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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 #1

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...



Learn how a strange unwanted building became a lasting symbol of a capital city. In the first of our two-part series on Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science, our hosts discussed the post-war rebuilding of the savagely-destroyed Warsaw and the controversial origins of the palace’s construction. In the concluding part of our series, our hosts dive deeper into the palace’s corridors and explore the massive impact it has had on Warsaw. For example, after initial deliberation, what was the...



Find out about the creation of Stalin's controversial Palace of Science and Culture in Warsaw. Following World War II, much of Poland lay in ruins and unfortunately found itself on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain. Warsaw was no exception. By the end of the war, the city was virtually destroyed and for a short time many considered moving the capital elsewhere in Poland. Once the reconstruction efforts had begun, the Soviet Union, eager to spread their influence to the newly-formed...



Hear how the Żabiński family saved the lives of countless Jews during the Nazi German occupation. In September 1939, Nazi Germany began their infamous invasion of Poland and occupied the country shortly thereafter, thus marking the beginning of the Second World War. Amidst all the destruction and loss of human, a nearly unbelievable act of selflessness proved to be a light of humanity that shone through the darkness and desolation of war in, of all places, a zoo. In this episode, our...



Learn how Ludwig Zamenhof single-handedly created an entire language, Esperanto, in the 19 century. Esperanto is the most widely-spoken artificial language in the world today. It has allowed people from vastly different backgrounds with vastly different cultures to connect with one another and share experiences. Despite its success, many often forget Esperanto’s humble origins and the fascinating story of its creator, L.L. Zamenhof, a man whose main goal was bringing peace to the...



Explore the meaning and story behind one of David Bowie's most iconic songs. In 1973, while travelling by train across the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, David Bowie had a brief and seemingly insignificant stopover in Warsaw. However, what he witnessed there, and elsewhere in the Eastern Bloc, served as an inspiration for Warszawa from the widely-acclaimed 1977 album Low. In this episode, our hosts John and Nitzan will look deeper into the origins of this iconic song. Why was Bowie so...



Learn how a Polish monk created the first bulletproof vest and, in doing so, changed the world. In 1897, at a public demonstration in Chicago, a man accomplished the unprecedented and seemingly physics-defying feat of stopping a bullet. After being shot with a revolver at close-range, and temporarily falling to the ground, the man was completely unscathed. That man, Kazimierz Żegleń, had succeeded in creating a vest that made him bulletproof. In this episode, our hosts John and Lea...



Hear all about a brave bear named Wojtek who came to join the army in a time of war. After being released from Soviet prison camps, exiled Polish soldiers reunited under General Władysław Anders and were informally dubbed ‘Anders Army’. This army, after evacuating the Soviet Union, traveled to the Middle East to join Allied forces. While in Iran, the Anders’ Army added an unlikely member to their ranks who played an important role in the company as he helped to boost morale, carry...