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Finland + technology = Nokia, doesn’t it? Yes, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Finland is responsible for many technological breakthroughs from the last couple decades, such as the SSH cybersecurity protocol used on over half of the world’s web servers, and Internet Relay Chat, which people born in the 1980s will remember as the first instant messenger. But back in the early 1990s, Finland’s tech scene was mostly just a lot of teenagers pirating software illegally. They would code...



During WWII, the Third Reich had a systematic policy of plundering artwork from countries they invaded. In occupied Poland, this took place on a massive scale. Over half a million individual works of art were taken over the course of the war, including countless national treasures. But while some of these works of art were destined for the walls of high-ranking Nazi party officials and the planned Führermuseum, others were marked for destruction. In fact, there was one particular...



Alchemy – the supposed ancient art of turning everyday objects into gold – is widely believed to be obsolete. Interestingly, however, every bit of this notion is wrong. First of all, as it turns out, alchemy is still being practised today and, according to one of our guests, is doing better than ever. And second of all, it apparently was never actually an art of the physical transmutation of objects, but a very profound blend of philosophy, chemistry, physics and religion. Join us on...



The German Democratic Republic was known for being one of the more politically repressive countries in the former Eastern bloc, with its Stasi secret police keeping a firm grip on any form of dissent. But it is also known for its long tradition of nude bathing – known in Germany as Free Body Culture or FKK. In the mid-1950s, this tradition came under threat as the GDR government tried to ban nude bathing completely. Unexpectedly for a country that had no tolerance for dissent, the East...


Rabbithole Two

In this bonus episode, you’ll get to hear a song that usually doesn’t leave the thick walls of the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards in Italy. If you want to know more about Grotowski, check out our two-part story about him in the episodes SEARCH and CONTINUATION. Keep up to date with SFTEW by following us on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.



The story of a man who mesmerised half a continent... Get it on: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | Google Podcasts | Overcast | RSS | Direct download In 1989 the Cold War was coming to an end. Soviet Union and the whole Eastern Bloc were crumbling. There was confusion everywhere. One day, state television channel started showing something really strange. A man, looking like Doctor’s Spock muscly brother, was staring at the camera promising to programme people’s brains and free...



After having to leave Poland, Grotowski continued his ground-breaking work in the United States, before finding a permanent home in Pontedera, Italy. There he began work on Art as Vehicle, the final stage of his work at the newly-established Workcenter. This work, based around songs of tradition and objective movements, arranged into performance structures, is done more or less in secrecy, away from the prying eyes of the media and mainstream theatrical world. In the late 1990s, the...



Jerzy Grotowski (1933-1999) undoubtedly had a profound infl­uence on the transformation of contemporary theatre over the last 40 years. Starting out as a young director in the Polish provinces, he soon realised that for theatre to reach its true potential as a communion between actor and spectator and survive in the age of mass entertainment, the actor should attain complete mastery over their craft. His small group of actors committed to intensive daily training sessions to achieve this,...



The Czech shoe-maker Tomáš Bat'a was a visionary. A deep believer in capitalism, he dreamt up a unique functionalist city and started building it around his factories in the small town of Zlin. It became more succesful than he could have imagined. Bat’a moved on to redesigning how his workers engaged in relationships, spent free-time and were educated – the very way they lived. It seemed that before WWII, Zlin was a unique place, a sort of... living UTOPIA! Our producer Wojciech...



In 1863, the 3-year-old Ignacy Jan Paderewski probably wasn’t aware that his fellow Polish countrymen were in the midst of a doomed uprising against the autocratic ruler of his homeland. But he de­finitely knew something was wrong when Russian Tsarist police arrested his father, dragging him away while the young Ignacy tried to stop them. As a young man, Paderewski was determined to do something about his country's plight. It had been completely wiped off the map almost a century...



Hear the pole-vaulter who offended the entire Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow explain himself. Władysław Kozakiewicz, a pole-vaulter who dominated the event for over a decade, didn’t have much luck during the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. Despite being a strong favourite, he failed to medal, after his foot broke while taking a warm-up jump. Four years later, he was healthy and ready to make up for the Montreal upset – but there were other adversities to...


Rabbithole One

Did you know that sports stars from behind the Iron Curtain pretty much competed for no money? In this little bonus episode, Władysław Kozakiewicz, the Olympic athlete from our ARM episode, tells of how he won a thousand priceless awards but very little money, and why he still loved competing.


Announcing Season II

The new season of Stories From The Eastern West is nearly here! This year, we've really stepped up our game. You'll notice we have a new theme tune, and that's just the beginning...



Discover the relentless climber who changed the world's deadliest sport... In the early 1960s, a woman decided that the way men were dominating the world of mountain climbing didn’t make any sense. She went on to defy the whole community and became an icon, a trail-blazer who energised the whole community of female climbers and proved that women are capable of being self-sufficient, excellent climbers. Her name was Wanda Rutkiewicz and to date, she is one of the most memorable female...



Learn how observing an old Christmas tradition resulted in a mystery that was never resolved. All of us at SFTEW want to thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts for staying with us, listening, and for all your emails, comments and reviews. This is why we prepared this little Christmas bonus for you. We hope to see you in 2018, especially all those listeners who have only recently discovered the show. Check out our older episodes, we hope you enjoy them as much as other listeners...



Discover the Iron Curtain's unlikeliest music haven and the people who made it happen. In 1957, the Polish Radio Experimental Studio (PRES) first opened its doors in Warsaw, and would very soon become an important European centre for the creation of exciting and original electro-acoustic music. But how did such a place even come to be built in Poland, just a few years after the death of Stalin and the severe artistic restrictions of Social Realism? In this episode, you will find out what...



Get to know the doctor who defied prejudices, the media and the entire system to save people’s lives. In 1967, South African surgeon Christiaan Barnard performed the world’s first successful heart transplant. This milestone achievement inspired many other clinics to successfully attempt their own heart transplants… but not in the Eastern Bloc. It took almost 20 years, a broken career, great charisma and a truly rebellious man to finally start saving people’s lives by giving them new...



Throughout the Cold War, both the Soviet Union and the United States used espionage extensively to gather information about the opposing side. To do this, they often relied on individual operatives to provide the information that technology often couldn’t. This episode will focus on one lesser-known Eastern European operative named Ryszard Kukliński, an officer in the Polish Army and a spy for American intelligence. We’ll discuss how Kukliński joined the army and his swift rise through...



Delve into the fascinating background of classic horror film Rosemary’s Baby and learn how it was made. In 1968, Rosemary’s Baby debuted in theaters and terrified unsuspecting audiences. The film was a box-office success and was widely acclaimed for its dark plot and disturbing realism. Moreover, many of the controversial issues it grappled with, such as Satanism and pregnancy, quickly made it one of the most iconic films of its generation. But in the aftermath of the film’s release, this...



Discover how Joseph Rotblat went from creating nuclear bombs to winning the Nobel Peace prize. The American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is generally considered to be one of the most, if not the most, important events of the 20 Century. It succeeded in bringing about Japanese capitulation and the end of the Second World War, but, at the same time, marked the advent of nuclear weapons. For the first time in history, civilizations could be completely wiped off the map with the push of...