Street Art In Krakow, Poland

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Street Art In Krakow, Poland

“Creativity takes courage.” Henri Matisse

 The first thing I did in Poland was a private street art tour. I was told to meet the guide at Ghetto Heroes Square.The Ghetto Heroes Square is in the center of the old Krakow Ghetto.This square was called the Umschlagplatz by the Nazis. it was the place where the Jews had to assemble before being transported to the Belzec death camp, Auschwitz- Birkenau or the Plasnow Forced Labor Camp just outside the city. Iron and and bronze empty chairs commemorate this place. It is a holiday and the square is eerily empty.  It is a deeply moving memorial.

 I meet up with Joanna Switala who explains the memorial. She knows a lot about the area and the artists. 

Street art in Poland and other ex Soviet countries derives from the spirit of protest. In the last several years, there is trend to improve the quality of public spaces with commissioned  street art murals. Street art is the uncensored, unofficial, egalitarian voice of the people.

In the districts of Podgorze and Kazimierz, public art is both encouraged and controlled, and street artists are often invited to create elaborate works of art that celebrate the city’s history, culture and revitalization.

 The Jewish Cultural Festival invited one of Israel’s most famous street artists, Pil Peled, to create an image to watch over the district. Entitled ‘Judah’, the mural is said to represent both the vulnerability of the Jews and their strength to overcome.

This black and white mural was created by the Israeli group, Broken Fingaz was for the same festival to honor the memory of the Bosak Family, who lived in this area for four hundred years until World War ll .

The woman in the painting is Irene Sendlar. .In 1941, .Irene Sendlar was recruited to head the Underground Council to Aid Jews, which was credited for protecting children by working with orphanages and welfare agencies to change their identities. They also smuggled an estimated eight to ten children out of the ghetto monthly by hiding them in suitcases, packages, and sometimes even coffins. Approximately 2,500 children were saved .

This mural was created by Marcin Wierzchowski, and is visible on the wall of the Galicia Jewish Museum. It represents pre-war Kraków and modern Jerusalem.

101 Murals for Krakow was put together by Krakow street artists who created the mural by bringing together multi-format paintings and connecting them with urban, historical, and architectural contexts of the different districts of the city in Kazimierz and Podgórze.

 City officials are forever trying to erase the playful and political stencils of  street artist Kuba .

 Mythical murals are painted across many of the city’s abandoned buildings by Mikolaj Rejs.

The mural at Joseph Street shows various people that are associated with the district: King Kazimierz the Great and his Jewish lover, Esterka; Prince Joseph II, who became the patron of this area during Austrian times; the architect of the district, Karol Knaus; and Helena Rubinstein, the Jewish queen of cosmetics who lived in Kazimierz before WWII.

 Though i didn’t see it that day, we talked about the internal feuding culture of football graffiti in Poland which might more accurately reflect some of the views here. Patriotic white-and-red colors, swastikas, Celtic crosses, football club emblems, Stars of David hanging from gallows, fans who died in fights with rival supporters and the Fighting Poland symbol are found on walls throughout Poland. 

The city-sponsored  ArtBoom festival invited Bolognese artist Blu to create this giant mural called  Ding Dong Dum.

 Street art as a form of protest remains, even in the publically sanctioned events. When the street artist Pikaso was invited to paint a mural as part of the 2012 ArtBoom festival the authorities refused to allow him to create his original design. Instead, he painted the giant and symbolic mural “For God’s Sake the Censorship is Everywhere.”

The dark history of Poland is always there but maybe the urban culture of street art in a country that didn’t have that freedom before, shows that change is possible.

Thanks Joanna for making my first day, interesting, informative, fun and full of art. I highly recommend her street art tour in Krakow. guideskrakow@gmail.com

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Auschwitz (Oswiecim) Poland

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Auschwitz (Oawiecim) Poland

“At a mass meeting in Berlin, Adolf Hitler shrieked, “And who is responsible for all our troubles?” Ben Cohen shouted, “The bicycle riders and the Jews!” Hitler looked up, astonished. “Why the bicycle riders?” “Why the Jews?” replied Cohen.” Leo Rosten.

We start our day at the Auschwitz Jewish Center in Oświęcim (Oshpitzim in Yiddish), a small town in southern Poland 31 miles west of Krakow .http://ajcf.pl/en/ The town went from anonymity to being known by its German name Auschwitz.The word Auschwitz has become synonymous with the worst things human beings can do to each other.

As with other parts of Poland, there is an old synagogue (that was returned to the Jewish community)  and a museum about Jewish life in Oscwecim over the last hundred years and no Jews.

The Center is used a lot by tourists and schools to promote dialogue about Polish Jewish life, xenophobia and the Holocaust. The Museum Of Jewish Heritage that I am traveling with was responsible for helping to create this Center. It does not have local community or government support.

Maciej Zabierowski our wonderful  guide for the Jewish quarter in Krakow works there. As with our other guides, Maciej’s quiet honorable manner makes you feel hopeful that there are more like him than the Nationalists in this country. Tomasz Knncewicz  tells us some of the history. We ask about the law passed earlier this year which criminalizes false attributions to Poland’s responsibility in the Holocaust. I have read that Auschwitz  guides have been accused of downplaying the fact that 74,000 Poles were also killed in Auschwitz. He mentions that there are pressures being exerted on Holocaust and Jewish Museum directors and Auschwitz guides due to the wave of hate.

I think about it on the short drive to the Auschwitz Birkenau Camp.  On one hand, the government is right. It is a distinction without a difference and a horrific thing. But, the Jews were killed because of racism. Many other victims were also deemed by the Nazi’s racial ideology  as unfit to live such as gypsies, homosexuals and the handicapped. The Poles and people from other German conquered countries were killed because of power.

The Holocaust happened at a time in the present to people like you and me. How did a civilized society do this? At what point does the Nationalism and hate rhetoric we are hearing in the world today, take a turn like this?

We pull into the very busy Auschwitz car park along with many buses and cars. There is train whistle in the distance.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Shithole Countries

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Shithole Countries

“Shit is the tofu of cursing and can be molded to whichever condition the speaker desires. Hot as shit. Windy as shit. I myself was confounded as shit…” David Sedaris

In case you missed it, President Trump used the word shithole in an immigration discussion behind closed doors. Someone walked out of the meeting and quoted it to a reporter.

I spent that evening watching many different newscasters and assorted panelists on different channels, repeat the word. It is blasted across the screen. Two newscasters mentioned that their children were watching but this is what the President said so they had to repeat it…and repeat it and repeat it. The words hit the air hard and fast. They go right to the emotional center of the brain and get a reaction. Profanity arouses strong feelings. Repeating these word are destructive because “they really are built to offend, to cause harm, to divide and to denigrate,”

I was a late curser. No one cursed in my house growing up. Son of gun and dirty rotten lice were as bad as it got. There were some questionable words floating around in Yiddish but I never heard the English equivalent.

I started dating a curser when I was in college. i still remember  the first time that I cursed. It was an early spring afternoon and we were walking through campus. I was wearing blue elephant bell bottoms and a short rust colored sweater. It was the perfect combination of trendy and stylish. He stopped to say hello to some friends and I fell off my very high platform shoes. The adrenalin rush of cursing definitely masked the pain and embarrassment. He thought it was cute and out of character for me. Obscenity was my final childhood rebellion. I married into a family of cursers. The words quickly shifted from taboo to normal. They can be used as any part of speech and work well as adjectives.

Kids love them because they know they are taking a risk and will use any opportunity to say them in front of you. When my daughter was three and my son was six, we were in the car stuck in traffic. My three-year old daughter said “Why aren’t we moving?” I said. “Traffic.” She said “Just say asshole and go around.” Hmm. I wonder where she learned that asshole meant stopped car. They are like sponges. My son knowing that was not ok, managed to use the word asshole twenty times in five minutes while admonishing her not to use the word asshole.

It was very emotionally potent for me to see a profanity across the screen. I never knew how that one was spelled. Was it one word or two? I know now. I visualized my deceased parents reaction to this. They believed that using profanity was a sign of a lack of education and knowledge. Every night before we went to bed we had to say what new word we  had learned and what it meant. I often had to look one up in the dictionary five minutes before. I think the plan was to have a rich vocabulary or at least good SAT scores.

I pictured all the kids watching at home. “Mom, the president just said shithole. I mean the newscaster said shithole because the president said shithole. It says shithole on the screen. Why does it say shithole? Why is the president saying shithole? Look I changed the channel. It still says shithole. If the president says shithole, can I say shithole? What about if Anderson Cooper says shithole?” My son would have said it as much as possible.

Are parents responding with something like what my parents said when I tried out a curse word on them? “Your language is a reflection of you. Maybe the president’s friends make him think that cursing is cool. Maybe the newscasters think that repeating it over and over is the right thing to do. The reality is that cursing a lot is not classy or intelligent Was that the best word you could come up with?.” Hopefully they remind their kids of this when they are sending their language out on social network and online communities.

He is not the first president to use profanity. He spoke this way about immigration during the campaign. He has made racist remarks throughout his presidency and has said that there were some good Nazis. He wants to cause chaos. This is not breaking news.  It is a dirty, f–king job.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Ten Of The Richest Countries In The World

  Ten Of The Richest Countries In The World

“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” Jim Carrey

It is confusing to rate the wealthiest countries these days.  It is usually rated by the GDP – gross domestic product. But there are other categories which change the list – third world rankings, most money, most growth etc., country size etc.  I’m going to go with the  original criteria which always puts the small Arab Oil Countries ahead of the big countries like the United States, Russia and China. Lists are different and I compiled a few.

1. Every list is in agreement that Qatar is the world’s richest country. It is full of five star hotels and has a five star airline.  Qatar wants to be the Arab world’s next super power.The streets are not paved with gold but consistently being dug up for new electrical cables and drainage getting ready for World Cup 2022. There are questions about bribery for the games. In fifty years it has gone from a poor fishing country to a rich oil-producing country. Qatari are the world’s richest people with an average income of 400,000 dollars per year. They are also rapidly becoming the world’s fattest. Since they don’t need to work and everything is done for them, they sit around smoking and eating junk food. The country’s traditional culture makes it difficult to go on a diet. You never leave someone’s house without eating.

2. Tiny Luxembourg is rich. It pays the highest wages in Europe so people from surrounding countries often work there. It is great for financial companies, banking and tax breaks. The reason it is rich is for stability, financial and investment reasons that I can not really explain. Luxembourg is on all lists in the top three every year.

3. Singapore has more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in the world. It is a city-state with about five million people so the scale isn’t comparable to the challenges of a country. Singapore is not fueled by natural resources. It is perfectly positioned to take advantage of the rise of Chinese and Southeast Asian wealth in coming years. Singapore has also pushed into electronics and tech.  Singapore made itself an internationally oriented economy and that has  paid off for its people.

4. Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates is the richest city in the world. The city of  Dubai is well-known as a playground for the rich. There is no sales tax or income tax. They have tried to cut their dependency on oil by diverting their economy, creating new businesses and increasing tourism.

5. Brunei is a tiny country on the island of Borneo in the South China Sea.  I do know that it is ruled by a Sultan and he is very rich. He owns the Beverly Hills Hotel among many other things. It is one of the smaller countries in the world so I don’t know how fair that is. The Sultan of Brunei presides over an absolute monarchy, and the government has just delayed its decision to reintroduce stoning, severing limbs and flogging for theft, adultery and homosexuality under the code of Sharia law. The UN has expressed concerns. But as long as the oil doesn’t run out, they are good.

6. Norway is prosperous, happy and free. Its towns and cities are orderly and comfortable. The people are educated, speak many languages and trade comfortably with the European Union. The nation is the largest producer of oil on the continent, and that advantage has helped the country put together a sovereign wealth fund of $860 billion dollars.  Norway sets itself apart from many oil-producing countries, particularly in the former Soviet Union and the Middle East in the way that the wealth is distributed. Instead of  oil generating revenues that make the governing elites fabulously wealthy, while the rest of the citizens depend on their leaders’ handouts or upon trickle-down economics for their share of what is left, Norway puts the money back into the country funding many government programs. 

7. Kuwait is an oil rich country in the Middle East. They say there are no poor people in Kuwait but that is usually said by the very rich who don’t know them. The provision of social services to Kuwaiti citizens, compared with most Western countries, is extensive. The state welfare system  cares for the needy, and aids families in need because of divorce, old age, disability, parental death, illness, or financial difficulty. Educational and marital status are taken into account in granting aid. Long standing tribal families and Sunni Muslims receive preferential treatment in Kuwait. They are an economically backward and politically unstable country compared to other oil-producing  countries.

8. Long-term monetary security and political stability has made Switzerland a safe haven for investors, creating an economy that is increasingly dependent on a steady tide of foreign investment  They aren’t picky about who invests money there – blood stained dictators, mafia, embezzlers, Nazis are among the many investors throughout the years.  The country’s small size and high labor specialization make industry and trade the keys to Switzerland‘s economic livelihood. They are rich, happy  and have great chocolate.

9. The United States has a lot of rich people. We have the largest amount of private wealth in the world. We also have one of the largest wealth inequality gaps making the uneven distribution of wealth a persistent issue. Yes even with all our problems, we are still considered lucky and rich.

10, With its vast oil wealth, Saudi Arabia has one of the highest concentrations of super rich households in the world. They are so rich that they have been able to hide the poverty in the country from sight. Saudi Arabia  had the largest oil reserves in the world. They are the biggest international exporter in crude oil and the amount of revenue they make from it is huge . Mecca helps – bringing in a lot of tourists. for the annual pilgrimage But unless Tesla really takes off, Saudi Arabia will continue to be one of the richest countries in the world.

Fly safe,

JAZ