Should I remain in the resistance? Or maybe disclose myself following the Amnesty of 1947? Or perhaps emigrate? Such were the dilemmas that we had to measure up against on 1 March. Our guests at the Center were second grade students from the K. Hoffmanowa Secondary School.
They were divided into groups numbering several pupils each. Every team received a biographical note based on the life story of a real person who towards the end of the 1940s was forced to make dramatic decisions. Through nurses of the Home Army, peasant activists, writers, and soldiers of the anti-Communist underground, the students came face to face with the realities of post-War Poland.
Having read their biographical note, each group was given an envelope containing sheets of paper on which the further fate of the person and the choices that he or she had to make were written down. The group’s task was to indicate the choice that its members would have made if they had been in that person’s place. Some of the discussions were indeed tempestuous, and others considerably exceeded the time allocated by the organizers.
In light of the liquidation of the Home Army, should one remain in the resistance, emigrate, or perhaps try to live in the new, Communist reality? Each decision taken led to further questions and dilemmas. Proceeding through successive stages of these life stories, the students had an opportunity of understanding the problems and the history of this generation, so bitterly experienced by the Second World War, and also attempted to consider how its representatives could have regained their social and mental balance in the new world.
The reasoning for taking specific decisions had to be substantiated in a letter, addressed by each team to a person who was considered important by “their” character. First and foremost, the letters were written to family members – children, sisters, brothers, husbands, and wives.
Of particular importance in this task was the presentation of the conflict of duties – how could one reconcile the role of a father, actively interested in securing his children’s future, with the military oath of allegiance? Faced with a very real threat to my life, can I escape abroad and leave my ill sister behind? Why do I have to remain in the resistance, even though my family continues to wait for me at home?
Next, the students read out their letters in front of a camera.
The final element of the task consisted in creating a collage. The students could take their pick from more than one hundred photographs depicting life in pre- and post-War Poland. These works were then shown to the other groups, with their creators being allowed a few words of commentary.