Report on ‘The Secrets of Historic Sites’ in Łapsze Wyżne

Our meeting with fourth-, fifth- and sixth-formers started with a talk on the history of Spis, during which we tried to tell them of the whole region. The Polish part of Spis formerly belonged to a larger administrative area which used to be the Spis province in the Kingdom of Hungary. In 1920 the state of Czechoslovakia came into being, and in 1993 it was succeeded by the Republic of Slovakia. The distinct border, which rendered free traffic through the region difficult, is only 90 years old but it has already become deeply embedded in the minds of local inhabitants on both the Polish and Slovak sides.

The existence of the border often does not allow us to look at history without bias, and makes us seek what is purely Polish, or purely Slovak, or purely Hungarian. And yet the borderland was also home to Germans, Ruthenians, Romani people, Jews; at times Italians or southern Slavs ventured here, too. It was the combination of different elements, like puzzle pieces, which made Spis an area rich in human stories and historic relics of art and culture. We broke off our tale to give the students the task whose aim was to make them realise how easy it is to mistake somebody judging by first impressions or by look alone. To get to know another person, we have to ‘break through layers’ so as to find something valuable. Having finished the tale about the different nations, we started the practical part when each participant received a ‘piece of land’ in the form of a big puzzle piece. Based on these, students invented fantastic lands about which each student was to tell their story. Then the lands got united by means of a legend developed jointly by the children, titled ‘The Tale About Janek’s Travels’ (Janek could also be named Jonek, Jani, Jancsi, Jaś, Johann, János, Janiu, Jánoš or in some other way). Owing to the fact that the lands were united, their unusual inhabitants gained new friends and understood that it is not a good idea to live an isolated, lonely life. The workshop concluded with the making of blue boats, which were decorated with Spis ornaments. The stream by the school became the post by which we sent our greetings from Spis (in the form of the boats) to the rest of the world. The participants showed extraordinary imagination and commitment to the tasks. The workshop was held in pleasant atmosphere, which we hope will leave nice memories in the children’s minds, and its message will not turn out to be an empty slogan.

The workshop was organised in collaboration with the Faculty of Art of the Pedagogical University in Krakow. The team who conducted the class included Magdalena Nowak, Katarzyna Piotrowska, Anna Majewska and Anna Zajda, while substantive supervision was provided by Dr Monika Nęcka.