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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Resources for the Study of the Polish Language

Radio history

This is the last broadcast of Polish Radio in Warsaw on the 28th September 1939.  In the brief communique the speaker announces that this is the final transmission since Nazi army has entered Warsaw. He passes greetings to Polish soldiers who are still fighting the Germans at the Hel peninsula, "and all those still fighing, wherever they may be". He finishes by saying Jeszcze Polska nie zginęła! (“Poland has not perished yet”-- which are the first words of Polish national anthem) and Niech żyje Polska! (Long live Poland!).  The final sounds are that of Mazurek Dąbrowskiego – the national anthem.

The last live music broadcast of the Polish Radio was a performance by Władysław Szpilman (whose life is portrayed in Polański’s Oscar-winning movie, The Pianist). On the 23rd September 1939 he was forced to stop playing because the Germans began bombarding the radio building. When Szpilman resumed his job at the Polish Radio in 1945, his first performance was that of the interrupted piece by Chopin, Nocturne in C sharp minor.

Radio Stations

Polish radio began regular transmissions in 1925. Much has changed since then. If you want to check out today's Polish airwaves, you can try radiostacje.com which lists several radio stations in Poland and also a few serving the diaspora. To hear what kind of music can be heard on Polish radio, what is popular right now in Polish music as well as European and US imports, check out open fm.

Opium for the masses

During the dark days of communist rule Polish television was a propaganda tool for the regime.  Nobody watched the news seriously.  Very often, as a symbolic protest a Polish family would turn off the sound of the evening news and tune in the shortwave radio to Radio Free Europe, BBC, or Voice of America.  What was bearable to watch were sports (primarily soccer), children's programming and  theatrical performances (so called Teatr telewizji). The latter produced many memorable performances.  Compared to other communist bloc countries, Polish TV showed a fair number of western movies and serials, which were not dubbed but rather had a speaker reading Polish dialogue in the background.  Bonanza was a family favorite, lieutenant Columbo was a household name, and all the kids breathlessly watched the exploits of Robin Hood and Ivanhoe. The TV programming was highly regimented (with only one station initially, later two) everyone knew what would be on TV in prime time.  If it is Monday, there will be a theatrical play, if it is Thursday (everyone's favorite) the TV would show some sort of a crime story, etc....

Television in Poland today is not much different than in any western country: a multitude of channels, many West European and American shows, including dubbed soap operas, etc. For a taste of local Polish programming go to this list of streaming TV. More streams and online video feeds can be found here.

Chopin&Co.

When you ask someone to name a Polish composer, the most probable answer will refer to the man in the picture above.  Whether you spell his name Frédéric François Chopin, or Fryderyk Franciszek Szopen, most people will know who you are talking about. However, there were others that composed classical music before and after his meteoric flight through the stages of Europe.

University of Southern California's Polish Music Center is a fantastic resource for learning more about the history of Polish Classical Music. It offers an extensive database of classical composers, past and present, can be found here.