Krakow, a southern Polish city, was a window to the antipodal edge of the world for me. My secondment in one of the oldest universities of Europe, Jagiellonian University gave me opportunities not only for academic synthesis but also interactions with the wider world. It was an illuminating experience for a person like me who never stepped outside the peripheries of India. Poland, though a culturally homogeneous country, especially if compared to South Asia, exhibited trajectories of the time through the ruins of lost Empires, political turmoil and concomitant cultural habitations. Royal Wawel Castel, the thirteenth century market square, the fourteenth century town of Kazimierz and its old market square which used to be a fish market and the three synagogues, Krakow ghetto, and traces of Renaissance art narrate their confrontation with different historical shifts and cultural encounters.
The inherent cultural conflict and traumatic residuals of Nationalism can be seen and understood by placing Poland into the geographical space and time line of the historical events in Europe. The position of Poland in European Union and its relationship with Russia shed light on complexities of the contemporary political situation which is marked by rise of the extreme Rightist politics. From the denial of holocaust and casting it as a conspiracy of Jews to the ever rising rightist politics in contemporary Poland, and exorbitant refutation of Syrian refugees on the basis of their religion, reflects a picture of the political landscape of Europe as a whole.
Amidst all this, celebration of Indian culture on the one side and sporadic but constant migration of Indians into Poland is one of the most significant aspects of my visit to Krakow. Though India and Poland shared emotional and cultural connect from as early as eighteenth century, migration of Indians in Poland is a coeval and synchronous phenomenon. Poland has developed as an abode of prosperous life for the Hindu Indians who are ready to work with small salaries, and even for those who are interested in capital investment. I also interacted with few Pakistanis working in the Indian restaurants who generally introduce themselves with Indian reference, bespoke a narrative of cultural trauma and identity conflicts which perpetuated in a different political spatiality but also gets reflected in a completely foreign landscape.
SPeCTReSS gave me opportunities to attend conferences in Poland and outside. I attended the Summer School in Ruhr University, Bochum which facilitated discussions on political situations of South Asia and Europe, and interaction amongst South Asian academicians. I attended lectures of Jolanta Ambrowicz on Holocaust and participated in city tours which enriched my understanding of the topic and directed me for the research project on Yiddish Theatre in Poland. I also attended certain sessions on Yiddish language and culture at Jewish Community Centre in Krakow which introduced me to Jewish heritage and cultural exchanges between India and Jews of Eastern Europe.
I would like to thank my coordinators Dr.Tomas Bilczewsky and Prof. Aditya Mukherjee for their support throughout the visit. I also thank my host Dr. Andrzej Wiercinski and his mother for their love and kindness, and a friend Katarzyna Trzeciak for sparing her valuable time for formal or informal meetings. I also extend my gratitude to a Polish friend and a great host Joanna with whom I developed emotional connect during my small stay at her place. My visit to summer school was one of the most meaningful events during the stay, so I also express my generous thanks to Prof. Stefan Berger and all the team members. Lastly, I am also grateful to all the so-called strangers with whom I interacted while travelling around the city and gained insights.