Awakening Poland to a creative revolution. An Interview with Zwykła Polka
Because of the Constitutional Tribunal’s decision, restrictions regarding abortions were tightened. Anger, sadness, and dissensus filled the streets of Poland and the world, thanks to the Polish community. Expressionism in showing support and the radicalism of the movement’s creativity of slogans and ongoing chants was stirred mostly by the young. Born in independent Poland - most are aware of the value and significance of freedom, and why it is so vital to not be taken away.
Zwykła Polka is one of the young, creative individuals, who strongly advocates for freedom and expresses her stance on current issues in Poland through songs, accompanied by a ukulele. She showed that ‘Fuck PiS’ can sound as delightful as vulgar. In her first piece called ‘Piosenka Patriotyczna,’ the artist tells PiS to quickly go away and Krzysztof Bosak to be quiet. The video got a million views within just a few days, while the artist herself, who wants to stay anonymous, became one of the ‘bards’ of the Strike.
Michał Wieczorek from ‘Czas Kultury’ says that in comparison to the previous protests, the current manifestations have their own signifying music. ‘Polskie Tango’ by Taco Hemingway or ‘Sorry Polsko’ by Maria Peszek are sung widely and loudly. There are also Polish interpretative versions of international songs were heard, with the most popular example being of an Italian antifascist song, ‘Bella Ciao.’
All these musical expressions are entirely spontaneous and emphasise the importance of solidarity - just like the protests. ‘Every generation needs to have its own music of rebellion,’ adds Wieczorek. We talked to Zwykła Polka to understand why and what makes young individuals like her speak out in ways that have been very effective in terms of spreading awareness.
Wiktoria Walkowiak: How does the public receive and react to the deliverance of your songs, mainly focusing on the use of language that contradicts the peacefulness of your tone?
Zwykła Polka: The comments I receive often circulate this topic. People were laughing, smiling, and reflecting on it, saying that it is the biggest advantage of the song, the mixture between the tone of voice and words used. Many said that in the whole depressing setting of the situation of women’s rights in Poland, my songs shed some light and positive vibes in the darkness - especially ‘Piosenka Patriotyczna.’
WW: And what are your intentions behind the songs you write? Do you believe that playing the ukulele whilst expressing your thoughts can enhance a revolution?
ZP: If we look at history, most modern revolutions had some kind of a ‘soundtrack,’ and it is a natural need. Music unites people. Some of the comments on ‘Piosenka Patriotyczna’ mention, e.g. Jacek Kaczmarski and the role of his songs in the fall of communism - although comparing my songs to his is, of course, a great exaggeration. Still, I have never thought that my songs would be so widely received and appreciated. When played during protests, a ukulele is usually not taken seriously as an instrument, which is fine by me because I am no serious musician. What I am taking seriously though is the fact that Poland needs to stop the power struggle between the left and right, and find peace. This is why I recently created ‘Rozmownik’ - a guide to difficult conversations, published on my Instagram. I think that there are not many musicians in Poland that are willing to touch upon political topics with their music, probably because they are afraid of hate comments - although luckily it is changing. My day job is not doing music, so I am not concerned about hate comments or income. I can do whatever I want - maybe enhance a revolution? But only if people allow me to infect their minds with my words.
WW: But how come you didn’t express your thoughts before? What touched you in the recent events that made you speak out? Would you maybe even risk a statement that Poland was better then?
ZP: Poland was not better before. I always expressed my thoughts on the situation in Poland privately, in conversation with family, friends, and beyond. I have always reflected on it through songs or poetry writing, but I never shared them with a broader audience because I always thought of it as an act of egoism and attention-seeking. The only reason I shared my recent songs is that I received such feedback from my close friends - ‘share it, people need it, you know.’ So, I did. And I will share more because I see how much good it has done to the people.
WW: Tell us then why do you want to stay anonymous. Aren’t you only expressing your opinion?
ZP: There are a couple of reasons as to why I prefer staying anonymous, one of them being that I do not want to attract attention myself. Women are always judged through their looks and the attention shifts then from the message to their physical features. Even though I do not show my face, I still receive comments on my looks - both, hateful and complimentary (or meant as compliments), while this attention could have been given to the message of my songs or Instagram posts. Both, our attention span and time are already rather limited, so out of respect, I would like to direct my audience to what is important. I believe that the message that I share is not necessarily my own. I feel like more people feel and think like me, and this is why they listen to the songs.
WW: Coming back to ‘Piosenka Patriotyczna’ - what does patriotism mean to you? And what do you think it means to the nation as a whole?
ZP: It is a really difficult question, both parts of it. I am not sure if we can say that there is some uniform meaning of patriotism. From my perspective, patriotism is loving my motherland, loving where I come from, trying my best to remain an informed citizen and to safeguard the basic values that make Poland my country. However, patriotism is being interpreted in a variety of ways and by many Poles. It is also sometimes confused with nationalism. I have just started reading a book, ‘Turbopatriotism’ by Marcin Napiórkowski, where he divides Polish patriotism into two - soft patriotism - the one that looks up to the West, staying in one’s bubble separating ‘us’ who went on with the flow of the progress towards the Western countries after 1989; and ‘them’ who did not succeed at this transition and are being ignored. On the other side of the coin, we have ‘turbopatriotism’ - the one that we see during the Independence March on the 11th of November, or counter-protests to Pride. To fully comprehend the meaning of patriotism for Poles, it is important to understand both sides.
WW: If you had one message for the younger generation of Poland, what would it be?
ZP: It would be to never lose sight of what is important to you. To never stop fighting for what you believe deep inside is right. There are many modern challenges which the older generation cannot and will not solve. It is up to the youth to do it. However, do not lock yourself up within your information bubble. Try talking to someone you disagree with; you might find that they uncover your hypocrisy in some of your arguments, or that you learn something from looking at reality from a different perspective. It is important to stay open-minded. It is difficult and exhausting, but if we all do the work, the change will come.
Follow Zwykła Polka on YouTube and Instagram @zwyklapolka.