Czekajac na Turka
by Andrzej Stasiuk
I guarded it for thirty years. Thirty-five years. For thirty-five years, I got up before dawn and came here. Or I got up in the middle of the night and came here. Whenever they said I was supposed to be on duty. To begin with, I raised the red and white boom by hand, then I did it mechanically and, in the end, electrically. Only rarely to start with, then more often and in the end... for any Tom,. Dick or Harry. Even the gypos crossed the border here! They showed their lousy passports...
(Edek in "Waiting fort he Turk“)
Polish author Andrzej Stasiuk has set his latest play "Waiting for the Turk” on the Polish-Slovakian border near the Dujawa pass on the main ridge of the Lower Beskids. Until December 2007, this was the location of the Konieczna-Becherov road border crossing. Today, though, the neighbouring countries are both part of the Schengen Area and the border crossing point has vanished. In Stasiuk's play, the border has been replaced by former smugglers and border guards facing an uncertain future in the no-man's land between here and there, yesterday and today. What will happen now the border has been dismantled, and the coordinates of a previously predicable world have become confused and muddled? Will the new really be better? And, most importantly, will it be welcomed with the same enthusiasm? The old days of the "local border traffic" is recalled nostalgically, ironically and, at times, quite crudely – a time when border smugglers competed with the border guards, Marika, the border whore, ran her liquor store, and Edek was still king of the red-white boom barrier. For 35 years, he guarded this section of the border. Suddenly, though, the young man Patryk appears claiming the border site has been sold to the Turks; a security company has entrusted him with the job of taking care of the site for the new investors. Has the border, "a country's holiest ground“, actually been sold? And is there really going to be a main road over the pass "connecting the two worlds of the catchment areas at the Baltic and the Black Sea“? If that's built, then "… from north to south and back again from south to north, everything will be passing through here, water melons, Volvos, kebabs, fish, yeast, Playstations, rahat lokum, servers, decoders, cumin, carsafs, kettles, hybrid engines, zeibekiko, lamps, aladdins, technologies, futurologies, orient, occident, the Hagia Sofia, the Brandenburg Gate, tomatoes, dishwashers, gritters, moustache wax and other creams (...)“.
The play seems to be crying out, in a sardonically ironic way, welcome to the Disneyland of unlimited capitalism. In fact, "Waiting for the Turk“ is both a bitter-sweet satire and a melancholy farewell to an era. Stasiuk takes a critical look at both past and present – and neither the "good old times“ nor the "promising future“ come off too well. Instead, they constantly reveal their absurdities. The Romany, representative of a "venerable travelling people", seems the only one stoically untouched by time's dislocations. "They were travelling around long before there were any borders, they travelled when there were borders and now they are still travelling around“. A people not fixed to the ground beneath their feet, whose Heimat is the unknown, and for whom every border seems totally senseless and meaningless.
In "Waiting for the Turk, in contrast, the border is the "holy land“, a place that until then had only been home to nature, and the stories and histories of its inhabitants. Now, though, outsiders are taking over this "holy ground“, planning to build on it and misappropriate its memories. The no-man's-land on the border at Europe's periphery is to be transformed into a theme park. According to the Turkish investors, this place is ideal for the "Border Thieves" project, run under the motto "Border crossing in old Eastern Europe“. "And that will be an attraction for the entire world.“
Warten auf den Türken
World premiere on 19 June 2009 in the Stary Teatr, Krakau, Poland
Author: Andrzej Stasiuk
Director: Mikołaj Grabowski
Stage/ Costumes: Magdalena Musiał
Music: Mikołaj Trzaska
Cast: Iwona Bielska
Zbigniew W. Kaleta
Paulina Puślednik (PWST)