A WINDOW ON THE CZECH-POLISH BORDERLAND
Dr Magdalena Matkowska-Jerzyk, assistant professor in the Department of Bohemian Studies, has been working for years with Polish and Czech public television, also involving her students in major international projects. The effects of this work can be seen on both Polish and Czech television. Currently he is working on a series of documentaries about Polish-Czech borderland as a part of the project “Okno na pogranicze/Spolu na hranici”.
The aim of the project is to create 16 documentary films, which are divided into two thematic series. The first concerns widely understood tourism and travel, the second focuses on the history of the twentieth century. The creators want to present the Polish-Czech borderland through the prism of the history of people living there. The series is a co-production of TVP3 Wrocław and ČT Studio Ostrava. So far, half of the planned material has been made. The whole will be created by the end of 2021.
The Polish-Czech border line is as long as 796 km. The area concerned covers six sub-regions in Poland: Bielsko-Biała and Rybnicko (Silesian Voivodeship), Jeleniogórski and Wałbrzyski (Lower Silesian Voivodeship), Nysa and Opolski (Opole Voivodeship), and five countries in the Czech Republic: Liberec, Hradec, Pardubice, Olomouc and Moravia-Silesia. It is a very colourful area culturally, historically, ethnographically, linguistically and geographically. It is home to amazing people who have often chosen the Polish-Czech borderland over the comforts of the big city and the mundane everyday life in the countryside. Among other things, the project “Okno na pogranicze/Spolu na hranici” is about why they chose this way.
The first series, already realised, consists of eight themes – popular but not obvious associations related to the border area: “Rocks”, “Underground”, “Kitchen”, “Water”, “Circles”, “Railways”, “Cross roads”, “Skiing”. In each episode the creators tried to show – usually – four places (two from the Czech side and two from the Polish side), which are thematically similar and linked by a leitmotif, although geographically they are scattered, e.g. in the episode dedicated to water the characters from Opava, Doksy, Rybnik and Bohumin are presented.
The films show what the borderland looks like today – disenchanted after what used to be commonplace here until recently, like barbed wire and armed WOP soldiers stationed on the border. Today, it is a common area, where people can buy milk in the Czech Republic, bread in Poland and butter in Germany (if they live in the so-called Turošov sack) or slivovitz in Slovakia (if they live in the Beskydy mountains). Because that is how people live here today, when there are no borders. Czechs build their houses from Polish materials, while Poles use the excellent Czech cycling routes, and together – Poles and Czechs – fly gliders near Javorník and kayak the meanders of the Odra near Bohumin.
Thanks to the experience that Dr Magdalena Matkowska-Jerzyk has gained over the years in cooperation with professionals from both television stations, she is now the lead editor. She is responsible for the editorial and artistic side, script supervision and substantive coordination of the project at every stage of its implementation. It is interesting to note that even the nomenclature associated with the television industry in Poland and the Czech Republic differs. Often there are no equivalents of terms used in a given country. On the Polish side, cinematography is the responsibility of: Marcin Wenzel and Maciej Maciejewski, Paula Jakubowska for direction, Aleksander Stefański for editing, Aleksandra Iwaszczyszyn-Falkowska and Kasia Kozłowska-Domańska for production. Apart from editing, Dr Magdalena Matkowska-Jerzyk is also responsible for the script together with Paula Jakubowska. On the Czech side, the playwright is Josef Albrecht, the scriptwriter Tomáš Netočný, the manager Xenie Kaduchová, the producer Lenka Poláková.
For Dr. Magdalena Matkowska-Jerzyk, working within the project “Okno na pogranicze/Spolu na hranici” is a combination of three great professional passions – journalism, Bohemian Studies and interest in the Polish-Czech borderland. She infects her students with these passions, and passes on her knowledge and experience gained during the project to them, for example in translation or language classes. But that’s not all. He tries to involve them directly in the work on the project. Members of the Bohemian Studies Club of the University of Warsaw, of which she is the scientific supervisor, eagerly took part in the production. Agnieszka Woźnica completed an internship at the Ostrava branch of Czech Television and Konrad Duraj, a railway enthusiast, appeared in one of the episodes.
Documentary filmmaking is an incredible adventure, a mine of experience, but also a lesson in humility, which reassures us that we are lifelong learners. A large international project is like riding a Horska Dráha, or rollercoaster – you never know what awaits you. And you can meet many different people in the border region – some breed snails in Písek u Jablůnkova, others restore the former narrow-gauge railway Frýdlant-Heřmanice, while others go diving in the depths of the Šífr quarry near Opava for recreation.
The project “Okno na pogranicze” is being implemented from 2017 to 2021 as part of the INTERREG V-A Poland-Czech Republic Cross-Border Cooperation 2014-2020, which aims to support the development of the Polish-Czech borderlands.
Videos and details of the project can be found at: oknonapogranicze.pl.