The Slav Society, 1968-69
by Michael Woods and Stephen Wigzell
(Members of the Soviet 1968-69:
Mr. K. C. Waller, Mr. R. Batchelor, Mrs. B. Chase, Jacek Strauch, Graham Wooding, Stephen Wigzell, Michael Sones, Paul Durham, Helen Hunter.)
Since the last issue of Gaytonian, the Slav Society has become not only an established but also a highly successful school society. This has been achieved under the careful nurturing of Messrs. Waller and Batchelor.
At Harrow County we have two special reasons for our interest in the Slavs. Over twenty sixth-formers are studying Russian under the direction of Mr. Waller and also throughout the school (and the Girls' School too) there are many young people of Polish, Czech and Russian descent. If we add to these the interest of those studying history, economics (and just about everything else under the sun) we have a hard core of enthusiasts. From among these a most active "Soviet" or Council has been formed and this has arranged several meetings of outstanding originality which have certainly been most enjoyable.
It cannot be over-emphasised that our society is interested in the social and cultural life of the Slav. countries of eastern Europe and is wholly non-political in its aims. In our opinion, unless art and culture can cross frontiers whatever the political situation, they become stagnant and introspective. It is only by the exchange of views and attempting to appreciate what seem to be alien cultures that we can help to grow towards a better understanding of our fellow men.
Two types of meeting have evolved, the first taking the form of an informal gathering to become acquainted with the way of life in eastern Europe practically, and the second a more formal approach -- a talk given by a cisiting speaker preceded by tea which at only sixpence per head has certainly not discouraged attendance!
The Polish Christmas Party was certainly a marvellous way to launch a new society. Apart from the unusual and enjoyable Polish food, we had Polish carols and films, a recital of songs by Dr. Pieczora and accordian-playing, cabaret-fashion, by Marek Pieczora. The whole proceedings were presided over in the traditional manner by Mr. Mietkowski. To the Mietkowski, Pieczora and Strauch families we shall long be grateful.
In March we journeyed southwards to a Bulgaria of monasteries, rose-perfume, the Black Sea coast and a mixture of Islam and Christianity. Mr. Waller's talk on the country we found an interesting appetiser for the culinary delights which followed. We are particularly grateful for the generous help and advice provided by the Bulgarian Trade Mission. After much preparation and the unselfish help of the industrious and invaluable Mrs. Chase (what would we do without her?) over forty people enjoyed a four-course Bulgarian meal, including hot and cold dishes washed down by appropriate liquid accompaniment. Not bad for three shillings! The fascinating dishes at the Polish and Bulgarian meetings still linger in the mind and merge into a warm glow of remembrance.
In the Easter term the society was addressed by Mrs. Lydia Saharova of Surrey University, who spoke on Life in the Soviet Union with the minimum of bias. At the end of April Mrs. Mercia MacDermott, the foremost british expert on Bulgaria gave us a rather more factual description of that country and its history than our gastronomic excursion had given us. Her talk again was of a very high standard.
The most recent speaker, Mr. Pockney, also of Surrey University, filled in the unbelievable background to the Soviet union's remarkable recovery since 1917. he kept the audience, augmented by members of our sister school interested all the way through by his refusal to talk in 'jargonese'.
The are many who feel that the first six months of this new society have been both enjoyable and useful to us. As for the immediate futuure, plans are being made for a Czech evening, a Pan-Slav Christmas Party together with talks and other meetings. But by far the most exciting proposal is the projected trip to Poland next summer.
The organisers for their part feel that their efforts have been well rewarded. We now have a loyal and expanding band of supporters, interest has been maintained and we are confident as to the future success of the society, and this confidence is likely to result in even more ambitious projects.
Source: Gaytonian 1969