New app explores hidden secrets of Poland’s underground printing presses
A new app highlighting the important role of Poland’s clandestine Communist era printing houses has officially previewed ahead of its looming public launch.
Titled Szybowcowa ’87, the app which is part of the IPN’s push to make history more understandable and accessible to younger generations allows users to step back in time and explore a printing house hidden inside an apartment on Wrocław’s Szybowcowa street.
Developed by the IPN’s Office of New Technologies, the app gives people the chance to not only explore the apartment, watch a Communist newsflash, and hear an underground broadcast, but also read banned materials, view printing equipment and listen in on encrypted conversations between security officials.
Currently designed for VR goggles, the app will eventually be made available for free via the Steam platform.
Previewing the app at Wrocław’s ‘Przystanek Historia’, which houses an educational centre run by the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), the ceremony saw Kornel Morawiecki, the founder of Solidarność Walcząca, a splinter group of the Solidarity movement, named as the patron of the building.
Closely linked to the far-reaching success of Poland’s underground press, Morawiecki and Jan Waszkiewicz edited the illegal Biuletyn Dolnośląski (Lower Silesian Bulletin).
Speaking at yesterday’s event, IPN’s president, Dr. Karol Nawrocki said: “Kornel Morawiecki fought this communist evil throughout his professional and adult life.
“He fought against the kingdom of lies and hatred, against the kingdom of death, against the communist system, which unfortunately found its home after 1945 also in Poland.”
Continuing, Nawrocki added: “He knew that one cannot compromise with evil, because it would lead his homeland to chaos, to danger, and to the global spread of Communism.”
Banned by the authorities, Morawiecki’s periodical was printed in secret, something that was enabled by the Olympian Marek Petrusewicz.
A resident of Wrocław, the Vilnius-born Petrusewicz had distinguished himself in earlier life by setting two world records in the early 1950s in the 100-metres breaststroke. In 1954, he also claimed the silver medal in the 200-metre breaststroke at the 1954 European Championships.
Later losing both of his legs as a result of disease, he committed himself to politics and allowed Morawiecki to use his flat on Wrocław’s Szybowcowa street as a covert printing house even though it meant that he himself had to move into a tiny bedsit.
Located in the Gądów district, the address soon became a crucial location on the city’s underground map, and it was here that second circulation prints were made of Morawiecki’s newspapers.
Sharing space with a guinea pig, the printers that worked here used rudimentary equipment and were guided in their work by Barbara Sarapuk, a.k.a. ‘the Queen of Underground Print’.
Fully devoted to the operational activities of Wrocław’s secretive press, she founded and coordinated the ‘SW’ network of printing houses.
Under her charge, periodicals like Replika, Wiadomości Bieżniczych and Morawiecki’s Biuletyn Dolnośląski, were printed.
Arrested in 1982, and handed a suspended prison sentence the following year, she ignored the threat of punishment and conducted over 100 sessions to help train budding printers.
Moreover, in the early 80s she helped popularise screen printing techniques that led to higher output and efficiency where Poland’s subversive press were concerned.
As the Iron Curtain creaked towards its inevitable collapse, she was again arrested in 1988 and had her photographic equipment, listening devices and Skoda car (for transporting newspapers) confiscated.
Morawiecki, too, found his luck running out, and he was arrested in 1987 (hence the name of the app, Szybowcowa ’87) and transported to Warsaw’s Rakowiecka Prison by helicopter.
He refused to buckle under questioning, and thanks to this the SW network continued its work.