who fought in WWII? Or the man who single-handedly created an entire language? Each episode of our narrative podcast tells incredible stories that all have one thing in common: the Eastern West. #SFTEW

Little-known histories from Central & Eastern Europe that changed our world... Heard of how The Rolling Stones played for the Communist Party? The bear who fought in WWII? Or the man who single-handedly created an entire language? Each episode of our narrative podcast tells incredible stories that all have one thing in common: the Eastern West. #SFTEW




Little-known histories from Central & Eastern Europe that changed our world... Heard of how The Rolling Stones played for the Communist Party? The bear who fought in WWII? Or the man who single-handedly created an entire language? Each episode of our narrative podcast tells incredible stories that all have one thing in common: the Eastern West. #SFTEW





Several years after the war, a strange encounter in the heart of Paris made Zofia Posmysz, a former Auschwitz prisoner, start wondering what it would be like to meet her camp overseer. Posmysz turned her fantasy in a successful radio play in which she explored the unlikely perspective of an oppressor, a Nazi German concentration camp overseer. The story inspired a prolific young filmmaker Andrzej Munk – a representative of the Polish Film School, a group of filmmakers tackling the...



Get to know Piotr Szkopiak, a London-based film and TV director who’s spent a good portion of his life pondering the nature of his identity. Piotr Szkopiak was born in the United Kingdom but into a Polish family. As he grew up, he learned that his parents and neighbours were all World War II prisoners of war who had escaped the USSR but couldn't go back to Poland after the war ended. His mother told him how she had travelled from the depths of the Soviet Union through Persia and...



Nicolaus Copernicus, born in 1473, was the orphaned son of a copper merchant in Toruń. Thanks to his bishop uncle, he obtained a first class education at the Kraków Academy and then in Italy, where he became an avid observer of the night sky – even though he was supposed to be preparing for a church career. His day job as a church canon, diplomat and doctor in Frombork – when he wasn't defending castles against the Teutonic Knights – meant that it took him over 30 years to finish his book...



Vera Chytilová was the most important woman director of the Czechoslovak New Wave – although she remains relatively unknown outside of Central Europe. As the first female student of the prestigious FAMU film school in Prague, she had to fight in order to do things her own way. During the creative explosion of the Czechoslovak New Wave, she made her most well known film ‘Daisies’ (1966) – a surrealist pop-art comedy, about two young women who set their minds on creating humorous destruction...



Stanisław Lem was a science-fiction writer whose works, abilities and quirky sense of humor convinced Phillip K. Dick that he was too brilliant to exist and must have actually been a committee of people! Indeed his rare gift for blending philosophy with technology and action made him an instantaneously recognisable voice in the European sci-fi world and elevated him to the heights of popularity and critical acclaim. But Lem’s life was far from a textbook success story. Throughout his life,...


Announcing Season IV

This year we have more great stories for you! There's going to be a bit of sci-fi, a pinch of socialist realism, a good portion of astronomy, and some old-fashioned moving testimonies from a region that never sleeps! Stay tuned: the first episode drops September 7th! Like our show? Get our newsletter!


The Fusionist: Zbigniew Namysłowski

Like most Polish jazz musicians, Zbigniew Namysłowski learned the basics of jazz listening to Willis Conover’s “Jazz Hour”. Originally starting his musical career playing piano, cello and trombone, Namysłowski became infatuated with the saxophone after meeting composer Krzysztof Komeda, who happened to be carrying an alto saxophone with him, on a train. During that chance encounter, Namysłowski gave the instrument a try and hasn’t stopped playing the saxophone ever since. His original...


The Virtuoso: Adam Makowicz

Adam Makowicz grew up in a house where a piano was the centre of the home. His mother had long planned for him to become a classical virtuoso, but a meeting with a musician who introduced him to jazz changed this path completely. Adam packed his bags and left for Kraków, where he moved into a jazz nightclub and immediately became part of the city’s jazz scene. It was here where his thorough classical education and incredible talent led him to create his unique virtuoso style, one that merged...


The New Yorker: Michał Urbaniak

“Polish jazz group - 100$ a night” Displayed on the posters in Michał Urbaniak’s band’s van while playing across Europe in the 60s, this hippy traveling player was soon to become one of the most innovative Polish jazz musicians in history. Though his European career was quickly evolving, the old continent simply didn’t feel like enough. From a very young age, Michał knew at heart that he was a New Yorker, eventually jumping at the first chance he got to move to the world’s jazz...


The Queen: Urszula Dudziak

Urszula’s love for unruly musical experiments got her kicked out from music school when she was a young girl. A few years later, like many young Poles, she stumbled upon The Voice of America - a radio station meant to bring American culture and censorship-free news to people locked up behind the Iron Curtain. This program is where Urszula heard jazz for the first time. Blown away by the uniqueness of the music, one of the voices she heard marked her particularly - the voice of Ella...


The Pioneeer: Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski

It may be hard to believe, but when Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski started playing music, jazz was censored in Poland. As a result of Stalin’s cultural politics that governed what kinds of art and culture could be consumed in the country, anything that may have been associated with western imperialism was formally excluded from public life. However, these rigid policies only made jazz more appealing, leading many young people across the country, like Ptaszyn, to fall in love with it. After Stalin’s...


Announcing: Rebel Spirits

This week we've a special preview for you: Rebel Spirits! It's a podcast about five Polish jazz musicians who came of age in the 1950s and became mesmerised by the music they heard on the outlawed American radio station Voice of America. You'll hear how they went from learning to play jazz from worn-out vinyls to becoming icons that continue to inspire the music world today. Hosted by Paweł Brodowski, Rebel Spirits is brought to you by, the flagship brand of the Adam Mickiewicz...



In 1967, Marian Marzyński was a popular TV show host and filmmaker in Poland. But then a seemingly faraway military clash sparked an unexpected conflict within the Polish communist party that led its Jewish members to be accused of anti-Polish sentiments. The conflict developed into an anti-Semitic campaign that affected all of Polish Jewish society and led to the emigration of the majority of the remaining Polish Jews, whose numbers had already been dwindled due to the Holocaust. Emigrating...



In 1938, Hitler's forces marched into Czechoslovakia, a country that had only gained its independence two decades earlier. A puppeteer named Josef Skupa was ready to fight back with the help of Spejbl and Hurvínek – a father son duo of wooden puppets. Because the Nazi German occupiers didn't seem to take puppets very seriously, Skupa's theatre in Pilsen was able to put on satirical performances that directly referred to the occupation and gave ordinary Czechs hope that one day things would...



Back in 2019, we got the chance to interview Anastasija Gulej. She was 95 at the time, living a happy life in one of Kyiv's suburbs. If you didn’t know her, you’d never tell be able to tell that she wakes up every day with the horrors of her past. Her past as an Auschwitz-Birkenau inmate. Anastasija was already 18 years old when she was taken there, which makes her memories especially valuable. She remembers things perfectly clearly, she understood what was going around her, she knew what...



‘Romania today is possibly the only European country where you can bump into a witch at the supermarket.’ The history of witches in Europe is a tumultuous and violent one. Always on the margins of society and in opposition to any form of hierarchy, their presence sparked fear and prejudice which led to prosecutions and witch hunts. But unbeknownst to many, their traditions have outlasted all of this. In Romania, the 21st century has turned out to be a surprisingly good time for...



In the summer of 1976, the late Polish film director Andrzej Żuławski, responsible for infamous cult classics such as The Devil (1972) and Possession (1981), was given a green light to shoot the most expensive film ever made in Poland. On the Silver Globe was meant to be a massively ambitious science-fiction epic set on the Moon, showing the birth of a new civilisation, and produced without the benefit of modern special effects. But things didn't quite go to plan. The huge ambitions of a...



After the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east in 1939, many thousands of Polish families were deported to Siberian forced labour camps. There they not only faced bitter cold but constant hunger. Then Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union, and the families that were now allowed to leave tried to get as far south as possible. In many cases, only their children made it all the way to safety in Iran. Some Polish orphans were resettled in places like South Africa and Mexico, but a group of...



As much as The People’s Republic of Poland may seem a distant country hidden behind the Iron Curtain, it was an open and welcoming one... towards other socialist states. Student exchange programmes were one of the many ways of building international socialist partnerships. The Vietnam War was just ending when Hai ‘Nam’ Bui Ngoc had reached university. He was one of the few lucky ones given a chance to travel to the other side of the world to study ship building. After a few weeks spent...



In August 1980, after the firing of popular shipyard worker, Anna Walentynowicz, a strike broke out at the Vladimir Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk. Suddenly this massive complex on the Polish coast, with 16,000 employees and of huge strategic importance for the Polish economy, was under worker occupation, and every day other workplaces in Gdańsk and around the country started joining in. Very soon the communist leadership in Warsaw realised that this wasn't just another strike they could...