The Jarmark Europa open-air market was originally founded by members of the Vietnamese intelligentsia, university graduates and doctoral students who in the early 1990s seized an opportunity to make a fast buck from street trading. It was the best students from North Vietnam who were offered scholarships to the Soviet bloc. The next wave of Vietnamese immigrants came to Poland for economic reasons at the beginning of this century. What will happen to the Warsaw Vietnamese after Jarmark Europa has been closed down? Many of them, discouraged by Poland’s harsh immigration laws, are returning home. What does the assimilation of Poland’s largest ethnic minority really look like?
Asians are believed not to assimilate well. On the other hand, they are well-organised; they have their political organisations, civil associations, newspapers, schools, and a copy of Hanoi’s One-Pillar Pagoda, a Buddhist temple, built near the 10th-Anniversary Stadium. The better-educated Vietnamese have been assimilating more rapidly; as graduates and students of Polish universities, they are the socio-cultural, and often also economic, elite of their communities. The Polish Vietnamese, whose number has grown from about fifty in the 1960s to some 30,000 today, belong to a three-million-strong diaspora known as Ng˝ời Việt Hải Ngoại (Overseas Vietnamese), or occasionally as Ng˝ời Việt Tự Do (Free Vietnamese).
The Stadion era and wild trading are drawing to an end. Vietnamese vendors are moving to shopping centers in suburban areas like Ursus and Wólka Kossowska. Many of them are heading back to Hanoi. As one wanders through the Vietnamese capital, one can spot numerous restaurants, bookstores, or car showrooms run by ex-vendors from the stadium in Warsaw. How has their experience of Poland, of history, been? The political, civic, or private decisions of returning Vietnamese emigrants reflect the attitudes and personal dilemmas of the last twenty years in Poland. Van, a screenwriter, cannot work in his original profession; he believes the Vietnamese choose Poland because of its Solidarity past and its role in bringing about the end of Communism. He is very sorry to see them arrive in Warsaw and so quickly become disillusioned with the unwelcoming attitude of the Polish authorities. Tuong divides his time between Wólka Kossowska, a new trading center on the outskirts of Warsaw, and Hanoi; he is not a member, he won’t say a bad thing about the Communist Party. Karol says he will go back to Poland in 2011 only to renew his passport and identity card and then immediately come back. Together they are creating a ‘Little Warsaw’ in Hanoi. They speak fluent Polish, spend time in a Polish-language bookstore, and they know of a modern housing estate, ‘just like Żelazna Brama in Warsaw’, being built in Hanoi. As one watches this rapidly developing country and its elites, at least some of which have ties to Poland, one wonders to what extent the Polish experience, the experience of free-for-all capitalism and democracy, will allow them to critically examine — and find a place for themselves in — modern-day Vietnam, given its political regime, dynamic economic growth, and controlled chaos and charm.
There is one other, unexpected and tragic, Vietnamese theme to the Stadium. On September 8, 1968, during the national harvest-festival celebrations, one Ryszard Siwiec immolated himself in protest against the Warsaw Pact’s invasion of Czechoslovakia. Siwiec chose a form of protest virtually unheard of in European culture. His inspiration probably came from the protests of Buddhist monks against South Vietnam’s religious policies. In June, 1963, a monk named Thich Quang Duc doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire in the middle of a busy intersection in Saigon. The images of a figure in lotus position being consumed by flames circulated around the world. Siwiec’s tragic self-immolation, in contrast, was quickly and completely hushed up. The significance, reasons, and form of his act were noted only some twenty years later.
A panel discussion in Krytyka Polityczna and video screening of documentation from Vietnam, was held on December 16, 2007. Participants included Ngo Van Tuong, Vietnamese activist and journalist, Prof. Paweł Boski, intercultural psychologist, and Joanna Warsza, curator. The panel was moderated by Adam Ostolski.
Chosen articles and reviews:
Sybille Korte, Katze odel Nudelmaschine, "Berliner Zeitung" 23.11.2007
Julia Slater, Spreading the Swiss Word in Eastern Europe,Turkish Weekly, 11.03.2009
Daniel Miller, Stadium X, Frieze, 15.05.09
Finissage of Stadium X
A series of Live Art Projects in the Derelict Communist Stadium
The 10-th Anniversary Stadium in Warsaw was built in 1955 from the rubble of a war-ruined Warsaw. It was to preserve Communism’s good name for forty years, by the mid-’80s, the site had stopped being used as a sports venue. It fell into ruin, becoming a post-Communist phantom. In the early 1990s, it was ‘revived’ by Vietnamese intelligentsia-cum-vendors and Russian traders, pioneers of capitalism who set up camping beds with all sorts of wares on the crown of the Stadium. Jarmark Europa suddenly became the only multicultural site in the city, a storehouse of biographies, equipment, and stories, as well as a major tourist attraction. A place became as an Asian suburb, a primeval forest, a realm of provisionality, controlled chaos and discount shopping, a sports club in demise, a work camp for archaeologists and botanists, the seat of Jehovah’s Witnesses, along with many others. Its different logic, its heterogeneity, its longstanding (non)presence in the middle of the post-Communist city, the invisibility of the Vietnamese minority, the debate around the development of a new National Stadium here for the Euro 2012 football cup, and the lack of a critical debate on Poland’s post-war architectural legacy — all these factors served as the inspiration for the curatorial project Finissage of Stadium X and later for the publication of a Reader: Stadium X-A Place That Never Was.
The 2006 project A Trip to Asia: An Acoustic Walk Around the Vietnamese Sector of the 10th-Anniversary Stadium by Anna Gajewska, Joanna Warsza and Ngo Van Tuong and a series of six ‘episodes’ of the Finissage of Stadium X in 2007–8: Boniek! by Massimo Furlan, On-Site Inspection, The End of Jarmark Europa – a debate, Radio Stadion Broadcasts by Radio Simulator and backyardradio, Palowanie/Pile Driving by annas kollektiv, and Schengen by Schauplatz International, were subjective excursions undertaken by artists, athletes, and activists into the reality of a Stadium ‘no longer extant’. The result were projects of a participative and semi-documentary nature (a walk, a football match, a Sunday radio station, a spectacle on a building site, an exhibition featuring real people) which touched upon issues of memory, deterioration, the power of imagination, ambiguities, and the future, as well as on the problematic exoticism of the place.
> BONIEK! | Massimo Furlan, Tomasz Zimoch
> ON-SITE INSPECTION | Joanna Warsza & Cezary Polak
> THE END OF JARMARK EUROPA |
> RADIO STADION BROADCASTS | Radio Simulator and backyardradio Berlin
> PILE DRIVING | annas kollektiv
> SCHENGEN | Schauplatz International