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The Warsaw Voice » Other » November 5, 2008
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90th anniversary of the Zaiks society of authors
November 5, 2008   
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ZAiKS celebrated its 90th anniversary March 18. On that day in 1918, a small group of writers and composers, primarily of revues and cabarets, met at the Udziałowa cafe on Nowy ¦wiat.

Those who gathered there were inspired by Stanisław Ossorya-Brochocki, who would become the long-serving general director of our society, to found an organization for the defense of authors' rights. Among the founding fathers was Julian Tuwim, the great poet and celebrated cabaret author, as well as the sole woman, "founding mother" Anda Kitschmann, composer and conductor.

She appeared at this founding meeting wearing a lovely, very ornamental hat. And so it was that, even before Józef Piłsudski turned up in Warsaw to announce Polish independence, ZAiKS was already in existence.

With the exception of a dramatic break during German occupation in the years 1939-1945, the ZAiKS Society of Authors has existed without interruption to this day. What's more, during this whole time it has kept its autonomy and internal democratic structure.

It resisted integration into state structures even during the time of "realistic socialism," thanks to the wise stance of its outstanding members and activists. East of the Łaba [Elbe] river, this was the only such example within the Soviet bloc. It is probable that the fact that our association was a founding member of the CISAC International Confederation of Authors and Composers Societies in 1926, helped us preserve our autonomy. For example, in 1968, when the People's Republic of Poland broke off diplomatic ties with Israel, ZAiKS continued to have brotherly relations with our Israeli counterpart, ACUM.

In its 90 years of existence, the main mission of ZAiKS has been the defense of authors' rights; it has represented thousands of both Polish and foreign authors. The list is extremely long. Suffice it to say that our first honorary member was Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński, who introduced Polish readers to the immense breadth of French literature and drama. Among those of our members who were also bestowed this prestigious title were Nobel prize laureates Wisława Szymborska and Czesław Miłosz; Stanisław Lem, the most widely translated Polish writer, and Witold Lutosławski, the greatest Polish composer after Karol Szymanowski.

I would like to note in passing that Karol Szymanowski was the first composer of serious music to join ZAiKS. Later, having found himself in financial difficulties, he learned to greatly appreciate our system of "advances" against future copyright payments. And he was not the only one.

Honorary membership was also bestowed upon Andrzej Wajda, who later won an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement in his film work and Tadeusz Różewicz, a poet and playwright respected worldwide.

Tadeusz Konwicki's writing, both highly original and of such great influence on Polish social life in the last few decades, was considered important enough for him to earn the title. The phenomenal talent of Jeremi Przybora, the creator along with composer Jerzy Wasowski of the "Old Gentlemen's Cabaret," the most influential television cabaret of the postwar period, brought him the same honor.

I would like to close this enumeration of honorary members with a truly remarkable figure: a historian, political and social activist, hero of the Warsaw Uprising, former prisoner of the Auschwitz concentration camp and then later of Stalinist prisons, Professor Władysław Bartoszewski. Few have done as much for our present, free Poland as he has.

I am overcome by emotion when I think that I sat at the same table, discussing our authorial problems, as Stefan Kisielewski, the writer, composer and overt anti-communist-the same person who in 1968 was beaten up on the street by "unidentified perpetrators." It was hardly surprising, since he had called the government of the PZPR, the Polish United Workers' Party, a "dictatorship of dunces."

The same occurs when I recall a discussion about the state of contemporary Polish music with Władysław Szpilman, the composer miraculously saved from the Warsaw ghetto and whose memories became the canvas for the famous film The Pianist.

Lastly, I believe that Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, who went on to become Pope John Paul II, firmly believed in our good future when he entrusted ZAiKS with his poetry and plays.

Our jubilee's motto is "We create and protect." Despite the problems facing us, I am certain that our upcoming 100th anniversary will be the best proof that Polish culture cannot exist without a strong and independent organization to protect the rights of authors, one such as the Society of Authors ZAiKS.

Edward Pałłasz
President of the Society of Authors ZAiKS
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