With the dawning of European integration, Polish culture has a noteworthy opportunity. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, some look to this part of the continent with hope, expecting ex Oriente lux - an injection of revitalising exotic power and fresh inspiration. What makes art different in this part of the world, what might be the Polish input into the work of cultural integration? n Polish culture, in which the memory of a "Republic of Many Nations" is still alive, is a "borderland culture" which appeared in the very heart of Europe. It joins the traditions of East and West - the mysticism of Orthodoxy with classical Latin, the living cult of the icon with the Jewish Hasidic tradition, the baroque mythology of the Sarmatians with picturesque folk culture. In Poland, at the crossroads of Europe, there arose a specific weave of cultural traditions which artists and writers continually refer to.
The contribution of Polish artists to the evolution of art is unquestioned, with generally accepted "Polish schools" of film, poster art and poetry. Here we will mention just a few chosen phenomena, some as a reminder, because they are already well-known, and others in order to consider, for example, what causes people from all over the world to come to a small village on the Eastern borders of Poland?
Polish art is separated from Western culture by historical experiences, which may contain important lessons for a united Europe. The most important characteristic of Polish literature and art during the second half of the 20th century was a citizens' rebellion, an attempt to hold on to dignity in undignified times, a defence of spiritual independence in spite of the limitations. Even today, Polish artists are not afraid to pose important questions and to refer to fundamental values. Nor do they run away from discussions on the social role of, and the necessity for, art. Polish art constantly returns to the subject of freedom, wanting to mean something and having a sense of mission - possibly it is this which makes it particularly attractive, this belief and zeal which can cause jealousy within a Western contemporary culture suffering from a post-modern "crisis of meaning"?