Purpose

The reason Marzena Sowa wrote this memoir is “to show you, through [her] experience, the daily life of the Polish people close to [her] during the final years of communism” (Intro, Sowa). The memoir strives to inform and to make sense of the world as seen through her eyes. Sowa shares a broad range of stories from serious ones to playful ones, but they all bring light to the everyday life of Marzi. This article gives insight into the daily life of people living in Eastern Europe in the 1980’s, similar to what Marzi experienced growing up.

 

Daily_Life_eating
Image sourced from here.

 

Near the end of the book there is a story titled ‘Goodbye Dolly’, which tells us about Marzi’s good friend/cousin, Edyta, and how she wrote the book for her. Edyta has a hard time sleeping so Marzi tells her stories, which are depicted in brighter colours than previously used in the book. Sowa talks about how every tree, house and person has a story and writes, “This is where I’ll draw my inspiration from to make Edyta laugh. To protect her from the world of adults as long as I can. To pull closed the beautiful velvet curtain and let her dream in colour” (Sowa, 230).

Edyta_ColourfulStory

 

Posted by Melissa

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References

Sowa, Marzena. Marzi: A Memoir. New York: DC Comics, 2011. Ebook.

Historical Context of Sowa’s Growing Up: Part 2

Continued…

Between 1956 and 1980 (when Marzi is set) was when Władysław Gomułka (pronounced vwaˈdɨswaf ɡɔˈmuwka) (Wikipedia) was in power; he was brought into office as first secretary of the communist party in 1956, despite Moscow threatening to invade Poland if Gomułka was elected. Krushchev, the leSpotkanie przedwyborcze w FSOader of the Soviet Union at the time, was reassured by Poland’s government that their new elected official would not change any of the basic foundations of Polish communism, so Russia withdrew their invasion threats.

Poland had a temporary hopeful spell under Gomułka’s control, but the 1960’s and -70’s saw the hopeful mood in Poland decline as Gomułka’s power in the government began to dwindle. There were attempted economic reforms, widespread dissent, and open confrontations from influential sections of the citizenry, such as the church, important intellectuals and workers. This dissent is shown in Marzi, as her father is a part of the workers’ dissent and confrontations. As is also evident in Marzi, the economy is at a near collapse.

This is the era that Marzena Sowa writes about in her graphic novel.

 

Posted by Jess

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References

Władysław Gomułka. (n.d.). Retrieved March 31, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Władysław_Gomułka

Polish Pronunciation. (n.d.). Retrieved March 31, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:IPA_for_Polish

Historical Context of Sowa’s Growing Up: Part 1

In the book Marzi by Marzena Sowa, Poland is trapped in a chaotic wartime era. But how did it get there?

The Soviet Union took over Poland (with permission form the Allied Forces) in 1945, at the end of World War II. According to negotiations between Allied leaders Franklin D. Roosevelt (US President from January of 1929 to December of 1932), Winston Churchill (British Prime Minister from May of 1940 to July of 1945, then again from October of 1951 to April of 1955), and Joseph Stalin (Soviet General Secretary from April of 1922 to October of 1952), there were two accords that were written in order to keep some sort of regulation over the takeover of Poland. Seeing as the Soviet Union’s Red Army were victorious in Poland at the end of World War II, the Allies agreed that Poland, and 100,000 square kilometers of previously-German territory was to be given to the Soviet Union in the Potsdam accord. As a result, 3 million Poles were removed from formerly-Polish territory and resettled in German lands.

In the Yalta accords, the Allies “sanctioned the formation of a provisional Polish coalition government composed of communists andleba52-02s
proponents of western democracy” (Polish Academic Information Center, University at Buffalo). The Yalta accords favoured communists, who were proclaimed to enjoy “the advantages of Soviet support, superior morale, control over crucial ministries, and Moscow’s determination to bring Eastern Europe sedurely under its thumb as a strategic asset in the emerging Cold War”. Essentially, they were using Poland to try to expand into the entirety of Eastern Europe, so that if the USA attacked during the Cold War years, Russia would have a much higher population from which to pull soldiers and resources.

The first parliamentary election in Poland was in 1947; however, it only allowed candidates from an insignificant and widely unsupported political party called the Polish Peasant Party to run against the leading communist parties. During the two years since Russia’s takeover of Poland, the Polish Peasant Party, or PPP, was harassed into ineffectiveness by the new form of government. At the election, communist party members won 417 out of 434 parliamentary seats, effectively ending all other opposing parties.

Within two years of this first election, the communist party assured their ascendancy to power by restyling the Polska Zjednoczona Partia Robotnicza (which translates to the Polish United Workers Party) (U of Buffalo) or PZPR as new holders of a monopoly power over what was now the Polish Peoples’ Republic. The PZPR was a communist party that was founded in 1948 that merged the Polish Socialist Party with the Polish Workers’ Party, but only after the existing government carried out purges within the parties’ ranks.

To Be Continued…

Post by Jess

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References

The Historical Setting: The Polish People’s Republic. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2016, from http://info-poland.buffalo.edu/classroom/longhist6.html

Significance of Comic

The narrator depicts herself as a spectator to the life behind the Iron curtain while growing up in Poland in the 1980s. It focuses more on how the climate affects her rather than upon the political environment which differs from other autobiographical comics such as Persepolis written by Marjane Satrapi. Hers is a dismal world which is evident as the book is coloured in unsaturated colours. The memoir paints a vivid picture despite the fact that hers is a country in poverty, politics, and war. What is really the most significant aspect of this memoir is through her relationships we are presented with a picture that likes to compare and contrast with the lives of the readers outside of her world.

cwar2

In an interview with La Times Sowa was asked about the alienation of being an only child and growing up behind the Iron Curtain. Sowa responded, “As an only child I used to be very attentive to the adult world. I always tried to understand what my parents were whispering between them.  I didn’t have friends to talk about it, so I had to live it by my own. If parents are not strong and peaceful, what image do they give to their child?” Sowa explains further that she “felt what they felt, and maybe even worse, because children can have an extraordinary imagination, and for me the souvenirs of the martial law were not so far away. But as it can be with children, they go from one extreme to another, which are possible thanks to the imagination. I think this is where the memoir represents a universal childhood.”

Here’s a link to the full interview of Marzena Sowa answering questions about Marzi. http://herocomplex.latimes.com/books/marzi-graphic-memoir-charts-universal-experiences/

The events of life depicted in the comic are arguable that the trials she faced are commonly universal. When you strip the comic down it has more to with the limitations and fears of childhood that any political philosophy.

Posted by Sam

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References

Clark, Noelene. “‘Marzi’: Graphic Memoir Charts Universal experiences.” Hero Complex. N.p., 15 Oct. 2011. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.

 

Adult Life

Marzena Sowa is doing well in her adulthood. In 2001, Sowa moved to France to complete her studies in literature that started in Romance Philology at Jagiellonian University in Krakow. Sowa spent two years at Bordeaux Montaigne University in France, where she met partner Sylvan Savoia. Together with Savoia, Sowa wrote and designed the book Marzi, publishing their first edition in 2004. The last instalment of the series came out in 2011.

Marzi_Marzena-Sowa

Posted by Jess

Early Life

Marzena Sowa, author of Marzi, was born in Stawola Wola, Poland, in 1979. At that time, Poland was under a communist rule, and the Cold War was actively going on. Through her book, we can get a pretty in-depth idea of how Sowa grew up, and how the warlike conditions affected her childhood.

Sowa grew up in a deprived society, living in what appears to be the lower end of the middle class. She had a somewhat normal childhood, even though the economy was extremely stressed. She had a vivid imagination, though sometimes it doesn’t really make her feel any better about her situation in life.

She is forced to grow up early, in a sense, by being made to acknowledge how very dangerous wartime Poland is. For example, when her father goes away to a strike, she immediately interprets her father’s actions as dangerous rebellion, and jumps to the conclusion that her father could be dead already.

Sowa herself talks about her overactive imagination in an interview with the LA Times, stating that she “felt what they felt, and maybe even worse, because children have an extraordinary imagination, and for me the souvenirs of the martial law were not so far away”.

Posted by Jess

Plot

Marzi is a memoir written by Marzena Sowa about her life as a child living in communist Poland during the 1980’s. Her journey is shown through a series of stories; rushing to the store with her dad to get sugar before it runs out, playing with her friends in the hallways of her building, going to the family orchard to get fresh strawberries, and more. There were good times and there were bad times, but you always see the wonder and curiosity in Marzi’s eyes as she tries to make sense of the world around her. All the different stories come together to show readers what life was like growing up in her country.

Check out this animation directed by Stéphane Hernoux representing Marzi’s curiosity and determination!

Marzi Cover
Image sourced from here.

Posted by Melissa