A visit to the Vasa Museum in Stockholm…

Throughout the 17th Century Sweden was at war with Poland and the warship Vasa was built on the orders of Sweden’s war-king Gustav Adolf, as part of the military expansion he initiated in the war with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth 1621-1629.

King Gustav Adolf’s plans for a Polish campaign required a strong naval presence in the Baltic but the Swedish navy had suffered severe setbacks in the 1620s: 10 ships were wrecked in a storm in the Bay of Riga (1625) and in the Battle of Oliwa (1627) a Swedish squadron was outmaneuvered and defeated by the Polish-Lithuanian Navy.

Then, on the 10th of August 1628, the Vasa ship, one of the most powerful vessels in the world, set sail… only to sink in Stockholm’s harbour on her maiden voyage!

After 333 years under the sea – the wreck was salvaged in 1961 and can today be seen at the Vasamuseet in Stockholm. The reconstructed vessel is 98 percent original – and looks incredibly impressive:

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It’s difficult to photograph it well, as in an attempt to slow down it’s deterioration, the Vasa ship is kept in a very dark, climate controlled environment, but I still hope my photographs here will be of interest (click to enlarge).

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The Vasa ship looks truly magnificent, with a beautiful lion figurehead – but what is surprising and instantly clear when standing at the Stern, looking up at the very narrow and disproportionately high upper structure of the hull, is the ships fundamentally flawed design. (Unfortunately my photographs of the Stern at water level came out too dark to post here to illustrate this properly).

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The day that Vasa set sail was calm, but a gust of wind forced the ship on it’s Port Side – and the ‘top-heavy’ construction gave the ship minimal ability to right herself – as water poured in through the gun ports left open to fire a salute as the ship left Stockholm…

The ship capsized and sank after only a 1300 meter journey, still in Stockholm’s harbour, 120 meters from the shore, in full view of hundreds of people that had gathered to see her set sail – to a depth of 32 meters, with the ship masts still standing above the surface after she had sunk!

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It’s estimated that relatively few (about 30) people perished with the ship, and another interesting part of the exhibit are the very realistic looking face reconstructions based on some of the skeletons that were found in Vasa’s hull during the recovery in 1961.

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Hundreds of intricate sculptures adorn the ship, beautifully carved in now very dark, almost black, wood. At the time though, in what looks rather garish to many of us today, the sculptures would have been painted in very vivid colours:

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The Vasa ship is richly decorated with ornaments that symbolize what is in Sweden’s historical narrative known as “stormaktstiden” – Sweden’s “Superpower Time” during the 17th Century: The ship decorations are designed to glorify Sweden’s military prowess and to intimidate the enemy…

Which, leads me to one particularly curious looking sculpture that I want to draw attention to in this blog –

Just underneath the Cathead on the starboard bow there is a kneeling figure, turned facing away from us, looking in towards the ship:

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This figure is depicting Sweden’s enemy: The Polish Nobleman – with a classic long moustache!

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A few useful links:

Two polish wikipedia links on the Polish-Swedish Wars here and here – with many good reference pictures.

Link to Vasamuseet – The Vasa Museum in Stockholm here!

Monument to the Battle of Monte Cassino in Warsaw

There is a beautiful monument in Warsaw in memory of the Battle of Monte Cassino.

This memorial sculpture was designed by Kazimierz Gustaw Zemła and architect Wojciech Zabłocki.

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The statue, in white Carrara marble, depicts a beautiful winged shape – reminiscent of both Polish Hussars and the Goddess of Victory, Nike (the head less Winged Victory of Samothrace). The battle – scarred column structure also resembles a classical ruin…

The plinth holds an urn containing the ashes of fallen soldiers under the Cross of Monte Cassino and the hill is covered in a shroud and scattered helmets.

The emblems of the Polish units that fought in the battle are also engraved at the base of the monument. (Click to enlarge my photographs below).

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In rough translation, the inscription reads:

 Passerby tell everyone, that we fell

with honour, our soul we gave to God, our hearts to Poland,

our bodies, to Italy’s earth.

 

Soldiers of General Władysław Anders Polish II Corps,

who on the 18th of May 1944 in bloody

battle took Monte Cassino, broke through the Gustav Line

and opened the road to Rome for the Allies.

The Polish Nation

 

Museum of the Polish Army – Research Photos

Spending a bit of time attempting to organize my photo archive files – I came across some pictures from the Museum of the Polish Army, that I took on one of my relatively frequent visits / research trips…

Whilst not a modern museum, the Polish Army Museum in Warsaw holds many exceptional treasures in their vast collection – Beginning with the 10th century, through the military greatness of the 17th century, the Napoleonic Wars and National Uprisings through to 20th century conflicts, Polish independence and WW2.

If you are interested in armour, military dress or simply want to be inspired – the extensive collection of this museum will not disappoint!

My photographs in this blog post leave much to be desired, but they were not taken for any artistic / creative purpose. They were only ever intended as a quick reference for research – and I’m afraid their quality was not aided by the somewhat dated object arrangements and glass reflections from the display cases!

I post the photos here solely for the purpose of offering a small glimpse into this museums excellent collection – which, should you have the opportunity to travel to Warsaw, I sincerely recommend you visit.

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Some notes to help the less obvious / most blurred pictures above…

Picture No. 4 The chain mail shirt of Jan II Kazimierz Waza / John II Casimir Vasa, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania (1609-1672, reign 1648-1668)

Picture No. 6 The saddle belonging to Napoleon Bonaparte – from the Egyptian campaign in 1799.

Picture No. 11 (detail) and No. 12 Black lace mantilla and jewelry; white crosses and anchor symbols on black, as worn by widows and women during national mourning.

There is a beautiful passage in the ‘Memoirs of Madame Pilsudski’ (London, Hurst & Blackett 1940) where she describes her earliest memories of her grandmother, a Polish patriot, always dressed in black after the failed Insurrection of 1863. I very much recommend this book to anyone interested in Polish history!

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And… I shall finish this blog post with the most curious – and funny – piece of armour I have ever seen…

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Website link to the Polish Army Museum in Warsaw – here!

Kossak Polish Army Museum

This beautiful poster for the Museum of the Polish Army was painted by W. Kossak in 1934.

Raiders of the Lost Archive…

 

Searching through reels of archive film is a bit like searching for a lost treasure in the warehouse at the end of ‘Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark’.

The sheer volume can be daunting.

If you are after something quite general –  it’s very easy, but counter intuitive as it may seem, the more specific you are with WW2 archive – the harder it can get… with that one clip, that one elusive little gem, glittering just out of your reach…

For my documentary ‘Portrait of a Soldier’, I have been very fortunate. The fact that over 4 hours of footage filmed during the Warsaw Uprising has survived is really a miracle. That it also survived communism is another.

To now be able to use this in my film, along with beautiful photographs – many by acclaimed photographers; Sylwester “Kris” Braun, Eugeniusz “Brok” Lokajski and Jerzy Tomaszewski – is a true privilege.

But whilst my film is nearing post-production completion, This blog post – is about that one archive clip that I could not find the rights to and therefore, will not be in the finished film… And that despite the clip being used in two previous documentaries about the Warsaw Uprising!

Sometime ago I met with director Paul Meyer, who used the clip in his film “Konspirantinnen: Polnishe Frauen Im Widerstand 1939-1945”. Mr. Meyer was not sure of the clips origin and some suggestions have been made it was not filmed in Poland, but in Ukraine. In any event, it seemed impossible to establish where the footage had been sourced and acquired from. The clip was also used in another documentary called “Betrayal: the Battle for Warsaw” which was shown on the History channel. Having worked at History, I was in this case given access to the production paperwork – yet again, like all the other searches through various footage companies, this eventually also led nowhere.

The reason this clip is special is that it depicts something rarely, if ever, caught on film – It shows a man and a woman assassinating a German officer (?) on a street, in broad daylight.

How a resistance mission this dangerous would ever be recorded on film, is in itself questionable.

But unlike some ‘acted / re-constructed ’ film recordings from this time, that often make their way into archive footage collections, this film clip has something authentic about it:

The jumpy camera movement. The reactions of people passing by. The look of the woman’s face as she rushes towards the camera. It feels real.

But where this film was recorded, by whom – and for the purpose of documentary making: who holds the rights to this archive clip today ? This all remains a glimmering mystery to me…

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Portrait of a Soldier – Posters

Posters for ‘Portrait of a Soldier’ documentary.

Concept inspired by ‘traditional’ white paint / brick texture  imagery  and the ‘Poland Fighting’ anchor symbol  – as painted by the Polish resistance movement during the occupation. The brick colour palette is also representative of the red and white armband worn by the Polish Home Army, during the Warsaw Uprising 1944.

Concept, Art Direction and Photography by Marianna Bukowski. Graphic Design by Jack Newman.

English and Polish Versions.

 

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For more information on ‘Portrait of a Soldier’ documentary  – please visit website here!

 

Like ‘Portrait of a Soldier’ on Facebook – click here!

 

Portrait of a Soldier – Polish Collage Posters

Taking inspiration from classic / retro Polish film poster design – these are two collage version posters for the forthcoming documentary ‘Portrait of a Soldier':

The first concept is based on the Coat of Arms of Warsaw – ‘Syrenka’ (‘Little Mermaid’).

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The second concept is based on Poland’s military and cultural heritage of “Winged Hussars” (16th-18th Century Polish cavalry in the Kingdom of Poland and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth).

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Concepts and Design by Marianna Bukowski.

For more information on ‘Portrait of a Soldier’ documentary please visit website here!

Like ‘Portrait of a Soldier’ on Facebook – here!

Wola Insurgents Cemetery – 70th Anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising 1944

Many beautiful events were held in Warsaw at the start of August, to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising 1944.

Amongst them, a very special ceremony was held at the Warsaw Insurgents Cemetery in Wola. At this cemetery, over 100 000 people lay buried; soldiers together with civilians, the majority in graves marked ‘unknown’.

The hero of forthcoming documentary ‘Portrait of a Soldier’, Polish Home Army veteran Wanda Traczyk – Stawska, has since 1947, as ordered by her commander, fought for the recognition, restoration and memory of the fallen at this cemetery.

As the long-awaited restoration work is now underway, on the 1st of August 2014, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski held a very moving speech in memory of the fallen and 70 years after the Rising,  acknowledged Ms. Wanda Traczyk – Stawska’s mission accomplished.

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The President of Poland, Bronislaw Komorowski and Home Army veteran Wanda Traczyk – Stawska at the Insurgents cemetery in Wola, Warsaw on the 70th Anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising on 1st of August 2014.

 

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For more information on ‘Portrait of a Soldier’ please visit website here!

Like ‘Portrait of a Soldier’ on Facebook here!