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Pawel Rybicki discusses social media and the Warsaw Uprising

On July 31, The Institute of World Politics welcomed speaker Pawel Rybicki for a lecture titled “Social Media and the Warsaw Uprising.” Mr. Rybicki described the importance of social media activity in raising awareness of the history and survivors of the Warsaw Uprising.

Mr. Rybicki noted the lack of knowledge about the Uprising during the time of Communist control of Poland during the Cold War when Communist authorities suppressed official knowledge of the Uprising and sought to cast it in a negative light. Mr. Rybicki stated that this was due to the anti-Communist stance of the Home Army (Armia Krajowa) which initiated the Uprising with the ultimate goal of liberating the capital city from the Germans while simultaneously stopping Soviet communist encroachment. Many of the Home Army soldiers were later executed by the Soviet “liberators” in show trials, accusing them of collaboration with the Nazis, further destroying the memory of the Uprising. 

Mr. Rybicki also pointed to the lack of awareness about the Warsaw Uprising in the period following the collapse of Communist rule in Poland. According to Mr. Rybicki, this ignorance was due to the prevalence of ex-communist leadership still in positions of power even after the formal collapse of Communism. It was not until 2002 and the election of Lech Kaczynski to the office of the Mayor of Warsaw that work commenced on the Warsaw Uprising Museum in Warsaw. This museum, which has received awards for multimedia and social media integration, proved to be a catalyst for spreading awareness both in Poland and abroad. 

Mr. Rybicki described the large involvement of youth that is the driving force behind the movement to raise awareness and properly honor the sacrifices made by the fighters of the Uprising. This involvement was well evidenced by the influx of movies and documentaries made on the topic of the Uprising, including “Maisto Ruin” (City of Ruins), a CGI rendering of Warsaw after the destruction of the city by the Nazis which won critical acclaim and Maisto ’44 (City ’44). 

Also mentioned was the large uptick of posts, pictures and events regarding the Uprising on social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Public displays to honor the Uprising were also described, including a movement to stop and take a minute of silence on August 1st at 5 o’clock.  This time of commemoration has been spread rapidly on social media and now takes place all over Poland. 

With every passing year, social media is a large driving force for spreading knowledge about the Uprising. Mr. Rybicki pointed out that this year, a day before the Uprising, thousands of posts had been made about the Uprising on Polish blogs, Facebook pages, and Twitter. The action to take a moment of silence at 5 o’clock has garnered thousands of responses on its event page on Facebook.

Mr. Rybicki is a social media specialist, and is currently on the social media team of the Law and Justice Party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość) for the upcoming Polish Parliamentary Elections. A very popular political blogger, he has been writing about politics since 2006, publishing in the oldest Polish political blog site as well as various Polish magazines and newspapers. He is also very involved in activities in Central and Eastern Europe such as the 2004 Ukranian Elections, Belorussian opposition initiatives and covered the 2014 Euromaidan protests extensively. 

This  lecture was part of a series on the Intermarium hosted by the Kosciusko Chair of Polish Studies.