Freedom to read: Jackson filmmaker smuggled books behind Iron Curtain
- Just a teenager at the time, Sava Malachowski knowingly risked going to prison by committing the simple acts of reading and lending books. “These books were extremely precious,” Malachowski recalls. “They were so difficult to get. They were all illegal.”
- Malachowski would receive the books published by Kultura, a Polish émigré publishing house outside of Paris, France. Some of the books were even smuggled underneath the coiled ropes and climbing gear of Polish mountaineering and caving expeditions. Malachowski would contact people, who he knew were interested and trustworthy, and would give them a book and two days to read it. Then he would move the book to the next person.
- “Basically, all these books played a very significant role in educating people behind the Iron Curtain,” Malachowski says. “That was the experience of a lifetime to be able to read those books. It was so enlightening.”
- Malachowski himself would devour the books, reading them briskly while secretly moving them around Warsaw, where his father was a member of the political opposition and later one of the leaders of the Solidarity Labor Union. When martial law was imposed in Poland, his father was imprisoned.
- The Soviet Union erected the Iron Curtain – a physical and ideological divide – to insulate its dependent and central European allies, including Poland, from unfettered contact with the West and non-communist areas. Malachowski and others, including some of his friends who were sentenced to three years in prison for running books, breached that barrier to intellectual knowledge and the free-flow of ideas.
- It wasn’t just about smuggling ideas into the Eastern Bloc countries, but also getting information out. One of the most influential titles that began to undermine the power of the Soviet Union, Malachowski says was Aleksander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, one of the titles he read and loaned to others under threat of imprisonment in the 1970s. The book was a detailed description of the Soviet system of concentration and labor camps in which millions of people perished between 1920 and 1957.
- “The book was a seminal work that destroyed the image of the Soviet Union as the workers’ paradise for many Western intellectuals,” he says. “The Gulag Archipelago cracked the foundation of the Soviet Union because it described in detail the inner workings of the Soviet labor camps, which were essentially death camps.”
- An independent pipeline channeled the banned books, including The Gulag Archipelago and other influential works, such as: Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell; Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak; The Captive Mind by Czeslaw Milosz; New Class by Milovan Đilas; Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler; and A World Apart by Gustaw Herling. The founder of Kultura, the Polish émigré magazine, Jerzy Giedroyc also founded the Literary Institute, which translated, published and distributed the banned books. Like the books, the monthly magazine, Kultura, was a major influence and banned in Poland. Kultura played a major role in Poland’s reconciliation with Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania, as the first independent Polish intellectual circle to openly advocate, in the 1950s, recognizing Poland’s postwar eastern borders.
- Kultura also published books, including tiny volumes designed for smuggling printed in miniature (requiring a magnifying glass to read) on bible-thin paper. In September of 1981, Malachowski became the managing editor of the Solidarity Press Office in New York City. After martial law was imposed in Poland on Dec. 13, 1981, he became founder and president of Solidarity International, an organization that supported the Solidarity Labor Union, which had 10 million members in Poland and was suppressed by the Polish Communist Party. He was also a media spokesman, appearing on Nightline, the Today Show and Good Morning America. Later, he owned and operated a bookstore in Manhattan, which sold books published by Kultura, to support Kultura so they could publish more books and smuggle them into Poland. In the 1980s, he also did freelance broadcasting for Voice of America and Radio Free Europe.
- Today, Malachowski, who moved to Jackson Hole in 1987, is a filmmaker, ski instructor and one of the founding members of the Teton County Search and Rescue. Founded in 1988, his production company, SavaFilm, owned and operated with Valerie Schramm, has produced films on everything from Wyoming old timers to how to drive safely in snow country. (http://www.savafilm.com) He also produced A Sense of Snow, a video about avalanche awareness, which is available for check out from Teton County Library’s DVD collection; No Fear of Flying: An Image of Virginia Huidekoper; and Wild at HeArt, a history of the National Museum of Wildlife Art.
- After growing up behind the iron curtain, where some ideas were illegal, he freely borrows any books he likes from the Teton County Library and also buys books from the Library Friends, who now have a permanent book sale, the Book Nook, inside the library lobby.
- “I’m almost running out of space from all the books I’m buying from the library,” he says. And while he loves the Tetons, which remind him of his native Tatra Mountains, he also loves having access to a mountain of books. “I think one of the biggest advantages of living in Teton County is this library.”
A Special Trip to the Library
My teddy bear “Be” went everywhere with me.Example,well…examples:preschool,the library,shopping,the dentist,the park and any where else I went.Even the bathroom.Be also liked to do the things I liked including reading books,brushing his “teeth”,and even trying on clothes.I loved Be.
One day,not to long ago.Be was in the washing machine,my babysitter was reading a book,and I was doing a puzzle,but because was only 3 or 4 the puzzle looked like an experiment gone wrong.
Christi (my babysitter)looked at me and said ,“Hey,how about a check on Be?“
I took no time to answer and jumped up and ran right to the home of the washing and drying machine.(AKA, the bathroom).
when I got into the bathroom I opened up the drying machine but to my horror be was not there..
“BE GONE,BE GONE” I started shouting.Christi just came in and laughed.
“Be is in the washing machine not the drying machine you silly nut.“
I scuttled over to the other machine and with great struggle opened up the heavy lid.But it was worth it, because there looking up at me with his patched up nose and black button eyes was Be.
I grabbed him and shot back to the living room,where I started dancing and doing acrobatics with him.Then I plunked myself down on the floor and and hugged him until my arms hurt.
Finally I noticed that be was super duper wet and that he had not taken a tumble in the dryer,but I did not care.
“Hey would you like to take a trip to the library ?“Christi asked as she was putting some books in a bag and setting them by the door.
“Sure!“ I replied excitedly,still clinging on to Be.
I gathered the things I wanted to bring and headed out to the car.when Christi saw what I was bringing(which was wet Be) she almost said something but just told me to get in the car.
When we arrived at the library, I jumped out of the car and tried to race to the door way with Be.But Christi stopped me,took Be out of my arms and plopped him back down in the car.I glared a at Christi,grabbed the wet bear and skipped all the way to the library doors.
Be and I spent more than an hour coloring,reading books,and playing with the puppets.We were having a great time.I bet Be liked the library trip more than I did.
Another half hour passed and a librarian came over and started putting books away.She looked over at Be and I with a surprised look on her face and I pointed at Be and simply said…“Be”. Then I went back to coloring.
Other kids at the library started eyeing Be and I suspiciously,but we went right about our business,reading and coloring.
It was time to go,so Be and I packed up and waved good bye to the puppets and the librarians and went home.
But that was not the last library trip Be and I had.To this day we still visit weekly and find new books to read and share with each other.Be still lives with me and has become a great reader.We both enjoy the library,and think the library can be even more fun when you have a best friend with you.
This is a TRUE story.
- Posted by MaryGrace on 06/22
From the log cabin on King Street, with its stuffed trumpeter swan, to the modern facility on Virginian Lane, the Teton County Library has nurtured and assisted my writing through the decades.
Teton County Librarians support, sustain, inform, assist and facilitate my creative output through my plays, screenplays, novels, poems and polemics.
The facilities have evolved, but the core conviction of support for reading and writing makes the Teton County Library the home I return to for most of my creative inspiration.
- Posted by Andrew on 06/18
I read a lot. Two to three books a week. Year-round. Before joining TC LIBRARY, I bought a lot of them. The library allows me to read this many without the expense, but also with the chance to make mistakes. Because there are so many books at this library, I find myself trying genres that I never before considered. Instead of being just an SF reader, I tried romance, historical fiction, current fiction, economics, politics, and more. What I didn’t like could be returned quickly. And now I am enjoying a far wider range of reading.
- Posted by victoria on 06/16
The TC librarians and staff have made the library a community hub by bringing worthwhile resources and programs to me and my child and always assisting us with a smile. My daughter loved storytime with Debbie and Gail, has been motivated by the summer reading program, and has been delighted by special guest visitors such as Markie the Puppeteer, the origami master, and Paul the magician. I benefited from last summer’s early literacy child development class for parents and appreciate the many resources for personal development available in the library, such as exercise dvds. We never hesitate to approach a librarian for reading ideas or program information because they always seem intensely interested in helping us and getting to know us.
- Posted by Sally on 06/15
The Teton County Library impacted my life greatly by giving me a safe, fun and resourceful environment to go after school. I would come to the library to do my homework, find books for school, and get novels for my own entertainment. When I desperately needed a book for a school project, sometimes it wasn’t at the Middle School Library. So I came to the TC Library and got the same book there. It has been a reliable, unique and entertaining place to explore. I participated in the Teen Summer Reading Program last year and it was very exciting for me to be motivated to read so that I could win the awesome prizes at the end. Not only did it make people read FOR the prizes, but it helped people realize that reading can be fun and showed them that they should do it more often to experience different worlds. My mom works there, and coming there after school in sixth grade was very warm and welcoming because I knew I would be able to see my mom after my tough day in middle school. Being the underdog in a new, big school isn’t always easy, and seeing my mom everyday made the rest of my week seem easy. The Library constantly helped me gather information and research topics for school, be entertained, and to always be motivated to read by providing what I believe to be the wonders of the world: books, for me to use. I am extremely grateful that we have such a wonderful and resourceful library here in Jackson, and with such kind, funny and helpful librarians to talk to. The Library has made and will hopefully continue making me appreciate the gift of education, and the privilege, power and knowledge that comes from reading itself.
- Posted by Mila on 06/13
From the time I could ride my bike, I was riding to the library to pick up the 4 books I was allowed to take out. Summer vacation involved a daily trip to the library. Winter time involved weekly walks to the library. Through friendships made and friendships broken, marriages and divorces, births and deaths, the library has always held the key to another world…a comfortable, adventurous, challenging, exotic world. They moved from King Street to their new location and I was initially dubious….but found the same comfort, adventure and exotic locales tucked away on the shelves. The library has been my refuge and my ticket to other worlds.
I love my library.
- Posted by Cindy on 06/12
I moved to Jackson Hole a few days after graduating from high school to work as a housekeeper. I didn’t have a computer or cell phone, so access to the internet through the library was a crucial link to home—especially when I was feeling homesick. I would bike there after work, anxious to check my email and stay connected with friends and family.
Eight years later, and with internet access at home, I still find myself drawn to the library whenever I have spare time. There are so few places in our world where you can find silence. The library is a peaceful haven of knowledge. My two-year-old daughter loves story time (especially getting a hand stamp) and exploring the early literacy room. I relish combing the shelves of the Book Nook and checking out books, CDs, and movies. I try not to miss a Page to the Podium event, and deeply appreciate the opportunity to hear authors speak in our community.
I echo Jorge Luis Borges who said: “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.“
- Posted by Gina on 05/30
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