Stories From The Eastern West

Stories From The Eastern West

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Little-known histories from Central & Eastern Europe that changed our world…


PETRILA
Oct 18 • 21 min
How a Romanian mining town that lost its mine fought to turn its remains into a cultural hub. In our second and final episode on Ion Barbu and the town of Petrila, we learn how the mine, the main employer in the town, was unable to achieve profitability…
ION
Oct 11 • 19 min
How a Romanian miner made political caricatures at a time when making fun of the country’s leadership could mean a visit from the secret police. How did Ion balance being both a miner and a political caricaturist? What happened when the secret police…
IRYNA
Oct 4 • 19 min
How a single mother in Kyiv experienced the end of the USSR and survived the harsh economic realities of life in post-communist Ukraine in the early 1990s. How did Iryna end up selling toy cars on the streets of Kyiv? How did she and her friends react to…
EDGAR & MICHAEL
Sep 27 • 22 min
How East Berlin’s leading political cabaret tried to get their message through despite strict state censorship… and what happened when the system they were laughing at ceased to exist. For the citizens of the GDR, laughter was often the best medicine when…
TYMON
Sep 20 • 18 min
Meet the headstrong musician who’s been viciously rebelling against both of the systems he lived under… and created some truly worthwhile art along the way. In late 1980s Tymon played in various bands, and formed the avant-garde art group Totart, whose…
JACEK
Sep 13 • 24 min
How a banned singer-songwriter became an unwilling musical hero through his home-copied cassettes. Jacek Kleyff was an increasingly popular topical songwriter in 1970s Poland. But he was unwilling to bend to the demands of the communist state’s…
SIEGBERT
Sep 6 • 24 min
How an East German cameraman filmed the first major demonstrations in the GDR from the top of a church steeple in Leipzig. A month later, East Germany would effectively cease to exist. Part of our mini-series The Final Curtain. How did Siegbert and his…
WOJCIECH
Aug 29 • 23 min
Part of our mini-series The Final Curtain. Wojciech Stawiszyński tells us how In the darkest period of martial law, he and his clandestine organisation that stood behind the outlawed Radio Solidarność had to resort to incredibly complicated ways of…
CHRIS
Aug 23 • 19 min
Part of our mini-series The Final Curtain. How a photographer from London gave the rest of the world a glimpse of everyday life behind the Iron Curtain. Chris Niedenthal found himself in the heart of Communist Poland in the 1970s and 80s, documenting both…
ZBIGNIEW
Aug 23 • 25 min
Part of our mini-series The Final Curtain. How a well-known opposition leader evaded capture by the communist authorities for almost five years. In the early 1980s, the Polish communist leadership declared martial law in December 1981 in order to stop the…
Announcing: The Final Curtain
Aug 9 • 1 min
The year 1989 saw a big change. All of Central and Eastern Europe took a U-turn within less than three years and transformed from the gray land behind the Iron Curtain into several independent, quickly developing, free market democracies. The team behind…
CRACKED
Feb 28 • 26 min
Finland is responsible for many technological breakthroughs from the last couple decades. But back in the early 1990s, Finland’s tech scene was mostly just a lot of teenagers pirating software illegally. In this episode, Molly Schwartz, who lived there…
HUNT
Feb 14 • 21 min
During WWII, the Third Reich had a systematic policy of plundering artwork from countries they invaded. But while some of these works of art were destined for the walls of Nazi party officials or the Führermuseum, others were marked for destruction. In…
TRANSMUTATION
Jan 31 • 22 min
Alchemy – the supposed ancient art of turning everyday objects into gold – is widely believed to be obsolete. Interestingly, however, every bit of this notion is wrong. First of all, alchemy is still being practised today and is doing better than ever.…
NAKED
Jan 17 • 23 min
The German Democratic Republic was known for being one of the more politically repressive countries in the former Eastern bloc. But it is also known for its long tradition of nude bathing – known in Germany as Free Body Culture or FKK. In the mid-1950s,…
Rabbithole Two
Jan 14 • 6 min
In this bonus episode, you’ll get to hear a song that usually doesn’t leave the thick walls of the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards in Italy.
MESMERISED
Jan 3 • 27 min
The story of a man who mesmerised half a continent… In 1989, the Cold War was coming to an end. The Soviet Union and the whole Eastern Bloc were crumbling. There was confusion everywhere. One day, a state television channel started showing something…
CONTINUATION
Dec 20, 2018 • 25 min
After having to leave Poland, Grotowski continued his ground-breaking work in Potendera, Italy. There he began the final stage of his work at the newly-established Workcenter. This work, based on songs of tradition and objective movements, is done more or…
SEARCH
Dec 6, 2018 • 21 min
Starting out as a young director in the Polish provinces, Jerzy Grotowski soon realised that for theatre to reach its true potential the actor should attain complete mastery over their craft. His small group of actors committed to intensive daily training…
SHOETOPIA
Nov 22, 2018 • 25 min
The Czech shoe-maker Tomáš Bat’a was a visionary. A deep believer in capitalism, he dreamt up a unique functionalist city and started building it around his factories in the small town of Zlin. It became more succesful than he could have imagined. Bat’a…
SUPERSTAR
Nov 9, 2018 • 26 min
As a young man, Paderewski was determined to do something about his country’s plight. It had been completely wiped off the map almost a century earlier, and as the 19th century came to a close, an independent Poland seemed impossible. Using rifles and…
Rabbithole One
Oct 26, 2018 • 7 min
Did you know that sports stars from behind the Iron Curtain were essentially competing for no money? In this little bonus episodeWładysław Kozakiewicz, the protagonist of the Arm episode, tells how he won a thousand priceless awards but very little money…
ARM
Oct 26, 2018 • 18 min
Hear the pole-vaulter who offended the entire Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow explain himself. The Moscow Olympics was overshadowed by a boycott – many Western countries had pulled out in condemnation of the Soviet-Afghan War. And then there…
Announcing Season II
Oct 10, 2018 • 1 min
The new season of Stories From The Eastern West is nearly here! This year, we’ve really stepped up our game. You’ll notice we have a new theme tune, and that’s just the beginning…
CLIMB
Jan 31, 2018 • 34 min
In the early 1960s, a woman decided to end men’s domination in mountain climbing. Her name was Wanda Rutkiewicz and she went on to become the first European women to climb Mount Everest, the first woman ever to climb K2, and the only female climber of her…
[BONUS] UNCLE
Dec 23, 2017 • 5 min
All of us at SFTEW want to thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts for staying with us, listening, and for all your emails, comments and reviews. This is why we prepared this little Christmas bonus for you. We hope to see you in 2018, especially…
EXPERIMENTAL
Dec 6, 2017 • 28 min
In this episode, you will find out what exactly went on inside the strange electronic depths of the Polish Radio Experimental Studio, and how through the efforts of its first director the studio became a ‘window to the world’, hosting the best composers…
REBEL
Nov 22, 2017 • 25 min
In this episode, we delve into the story of Professor Zbigniew Religa, a man who wasn’t afraid to defy old prejudices, the medical system and society, the communist party and hundreds of roadblocks to help others. How did he manage to do that? What does…
SPY
Nov 8, 2017 • 26 min
This episode focuses on an Eastern European operative named Ryszard Kukliński, an officer in the Polish Army and a spy for American intelligence. We’ll discuss how Kukliński joined the army and his swift rise through the ranks. We’ll try to understand why…
BABY
Oct 25, 2017 • 28 min
In this episode, we present the story of an innovative film that completely changed Hollywood and our understanding of how films should be made. You’ll learn about the origins of the film and how a little-known director revolutionized Hollywood. We’ll…
NUCLEAR
Oct 18, 2017 • 28 min
In this episode, we tell you the remarkable story of Józef Rotblat, a nuclear physicist and peace activist. We’ll discuss the suffering he endured in his early life and how this shaped his worldview. We’ll talk about his time at the Manhattan Project and…
PALACE II
Oct 11, 2017 • 27 min
In the second part of our mini-series, we dive deeper into the palace’s corridors and explore the massive impact it has had on Warsaw. For example, after initial deliberation, what was the palace actually used for? What did people think of this palace…
PALACE
Oct 4, 2017 • 22 min
In the first episode of our two-part series on Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science, we discuss post-war reconstruction efforts in Warsaw and the strange origins of the Palace of Culture. What were the immediate challenges of rebuilding a city that was…
ZOO
Sep 27, 2017 • 25 min
In this episode, we discuss the remarkable story of Jan and Antonina Żabiński and the Warsaw Zoo. How was this formerly prosperous zoo transformed into a shelter for Jewish refugees escaping the brutality of the Nazis? How was Jan Żabiński able to travel…
ESPERO
Sep 20, 2017 • 27 min
Learn how Ludwig Zamenhof single-handedly created an entire language, Esperanto, in the 19th century. Esperanto is the most widely-spoken artificial language in the world today. It has allowed people from vastly different backgrounds with vastly different…
BOWIE
Sep 13, 2017 • 22 min
In 1973, while traveling by train across the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, David Bowie had a brief and seemingly insignificant stopover in Warsaw. However, what he witnessed there served as an inspiration for Warszawa from the widely-acclaimed 1977…
BULLETPROOF
Sep 7, 2017 • 23 min
Learn how a Polish monk created the first bulletproof vest and, in doing so, changed the world. In this episode, we discuss the man behind the first bulletproof vest and the story of its creation. How was he inspired to create it and how did he manage to…
BEAR
Aug 31, 2017 • 23 min
Hear all about a brave bear named Wojtek who came to join the army in a time of war. In this episode, our hosts discuss the unbelievable story of Wojtek the bear and his legendary role in the 22nd Company of Anders’ Army. How did the army find this bear…
STONES
Aug 31, 2017 • 24 min
Find out what happened when the Rolling Stones went behind the Iron Curtain. In this episode, our hosts discuss the story of the Rolling Stone’s legendary performance in Warsaw in 1967. Why did the Rolling Stones become interested in performing in Eastern…
COMPETITION
Aug 31, 2017 • 26 min
Learn how the result of a piano competition had the power to shock an entire nation. We bring you the story of the 1980 Chopin Competition and why it was one of the most contentious competitions in recent memory as well as attempt to answer some of the…