2012-03-06
2012-03-20

emigration

Jerzy Grotowski left Poland for Denmark on 12 August 1982 following the final session of The Theatre of Sources. However, he had not yet decided on permanent emigration. According to a statement by his brother, Kazimierz Grotowski, it was only in autumn 1982, while in Italy, that Grotowski made up his mind after an emissary of the Polish communist state tried to blackmail him into supporting the Congress of Polish Culture that had been established by the authorities. Grotowski left Italy for the United States from where he sent André Gregory with a message to the members of the Laboratory Theatre who at the time were working in Nancy. The letter from Grotowski informed them of his intention to remain in the US and that he had broken off relations with ‘the regime in Poland’. The decision to stay abroad was connected to his application for political asylum in the United States, which he required in order to be able to realise at American universities the projects he had in mind. This tactical decision was, in light of the Martial Law imposed in Poland, unfortunate or even grotesque. Grotowski was not persecuted in communist Poland, quite the opposite in fact: the communist authorities for many years funded his activities, while he himself for many years was a member of the ruling Polish United Workers Party (PZPR) and never made any public declaration against communism. The American authorities were not inclined to consider Grotowski a persecuted person either, and thus rejected his first application for asylum before accepting his second, which was supported by Grotowski’s American allies. Having been granted asylum, Grotowski became a political émigré, publishing in the anti-communist press (The Theatre of Sources was published in the Paris-based journal Zeszyty Literackie) while ensuring that he did not maintain any contact with Poland. The situation changed after the collapse of communism in 1989, as shown by the publication of the book Teksty z lat 1965–1969 (Texts: 1965–1969) and trips to his homeland. But despite the changes in the political situation, Grotowski never returned to Poland permanently and worked in Pontedera, Italy, until the end of his life. Without doubt, the reasons behind the decision to leave Poland and work abroad must have been complex. An important role was certainly played by the inability to carry out cultural-theatrical experiments during Martial Law. The decision was also influenced, it would seem, by other factors, including the need for a change of surroundings, for new inspirations and for expressing during the period the aim of working towards an ‘hermitage’, so working outside large centres. The worsening state of Grotowski’s health was also a factor, since in the United States he could expect to enjoy the most modern medicines and experimental therapies. Nonetheless, emigration and abandoning his existing surroundings together with the need to begin almost from scratch were for Grotowski very dramatic and intense experiences which also led to the ultimate termination of the activities of the Laboratory Theatre and the consequences connected to this fact.

Bibliography: 

Leszek Kolankiewicz: Grotowski w poszukiwaniu esencji, [w:] tegoż: Wielki mały wóz, Gdańsk 2002, s. 278–279.

Grzegorz Ziółkowski: Guślarz i eremita. Jerzy Grotowski: od wykładów rzymskich (1982) do wykładów paryskich (1997-1998), Wrocław 2007, s. 149–150.