History of the Polish Institute

Beginnings

On 21 October 1934 an agreement on cultural cooperation between Poland and Hungary was signed in Warsaw on the occasion of a visit paid by the Hungarian Prime Minister. Four years after its signature, on 31 October 1938, a Polish Language lecturer at the Peter Pázmány Royal University in Budapest was appointed as the Director of the Polish Institute. The Institute commenced its activity in January 1939, the official opening in attendance of representatives of Polish and Hungarian state authorities taking place on 24 May 1939.

Until the start of the Second World War, the Institute’s main field of activity included promotion of the Polish science, culture and language. All what happened after the first of September, including in particular the influx of Polish refugees to Hungary, resulted in the Institute being allocated new tasks. The Institute assisted in preparing recent refugees for university exams. Scarcity or lack of publications was a driving force behind publishing major works of the Polish literature. Works of Mickiewicz, Slowacki, Zeromski, Wyspianski and other writers were published in the Institute’s book series entitled the Polish Library comprising over 80 volumes. The Institute became an unofficial editorial office. It edited Polish language books and a magazine Polish Yearbook; it also ran Higher School for refugees. One of the lecturers at this school was an outstanding Polish writer and essayist Stanisław Vincenz.

The Polish Institute in Budapest was at that time the only institution of this kind in Europe and, what is more, was located in the country that had an alliance with Germany. German authorities were opposed to the Institute’s activity. Owing to understanding from Hungarian authorities, the Polish Institute ran its activity ceaselessly from 19 March 1944 and was a safe meeting place for representatives of the Polish literature, culture and art.

In its current head office, at the crossing of Nagymező and Al. Andrássy streets, the Institute has run its activity since 1964. Initially, it was a Polish Reading Room and, subsequently, the Centre for Information and Polish Culture; in 1994, it was given its current name, i.e. the Polish institute in Budapest.

As one of the oldest Polish Institutes in the world and one of the oldest foreign cultural institutes in Hungary, the Polish Institute in Budapest is presently involved in organising around 120-130 various programs each year, including such fields as culture, education and science. Over thirty thousand people a year pass its doorway, many more participating in programs organised by the Institute all over Hungary, including programmes in Budapest Spring Festival, Budapest Autumn Festival, Sziget Fesztival, Mediawave.

The activity of the Polish Institute goes, more and more frequently, beyond presentations of the Polish Culture to Hungarians, encouraging full participation, i.e. creative assimilation into its content and form. It is this kind of thinking that underlies the actions aimed at establishing cooperation between Polish and Hungarian artists, resulting in e.g. a series of records: “1” Polish-Hungarian jazz band “PH Connection” (2002), “Karlowicz-Weiner-Bacewicz- Orbán” performed by Erdodi Chamber Orchestra, conducted by tukasz Borowicz (awarded with a Hungarian prize “Gramophone 2004” and nominated for “Fryderyki 2003”), “Halo, Halo Dzieci Europy” (2003) and “Poslóchejcie kamaradzi” (2004) by Joszko Broda Band together with a Hungarian band Muzsikás i ‘I’éka.

Grasping the opportunities offered by the fact that Nagymezo street was converted into a pedestrian boulevard, the Polish Institute in Budapest frequently opens until late at night or, so to speak, until early in the morning, as part of the cyclic programme blocks entitled “Late Opening Nights” becoming thus an integral part of the Budapest Broadway.