“Ambitny” is the Polish word used to describe art which is – well – ambitious, demanding, challenging. Powstanie Warszawskie (Warsaw Uprising) by Lao Che is most definitely “ambitny.” Over ten tracks it sets out to capture the doomed uprising that took place in 1944 and which was described by Miron Bia?oszewski in Pami?tnik z powstania warszawskiego (“Memoir of the Warsaw Uprising”, translated by Madeline Levine) and on film by Andrzej Wajda in Kana? (“Tunnel” or “pipe” – it refers to the use of the sewers by the Polish insurgents during the uprising).
May 4th’s Gazeta Wyborcza carries an article about the opening of a new part of the Warsaw Uprising museum, which houses a reconstructed B24 “Liberator” bomber. The museum has been open for two years and certainly sounds impressive. Here you do not just wander around looking at exhibits in glass cases: you get a feel for the history. You can even go down a reconstructed sewage pipe. No sewage, but you do get to hear the dripping of water and feel the claustrophobia and dread. The museum’s opening was attended by Lech Kaczy?ski, then president of Warsaw, now of Poland.
Track five on Lao Che’s album is called “Stare Miasto” (“Old Town”). Were it not for the lyrics descibing the hardships of the uprising, it would seem to be a contemplative, almost dreamy ode to a beloved town. It builds, however, to a crescendo and the repeated refrain: “dost?pu do w?azu my ?adamy!”
One of Kaczy?ski’s projects is the “Narodowy Instytut Wychowania” (“National Educational Institute”), whose aim is to restore traditional values to Polish pupils – to turn them into good patriots, with respect for the achievements of Polish heroes of, among others, the Warsaw Uprising.
From the sleeve notes to Lao Che’s album:
“A minimum of help for the city at war was brought from Italian airports by the western allies. Few transport planes with weapons and food for the fighters came…. The civilian population demanded access to the sewage pipes. But only the army and a few wounded had access…. Directive: priority access is given to healthy, armed people. The injured must stay behind with the civilian population.”
“Dost?pu do w?azu my ?adamy!” means “Let us down the manhole.”
Perhaps Polish school children would be better with ambitious music than another state organ telling them what to think.