Stories From The Eastern West

A weekly Society, Culture and History podcast
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Episodes of Stories From The Eastern West

Stanisław Lem was a science-fiction writer whose works, abilities and quirky sense of humor convinced Phillip K. Dick that he was too brilliant to exist and must have actually been a committee of people! Indeed his rare gift for blending phi
This year we have more great stories for you! There's going to be a bit of sci-fi, a pinch of socialist realism, a good portion of astronomy, and some old-fashioned moving testimonies from a region that never sleeps! Stay tuned: the first episo
Like most Polish jazz musicians, Zbigniew Namysłowski learned the basics of jazz listening to Willis Conover’s “Jazz Hour”. Originally starting his musical career playing piano, cello and trombone, Namysłowski became infatuated with the sax
Adam Makowicz grew up in a house where a piano was the centre of the home. His mother had long planned for him to become a classical virtuoso, but a meeting with a musician who introduced him to jazz changed this path completely. Adam pack
“Polish jazz group - 100$ a night” Displayed on the posters in Michał Urbaniak’s band’s van while playing across Europe in the 60s, this hippy traveling player was soon to become one of the most innovative Polish jazz musicians in hi
Urszula’s love for unruly musical experiments got her kicked out from music school when she was a young girl. A few years later, like many young Poles, she stumbled upon The Voice of America - a radio station meant to bring American culture
It may be hard to believe, but when Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski started playing music, jazz was censored in Poland. As a result of Stalin’s cultural politics that governed what kinds of art and culture could be consumed in the country,  anything
This week we've a special preview for you: Rebel Spirits! It's a podcast about five Polish jazz musicians who came of age in the 1950s and became mesmerised by the music they heard on the outlawed American radio station Voice of America. You'll
In 1967, Marian Marzyński was a popular TV show host and filmmaker in Poland. But then a seemingly faraway military clash sparked an unexpected conflict within the Polish communist party that led its Jewish members to be accused of anti-Poli
In 1938, Hitler's forces marched into Czechoslovakia, a country that had only gained its independence two decades earlier. A puppeteer named Josef Skupa was ready to fight back with the help of Spejbl and Hurvínek – a father son duo of woode
Back in 2019, we got the chance to interview Anastasija Gulej. She was 95 at the time, living a happy life in one of Kyiv's suburbs. If you didn’t know her, you’d never tell be able to tell that she wakes up every day with the horrors of her
‘Romania today is possibly the only European country where you can bump into a witch at the supermarket.’ The history of witches in Europe is a tumultuous and violent one. Always on the margins of society and in opposition to any form
In the summer of 1976, the late Polish film director Andrzej Żuławski, responsible for infamous cult classics such as The Devil (1972) and Possession (1981), was given a green light to shoot the most expensive film ever made in Poland. On the S
After the Soviet Union invaded Poland from the east in 1939, many thousands of Polish families were deported to Siberian forced labour camps. There they not only faced bitter cold but constant hunger. Then Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet
As much as The People’s Republic of Poland may seem a distant country hidden behind the Iron Curtain, it was an open and welcoming one... towards other socialist states. Student exchange programmes were one of the many ways of building internat
In August 1980, after the firing of popular shipyard worker, Anna Walentynowicz, a strike broke out at the Vladimir Lenin Shipyard in Gdańsk. Suddenly this massive complex on the Polish coast, with 16,000 employees and of huge strategic impo
Chernobyl had cast a shadow over our childhoods. It was reportedly the cause of all the chronic diseases we’d struggled with. In the summer of 2018, we went there.  We wanted to walk into the belly of the beast, to debunk any nonsense around it
This year, we've travelled to the far reaches of the globe for you: we went deep down into the Chernobyl Exclusion zone, visited New Zealand, and went back in time and space to deliver yet another set of stories that changed our world. Stay tun
How a teen's letter to a stranger in the Soviet Union led to a long-distance friendship that has lasted decades. Like many teens growing up in the People’s Republic of Poland, Ewa decided to send a letter to a stranger in the Soviet Union. L
How a giant communal song festival helped Estonians regain independence from the USSR. Part of our mini-series The Final Curtain. In the Estonia Kaie Tanner grew up in, learning Russian at school was compulsory, and her mother and he
How a Romanian mining town that lost its mine fought to turn its remains into a cultural hub.  In our second and final episode on Ion Barbu and the town of Petrila, we learn how the mine, the town's main employer, was unable to achie
How a Romanian miner made political caricatures at a time when making fun of the country's leadership could mean a visit from the secret police.  After finishing university in 1978, Ion Barbu was assigned to the Petrila mine as a top
How a single mother in Kyiv experienced the end of the USSR and survived the harsh economic realities of life in post-communist Ukraine in the early 1990s. Part of our mini-series The Final Curtain. Iryna Tkachenko is a music conserv
How East Berlin's leading political cabaret tried to get their message through despite strict state censorship... and what happened when the system they were laughing at ceased to exist.  For the citizens of the GDR, laughter was oft
Meet the headstrong musician who's been viciously rebelling against both of the systems he lived under... and created some truly worthwhile art along the way.  Tymon Tymanski came of age in the 1980s, probably the bleakest years of t
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