4 October 2010 NIKE 2010 for Tadeusz Słobodzianek

It is our great pleasure to announce that a guest of the upcoming Conrad Festival – Tadeusz Słobodzianek – received the NIKE 2010 for Nasza Klasa. Historia w XIV Lekcjach (Our Class. A History in Fourteen Lectures). This is the first stage drama to be distinguished in the fourteen-year history of thee prestigious literary awards; only one theatrical play has been in the final until now – Kartoteka rozrzucona (The Card Index) by Tadeusz Różewicz.

The head of the jury – Professor Grażyna Borkowska – emphasized in her laudation, “We are conferring the award on Tadeusz Słobodzianek not for the courage to take on a difficult topic, in which the crimes can be attributed not only on those who committed them, but also on those who were witnesses, on those who knew and kept silent, and on those who did not want to know, to see, or to remember. We are awarding it to him for the way in which he speaks about it, for the form of the drama, which in a startlingly direct, and at the same time incredibly well conceived manner, outlines the stories of the persecutors and the victims, the murderers and the murdered.”

Słobodzianek himself describes his drama: The heroes of Nasza Klasa are schoolchildren in a small town similar to Jedwabne or Radziłów. I show my characters from the first day of school in the late 1920s up until the beginning of the twenty-first century, precisely to 10 July 2001. The direct inspiration came from some old school photos, in which were the little Jurek Laudański, a convicted murderer of Jedwabne, Jadzia Śleszyńska, the daughter of the owner of the barn where the Jews were burned alive, and Szmul Wasersztajn, one of only a few who were saved, and who after the war settled in Costa Rica, and whose brother and mother died in the barn. They all attended the same class at school. I remember what an enormous impression those pictures made on me. I looked at them for hours, and wondered what these children did on the 10th of July [1941, the date of the Jedwabne massacre], and afterward? Which of them died in the barn? And which drove the others into the barn with sticks.”

The play was seen by a London audience in October 2009, in the National Theatre, and now in less than two weeks will have its Polish premiere on the stage of Warsaw’s Wola Theatre. The play is directed by the Slovakian creator Ondrej Spišák. It will be the theatrical event of this year’s Conrad Festival.