Interview with Małgorzata Mazurek--May 15, 2014

Interview with Małgorzata Mazurek, who was recently named the first Polish Studies Chair at Columbia University. Interview conducted in New York on May 15, 2014. Special thanks to Máté Rigó, Ph.D. candidate in History at Cornell University, for preparing a time-stamped inventory of the interview.

Mazurek is the author of three monographs in Polish, including Waiting in Lines: On Experiences of Scarcity in Postwar Poland (2010), The Anthropology of Scarcity in the GDR and Poland, 1971-1989 (2010), and Socialist Factory: Workers in People's Poland and in the GDR on the Eve of the Sixties (2005). She has also written several reviews, contributions to edited volumes, and articles in English. To access the interview, click here.

Interview Themes

00:00 Family background, family politics 
03:00 No family connection to the opposition (Solidarity)
07:00 Family experience of WWII, ancestors represent all social groups of interwar Poland
13:00 Partial Jewish ancestry, peasant Catholic ancestry, Polish Jewish experience of WWI
15:00 Experiences of Jewish grandfather during and after WWII; land reform
16:20 Grandfather arrested when using a fake Polish identity; Mazurek is a Polish-sounding family name adopted during WWII
20:12 Postwar retribution
24:00 Grandfather becomes a journalist after the communist takeover
30:00 Grandfather gets a job at Metalexport as a translator
35:00 Experience of 1980s and 1990s as periods of constant change
40:00 Schooling, experience at a private school, interactions with students of liberal and anti-communist backgrounds
45:20 Parents are scientific researchers and academics, organic chemistry and geology; relationship to the Polish Communist Party; father’s fascination with banks, currency and economy
51:54 Elections of 1989
55:20 Jan Gross’s Neighbors as a radical censure in Polish intellectual life
1:00:20 Impact of Gross’s book, Positive phenomena in Polish-Jewish relations, confronting the past
1:04:50 Accidents in Polish history
1:08:20 Gross, Polish-Jewish relations as an institutionalized relationship
1:12:00 Experience at university; sociology, MA thesis
1:17:00 Trends within the new generation of Polish historiography; Move towards studying communist Poland within the context of European history and the legacy of WWII
1:19:00 Different perspectives on ECE history between different academic environments (USA, Poland, Germany, historical sociology)
1:23:00 Training in sociology, university experience; Sociology as an intellectually challenging course of study; Habitus of more traditional history students vs. sociology students in 1990s Poland
1:30:20 Columbia Chair of Polish History
1:34:00 Experience of switching between disciplines, importance of language skills
To access the interview, click here.

ARTIFACT: Found Nazi Stamp Album

Małgorzata Mazurek shares some images from "the most precious object" her family owns, which is a Nazi stamp album that her grandfather--Adam Feil, later Adam Mazurek--found in the garbage in Warsaw at the end of World War II. During the postwar years, he collected additional stamps to fill the pages, but also "to tell his own story about WWII," Małgosia says, "a story told from the perspective of a Polish Jew and socialist." One of the additions is a portrait of her grandfather, inserted into the book "as if it was just another portrait-stamp," complete with the "value" of the stamp (5 Polish złoty). A handwritten commentary to the right of the "stamp" notes that the photo was taken on September 3, 1942, the day that Adam Feil escaped from a train transport to Bełżec.

"Portrait stamp" of Adam Feil (Mazurek), September 3, 1942
Stamps with Judenrat (Jewish council) postmarks from WWII
The demise of Nazi Germany and liberation of Poland in stamps
Allied and Postwar Stamps