Polish Underground Publications Collection at Polish Library POSK in London
London King Street 238-246, United Kingdom
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Name of collection
- Polish Underground Publications
Provenance and cultural activities
The origins of Polish Underground Publications Collection in the Polish Library in London go back to the 1970s and '80s when Zdzisław Jagodziński, director of the Library, collected Polish independent publications and samizdat on massive scale. Continuing the work of his predecessors and other émigré libraries, bookstores and presses, Jagodziński supplied institutions and individuals in People's Poland with books published in exile and by Western publishers. The Polish Library was one of several distribution centers that participated in the Cold War project coordinated by the International Literary Center (ILC) in New York and secretly sponsored by the CIA. This inititive resulted in the shipment of some 4 million books to Poland and 10 million to the entire Soviet Bloc. Jagodziński collected books, serials, brochures, leaflets and posters released by major and minor opposition groups in Poland and smuggled to United Kingdom by Polish visitors and members of the exile community.
At present, the Polish Library POSK in London holds one of the largest collections of Polish independent publications outside Poland and in the world. Of particular prominence are serials released by Solidarity and other major opposition groups including the Committee for the Defense of Workers, the Freedom and Peace Movement, the Confederation of Independent Poland. However, holdings also include publications released by minor and less-known political, social, and cultural groups.
To similar extent, book holdings include both volumes released by major independent publishers such as Niezależna Oficyna Wydawnicza (NOWA), Krąg and Wola, and obscure, short-lived presses. The large selection of non-Polish authors testifies to other features of the Polish independent publishing, the role of translators and the openness of Polish opposition to the outside world. In fact, one can assume that by the late 1980s, the underground publishers became a significant alternative to state-owned publishing houses.
The geographical scope of the collection also shows the international impact of the Solidarity movement and democratic opposition on the exile community in Great Britain, which reactivated its ties with the home country after the decades of lack interest in Polish contemporary society and culture.
Polish Underground Publications collection has been partly processed and catalogued for the internal use only. As a result, it has been rarely used by researchers. The collection is available for viewing by appointment. There are currently no plans to digitize it in the near future. The absence of funds which would allow such transfer endangers the very physical survival of the collection.
Description of content
Polish Underground Publications collection contains 4941 archival units and some 40 linear meters of books, serials, brochures, and ephemera published by Solidarity and other Polish opposition organizations from 1976 to 1990. It demonstrates the richness and diversity of democratic opposition and clandestine publishing in People's Poland, documents political, socio-economic, and cultural debates that preoccupied independent society, and shows the evolution of printing techniques and design employed by underground publishers. Abovel all, it is an invaluable source for studying a history of anti-communist opposition.
- publications (books, newspapers, articles, press clippings): 1000-
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
London King Street 238-246, United Kingdom
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Creator(s) of content
- Jagodziński, Zdzisław
- Pisarski, Grzegorz
Important events in the history of the collection
- completely open to the public
Author(s) of this page
- Kunicki, Mikołaj
Kenney, Padraic. A Carnival of Revolution: Central Europe 1989. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003.
Lipski, Jan Józef. KOR: A History of the Workers' Defense Committee in Poland, 1976-1981. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.
Platt, Dobrosława, Jan Wiktor Sienkiewicz, Teresa Halikowska, and Adrian Smith. Wspólny wysiłek - wspólny sukces: 50 lat POSKu : wystawa = Community effort, community achievement : 50 years of POSK : exhibition. Londyn: Polski Ośrodek Społeczno-Kulturalny, 2014.
Reisch, Alfred A. Hot Books in the Cold War: The CIA-Funded Secret Book Distribution Program Behind the Iron Curtain. 2013.
Saunders, Frances Stonor. The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters. New York: The New Press, 2013.Smółka-Gnauck, Anna. Między wolnością a pokojem. Zarys historii Ruchu "Wolność i Pokój. Warszawa: IPN, 2012.
Szmidt, Jadwiga, and Zdzisław Eugeniusz Wałaszewski. Zdzisław Jagodziński jakim Go pamiętamy. Londyn: Biblioteka Polska POSK, 2003.Wieczorek, Marcin. BruLion. Instrukcja obsługi. Krakow: Korporacja Ha!art, 2005.
Wrede, Maria, Jadwiga Szmidt, Magdalena Bocheńska-Chojecka, and Grzegorz Pisarski. Przewodnik po zespołach rękopisów Biblioteki Polskiej POSK w Londynie. Warszawa: Biblioteka Narodowa, 2006.
Platt, Dobrosława , interview by Kunicki, Mikołaj, May 16, 2016. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection
Pisarski, Grzegorz , interview by Kunicki, Mikołaj, March 17, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection