Vol 1 No 1 (2021)
Research Article

Imposed Belonging: Family Crises in Poland in Film and Literature around 1968

Nina Seiler
Department of Slavonic Languages and Literatures, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Zurich, Plattenstrasse 43, CH-8032 Zurich, Switzerland
Published March 31, 2021
  • Poland,
  • family,
  • crisis,
  • film,
  • literature
How to Cite
Seiler, Nina. 2021. “Imposed Belonging”. Central European Cultures 1 (1), 75–92. https://doi.org/10.47075/CEC.2021-1.04.


The concept and realization of family and gender issues in socialist Poland was generally a contested topic. The family had remained a core institution of society—and yet, it underwent a significant transformation due to changing life-style models and social expectations. In the late 1960s, a crisis of the family was officially acknowledged, as the new models and expectations increasingly conflicted with the shortage of economic and social resources, and systemic limitations. Diverging ideas about gender roles and stereotypes intensified the tensions in the family and private sphere. This article discusses manifestations of the family crisis in literature and film of the time, tracing the issues debated in society and uncovering dominant narratives. Social problems like alcoholism or domestic violence found their way into official statistics as well as into literary or cinematographic productions, the arts presenting a qualitative seismology of the family in crisis. In staging issues like partnership pragmatism or a “monetarization” of gender relations, literature and film functioned as an introspective tool for social and cultural discourses. This cultural debate on the family crisis will be cross-read with the March 1968 crisis in Poland. The student revolts, their repression and an anti-Semitic campaign, events known as “March ’68”, brought about an ethno-nationalist paradigm in politics and society that silently reframed family lineage as a socially and politically relevant dimension. Yet the narrative of class and ethnic family liability suggested by the mass media went mostly unregistered in the arts, emerging only on the margins of cultural production.