Kaduk polski: Czechło

It all started with a quotation from Witold Gombrowicz‘s “Diary”:

The gathering was also marked by inhibition, artificiality, and falseness because Poland was taking part in the meeting and a Pole does not know how to act toward Poland, it confuses him and makes him mannered. Poland inhibits the Pole to such a degree that nothing really “works” for him. Poland forces him into a cramped state – he wants to help it too much, he wants to elevate it too much. Observe that Poles act normally and correctly toward God (in church), but toward Poland they lose themselves. This means there is something here with which they are not yet comfortable.

Witold Gombrowicz, Diary [1953]

At the time I read it, I had been an immigrant for several years already and struggled myself with the fundamental question about Poland. No wonder that Gombrowicz’s “Diary” has become something like the Bible for me, which may sound bizarre in the mouth of an atheist.

“Kaduk polski” is the result of my struggle with identity and is planned as a trilogy. Following Adam Mickiewicz‘s “Dziady” (although his work is a tetralogy), I first wrote the second part, called “Czechło”. This is the most controversial and iconoclastic text I have written so far. I am aware that many of my countrymen may find this text offensive. However, I hope that it will make them think about our national identity, the foundations on which it is built and the impact it has on our lives as a nation and each of us individually.

As this text is written in my native language, and additionally styled as Old Polish, my English-speaking readers will not be able to read it. However, in order to show, at least to a minimal extent, the complexity of this work, I will translate its title.

The Old Polish word kaduk has two meanings. In the first, it means an inheritance left without heirs. In the second, it means the devil or a fiend. Here it is combined with the adjective polski which means Polish. The Old Polish word czechło also has several meanings. It can be translated, among other things, as a white shirt, especially a woman’s shirt, sheet, shroud or towel used in a bathhouse. This text is full of these kinds of ambiguous expressions.

If your knowledge of Polish allows you to read my piece, please follow this link.

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