It is hard to find a more classic ideological dispute between the left wing and the right. When the Czartoryski family, established by one of the largest aristocratic families in Poland, transferred 100 million euro from selling to the state its collection of unique works of art to a bank account in Liechtenstein, the left went crazy.
Well, what in the world have you done, oh our aristocracy! We were proud and loved the families Radziwiłł, Sobański, Czartoryski and Lubomirski just as much as America loves their Mickey Mouse. Poor as a church mouse and ridiculous in his aspirations. Our landowners without land, princes without castles, princesses without alcoves, you made our complexes and dreams of national splendour go away, being hopelessly grotesque yourselves. We loved you as such, not with hundreds of millions in accounts scattered around the world. Again now, you are rich, which shatters our unique sense of justice, Polish People’s Republic belief that noble families can be robbed of anything, and yet we could later attribute their nobility to ourselves and talk about “our” tradition.
I read the concerned left-wing editors of Gazeta Wyborcza, who write “you took our” money abroad. Those who are so outraged at the accusation that Gazeta thejournal was the good of all “Solidarność”, of the society as a whole, while now the majority share rests in a private fund in London. I listen to the populist tribunes from the right and from the left, that for this property feudal peasants shed their own blood, that it was betrayal and surely a conspiracy of aristocrats affiliated with the government. You sold it and yet it could’ve been so beautiful once again to cheat those aristocrats. After all, these treasures, sculptures, paintings must not leave the country anyway. They cannot afford to keep the collection? All the better, they would hunger for us to take over these treasures. This is not news for People’s Poland. After the war, we got to know all the trick, both legal and unlawful, how to empty the vaults of the rich. You would have left your coats of arms – Horns, Junosza, Pohonia – worth only as much as the canvas on which they were painted, because the rest does not mean anything.
“Lady with an ermine” is a terribly old portrait, by a foreign painter, for which in the world today one pays even half a billion dollars, and that’s it! In the tradition of the 18th century Poland, when the prince Adam Czartoryski bought the painting for his mother Izabela, one could speak that the painting symbolised the strength of ties of Poland with the West. In that world, European values were expressed in art, science, and the exchange of ideas, the embodiment of which were several great families, patrons of culture, spreading knowledge and building metaphorical bridges to Poland to which the editors of Gazeta Wyborcza aspire today. However, when it comes to money, they choose the tradition of Kleptomaniac Poland. People’s Republic mentality with pretensions to Western civilisation, but without respect for their values, obligations and respect for property rights.
Why does the state buy back works instead of plundering them slyly? Well, they do that just to emphasise what kind of tradition they hold dear and worship To remind us that historical masterpieces without respect for those values and patrons are only old pictures, not national heritage. Because we do not inherit anything from that world if we steal it.
Author: Tomasz Wróblewski