2018 Edition of the Historical Event of the Year: And the Winners Are...

The temporary exhibition Karol Śliwka: Polish Design and Polish Designers, the Borderlands Heritage Festival and the publication A Book Open to the World are the Historical Events of the Year 2018! These are the projects winning among the Internet users participating in a survey launched by the Polish History Museum in cooperation with the historia.org.pl. portal. A festive gala where the prizes were awarded took place at the Palace of the Commonwealth in Warsaw on 3 June 2019.

This year, almost 200 events from entire Poland and abroad, e.g. Austria, France, Germany, Australia, Canada, Lithuania and Ukraine, have entered the competition. The jury selected a final fifteen, which was then put to a vote by Internet users.

During the prize awarding gala, director of the Polish History Museum Robert Kostro noticed that the essence of the Historical Event of the Year competition was appreciating people and initiatives reminding us of events from our past in the course of the preceding year.

‘Thanks to this contest, we recall, firstly these events, secondly the people who were part of them and, thirdly, we mobilise local communities who vote for a given event,’ said director of the Museum.

He also read a letter sent to the participants of the Historical Event of the Year (HEY) gala, the contest’s winners and finalists by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. ‘This is already the twelfth edition of the nationwide competition aiming to honour authors of the most interesting historical projects. They are initiatives that vary in terms of scale and form yet share a single objective, i.e. bringing our national heritage closer to successful generations. I am glad to see awards going to institutions particularly creative and active in the field. The attitude of shared responsibility for testimonies to our history shown by the laureates of the competition commands highest respect,’ stressed the prime minister.

The head of the government has noted that ‘being in the eminent circle of the competition’s laureates is of even greater significance as the decision concerning its winners ultimately lies in the hands of citizens who, thanks to the distinguished initiatives, are given a chance to better learn the history of their own country. Each vote in the contest is then a symbolic laurel and expression of sincere appreciation. I congratulate all who through their initiatives have lifted the hearts and minds of the voters. I congratulate you on the success which develops and enriches our society,’ Mr Morawiecki wrote.

Prime Minister also thanked the Polish History Museum which, in cooperation with the historia.org.pl portal and the National Library, created – as he writes  - a ‘festival of Polish heritage’. Further, he expressed hope that the prizes awarded would ‘become an inspiration to deliver other ambitious projects’ by the competition’s finalists.

During the festive closing of the competition, three main awards were presented, statuettes made by the eminent sculptor Maciej Żychowicz, as well as diplomas for all the finalists.

Most votes in the Exhibition category were garnered by the temporary exhibition Karol Śliwka: Polish Design and Polish Designers staged by the Gdynia City Museum. The show  presented the creative output of a doyen of Polish design and master of the graphic sign who authored numerous packaging, label, cover and poster designs.

‘The exhibition showcases the creative output of one of the most eminent Polish designers and author of over 400 graphic signs that have been and still are part of Polish reality. Karol Śliwka have authored, for instance, the logos of the PKO BP bank and the National Library. On top of that, he has designed hundreds of packaging items, labels and posters,’ the exhibition’s co-curator Agnieszka Drączkowska of the Gdynia City Museum has told the Polish History Museum.

Ms Drączkowska also noted that although Karol Śliwka was a creator of many talents he had not been distinguished by a monographic exhibition before. ‘We are very glad that the Gdynia City Museum has been able to stage this exhibition for the first time. We are also very happy that the Polish History Museum appreciated the project. Perhaps thanks to it the history of Polish graphic design will be shown in museums more often,’ she hopes.

In the Event category, the Borderlands Heritage Festival by the Commune of Lubaczów has been found the most important in 2018. This is one of the largest cultural events in the south-eastern region of Podkarpacie. Its annual programme covers several dozen events sharing the notion of upholding the memory of Old Poland’s Eastern Borderlands staged in a dozen or so locations.

‘This is an event popularising knowledge about Old Poland’s Eastern Borderlands in an unconventional fashion, by a multitude of events in and around Lubaczów as well as the entire region of Podkarpacie. We deliver not just promotional but also educational initiatives involving re-enactment of historical events not only those that took place within today’s Polish territory but also those in the east of Old Poland,’ stressed the head of Lubaczów Commune Wiesław Kapel talking to the Polish History Museum.

He pointed out that one important aspect of the project delivered in Polish-Ukrainian cooperation was salvaging historical monument in Ukraine. ‘I am very glad that the Polish History Museum has organised the competition and that we have become one of its laureates. In this way, the activity of the PHM extends over entire Poland, including smaller localities like ours, the commune of Lubaczów,’ Mr Kapel added.

In the Education and multimedia category, the majority of the Internet users voting preferred the educational publication entitled ‘A Book Open to the World’ published by the Emigration Museum in Gdynia. A Book Open to the World offers a look at the history of Poland, and primarily that of the Poles, from an unusual perspective. It is a cross-sectional story about past and present times, with mobility and movement being its inherent part. The authors of the publication are Katarzyna Witt and Anna Posłuszna while Dawid Ryski is in charge the project’s graphics and illustrations.

Talking to the Polish History Museum, the co-author of the book Katarzyna Witt has noted that the publication was issued with children and families visiting the Emigration Museum in Gdynia in mind. ‘This book may well be an exhibition guide but not just that,’ she has said, adding that it may also be learning material for those unable to see the exhibition.

‘Our project attempts at talking about emigration from a broad historical perspective including the furthest removed times of the Polish state until today. It is meant as a look at the constant human motion. People do move all the time and it may be extraordinarily fascinating to see why and in which contexts they do it. Consequently, in our book, we do not avoid sad and sometimes tragic contexts related to wartime events and persecution but we are also interested in the Poles’ dreams concerning finding a better home or place in the world,’ Ms Witt has said.

‘We are grateful and very happy that the Polish History Museum has appreciated the project,’ she added.
‘The Historical Event of the Year competition makes one believe that activities that are very different and play out in very different areas actually build a space for what we call our common history. It is great that we can see history in a variety of ways, in all its richness and pertinence as regards the present time,’ the jury chairman Andrzej Szczerski has said.

Below, we list the other projects distinguished in the HEY competition by the jury composed of: Gabriela Sierocińska-Dec (Polish History Museum), Alicja Knast (Silesian Museum), Piotr Legutko (TVP Historia), Dr Tomasz Makowski (National Library), Dr Marek Mutor (Zajezdnia Historical Centre in Wrocław), Prof. Andrzej Szczerski (Jagiellonian University), and Wojciech Duch (historia.org.pl).

1.    100 for the Centenary. Musical decades of freedom, Organiser: Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne Publishing House.
2.    Witkacy in Lithuania, Organisers: Polish Institute in Vilnius, Adam Mickiewicz Institute, Witkacy Institute, Tatra Mountains Museum in Zakopane, Čiurlionis National Art Museum
in Kaunas and Aukso žuvys Publishing House.
3.    Independence Exposure: Olkusz 1918–2018, Organiser: Townhall and Commune Office in Olkusz.
4.    Theatrical performance at the Żabiński Villa: ‘Only what should have been done’, Organiser: Monopol Warszawski Association.

1.    Lithuania, My Fatherland…. Adam Mickiewicz and his epic poem ‘Pan Tadeusz’, Organisers: Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania in Vilnius, Wawel Royal Castle, Ossoliński National Institute, Pan Tadeusz Museum, Adam Mickiewicz Institute and the Polish Institute in Vilnius.
2.    Permanent exhibition ‘Jews in Upper Silesia’, Organiser: Museum in Gliwice.
3.    ‘The Ainu, highlanders and Bronisław Piłsudski’, Organiser: Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology.
4.    ‘We have built this city’, Organiser: Regional Museum in Stalowa Wola.

1.    100 for the Centenary. A Comics Anthology for the Centenary of the Regaining of Poland’s Independence; Publisher: Wydawnictwa Szkolne i Pedagogiczne publishing house.
2.    Where is Poland?, Publisher: Adam Mickiewicz Institute.
3.    Gra muzyka [Music playing], Publisher: Polish Song Museum in Opole.
4.    Kopiariusz [A Copy Book]. An Internet publication of an unknown collection of Jerzy Giedroyć’s letters written in Bucharest in 1939–1940; Publisher: Paris Culture Foundation

The Historical Event of the Year competition involves a number of local communities wishing to promote events they organise. Year on year, the number of projects vying for the title of the key one has been growing. Since the start of the competition, around 1,200 initiatives have been registered and a total of over 50,000 Internet users have voted.

The competition enjoys the Honorary Patronage of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Culture and National Heritage Prof. Piotr Gliński.

Organiser: Polish History Museum in Warsaw (www.whr.muzhp.pl)

Partners: historia.org.pl, National Library.

Median patrons: Polskie Radio (Polish Radio), Polska Agencja Prasowa (Polish Press Agency), dzieje.pl, Telewizja Polska (Polish Television), TVP Kultura, Sieci, wSieci Historii.


Photography: PHM/Mariusz Bodnar