Monthly Archives: October 2020

Bezem & Kruis: Vertaling Poolse cultuurstudie over Nederland gepubliceerd

Deze maand verscheen bij de Primavera Pers in Leiden het boek Bezem & Kruis: De Hollandse schoonmaakcultuur of de geschiedenis van een obsessie, mijn vertaling van Miotła i krzyż: Kultura sprzątania w dawnej Holandii, albo historia pewnej obsesji. Het boek is geschreven door de Poolse letterkundige en kunsthistoricus Piotr Oczko, die is verbonden aan de Uniwersytet Jagielloński in Krakau.

Het rijk geïllustreerde werk vormt een studie van de Hollandse schoonmaak- cultuur door de eeuwen heen. Aan de hand van talrijke voorbeelden laat Oczko zien hoe het schoonmaken vanaf de zeventiende eeuw een belangrijke rol ging spelen in de kunst en literatuur van de Noordelijke Nederlanden, met name Holland. In binnen- en buitenland begon men schoonmaken en properheid te associëren met de Nederlandse cultuur en identiteit. Deze ‘obsessie’ met schoonmaken duurde voort tot in de twintigste eeuw.

Het boek is hier te bestellen.


Stanisław Maczek and Breda (NL Embassy in PL)

Some of the best-loved Poles in the Netherlands are without doubt General Stanisław Maczek and his 1st Armoured Division. In October 1944, they liberated large parts of Noord-Brabant. Maczek and his men are mainly remembered for the liberation of Breda on 29 October, during which no serious damage was done to the city. The inhabitants welcomed their Polish liberators with open arms, and Maczek was awarded the honorary citizenship of Breda. Following the war, many of Maczek’s soldiers remained in Breda and other parts of the Netherlands, where their descendants live to this day. This year, on 3 June, the Maczek Memorial Breda was opened to the public. An online Dutch exhibition on Maczek and the 1st Armoured Division – the texts for which I translated – can be visited here.

*I originally wrote this post for the social media outlets of the Dutch Embassy in Poland. This was post no. 2.

Familiar Foreigners: Paper at the Huizinga PhD Conference

On 13 October, I presented a paper at the yearly Huizinga conference for PhD candidates. Due to the pandemic, the conference was held entirely online. My paper was entitled Familiar Foreigners. Poles through Dutch Eyes in the Seventeenth Century.

Pieter Serwouters, Frontispiece for ‘Respublica, Sive Status Regni Poloniae…’, 1627.

I discussed work in progress on the different ways in which the Dutch during the seventeenth century imagined the Polish people. Firstly, I analysed a variety of Dutch visualisations of ‘Poles’ and ‘Polishness’, ranging from engravings to gable stones and from paintings to ‘Polish’ stage costumes. While such representations were partly based on reality, a comparison with Dutch portraits of real Poles shows how these could break the mould. For whereas a Pole’s appearance was typically associated with the exoticism of the orient, and hardly differed from his Hungarian, Russian, or even Turkish counterparts, depictions of individuals could deviate from this pattern, as Poles navigated between ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western’ guises.

Secondly, I used several poems, travel accounts, and other sources to reconstruct the ways in which Dutch authors imagined Polish characters and customs. Typical Poles were identified as Sarmatians, a bellicose, brutal, and barbaric people, whose backward nature was shaped by the cold climate and severe living conditions of their homeland. However, these negative notions are challenged by several other sources, mainly Latin poems by Dutch authors in honour of their Polish friends. These compositions reveal that, despite the stereotypes, Dutch poets maintained and celebrated warm relations with Polish individuals in a variety of contexts, from scholarship to warfare to religion. Together, the visual and textual source material demonstrates that, through seventeenth-century Dutch eyes, Poles were familiar foreigners.

The oldest Polish town with Dutch roots (NL Embassy in PL)

Starting today, I will write regular posts about Dutch-Polish historic relations for the Dutch Embassy in Poland. The posts will appear on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but I will copy them here as well.

We begin with the oldest known town in Poland with Dutch roots. It was founded in 1297 in Prussian lands governed by the Teutonic Knights, and named after the settlers’ homeland: Holland/t (later known as ‘Preussisch Holland’). Some have argued that the founders may have been exiles and refugees, who had escaped their homeland following the murder of Count Floris V, in 1296. It is possible that Joost van den Vondel in 1637 referred to the founding of the town in his famous Gysbreght van Aemstel, when the play’s hero is advised to escape from Amsterdam to Prussia, and to build a ‘New Holland’ there. The settlement came under Polish rule in 1466 and was later part of the Duchy of Prussia, which remained a fief of Poland until 1657. A view of the town was included in a book printed in Amsterdam in 1632. In 1945, ‘Holland’ became part of Poland once more. Its modern name is Pasłęk, near Elbląg.

*I originally wrote this post for the social media outlets of the Dutch Embassy in Poland. This was post no. 1.