Czyzewski serves as next LDLS speaker

1 year ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The University of Maine at Presque Isle will present Krzysztof Czyzewski, founder of the Polish-based Borderland Foundation of Arts, Cultures, and Nations, as the next speaker in its 2022-2023 Libra Distinguished Lecture Series on Wednesday, March 29 at 5 p.m. via Zoom.

During his talk, “The Borderland As a Xenopolis: From Idea To Practice”, Czyzewski will discuss the importance of cultural interconnections, common ground, and civic engagement. The event is free and the public is encouraged to attend. For a link to this lecture via Zoom, register online.

Czyzewski’s talk will focus on the process of transition from “borderline” (the reality of sharply defined external borders separating worlds that are alien to each other) to “borderland” (common ground for different people, where borders run internally and coexistence is based on the art of crossing them, or building bridges). It will also examine the transition from “polis” (a community of one’s own) to “xenopolis” (a community hospitable to the Other). The philosophical thought behind this will be confronted with educational and artistic practices in local communities, implemented by the Borderland Foundation team in Central Europe and other multicultural regions of the world.

Czyzewski defies easy categorization: he has been a poet, social activist, publisher, essayist, teacher, and theatrical performer, though he bundles these occupations together in ways that are distinctively his own.

He was a founding member of the Gardzienice Theatrical Company, which became famous as one of the most innovative centers for experimental theater in the world. The troupe bases its performances on extensive historical, anthropological, and ethnographical research, situating its work in specific cultural contexts and drawing upon music, mythology, and iconography to create truly unique presentations. 

Czyzewski continues to pursue this aesthetic and theoretical agenda with the Borderland Foundation, which he founded in 1990 in the small town of Sejny, near the Polish border with Lithuania. Like Czyzewski, the foundation defies labels: it is a cultural institute that organizes educational activities, stages theatrical productions, sponsors museum exhibits, and sustains a library and an archive. It has an associated publishing house focused on multicultural diversity and publishes a periodical called Krasnogruda, dedicated to preserving and recreating the atmosphere of cultural dialogue and the embrace of diversity that once characterized the ethnically, linguistically, and religiously mixed regions of Eastern Europe. In 2000, the Borderland Foundation published “Neighbors”, Prof. Jan Tomasz Gross’ groundbreaking book that marked a breakthrough in the contemporary studies on the Holocaust and collective memory in Poland.

The Borderland Foundation focuses on a wide variety of activities aimed at promoting Czyzewski’s distinctive understanding of what a borderland should be: not a line dividing cultures and people, but a broad space where diversity can flourish and mutual understanding can be promoted. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Czyzewski and the Borderland Foundation have been actively involved in providing aid to Ukrainians affected by war. 

Czyzewski is the author of several books, essays, and poems that have been published in many languages. Among them is his latest book “Toward Xenopolis; Visions from the Borderland” (its English translation) was published in April 2022. He has served as a lecturer at the University of Warsaw, Vilnius University, University of Michigan, Boston University, University of California, Berkeley, The New School, and  Harvard University. Since 2015, he has been a visiting professor at Rutgers University and the University of Bologna. He is the recipient of many international prestigious awards and prizes.

The University’s Libra Distinguished Lecture Series was established in 1999. Each year, the LDLS Committee sponsors four to six speakers who come from Maine and beyond, representing a range of disciplines and viewpoints. While the emphasis tends to be on featuring visiting academics, it is not exclusively so. The speakers typically spend two days at the University meeting with classes and presenting a community lecture.

UMPI welcomes the campus and community to hear Czyzewski speak on March 29. For more information about Czyzewski, visit the Borderland Foundation website. For more information about this event, contact Denise Trombley at 207-768-9520 or