East and Center as States of Mind: Psychological Colonization in the Work of Ziemowit Szczerek

Many have described Ukraine as Szczerek’s idée fixe, although his treatment of Ukrainian/Eastern themes and issues is in reality more complex. Szczerek is not interested in Ukraine as an entity in itself. He is interested in Ukraine as a network of relationships (academics and sociologists of literature jump at this approach) between Ukrainian and Polish society, between neighbors, with stereotypes and symbols of all kinds operating within social space. The novel Mordor… was controversial for its form (its colloquial and intensely vulgar language) and content: Szczerek portrays Poles traveling to Ukraine as psychological colonists on a mission of heritage and leisure tourism. Their intentions are to exert their superiority over post-Soviet space, thereby curing their own national complexes, while simultaneously nursing their resentments toward the “Kresy” [Eastern Borderlands”] region. The novel reveals that the prewar or even pre-partition distinction between “cham” (peasant) and “landowner” is still alive and well in contemporary Polish social consciousness.