Tylko we Lwowie?

– “Only in Lwów!” The title – of course, without a question mark – was first of all the title of a song, whose text and music were written by Emanuel Szlechter and Henryk Wars, well-known figures of pre-war literary life in Lwów and, together with Wiktor Budzyński, editors of the all day Sunday broadcast Wesoła Lwowska Fala, “Merry Wave of Lwów”, popular all over Poland, as well as contributors to the film Włóczęgi (Vagabunds) which introduced the beloved duo of  the Lwów radio, Szczepko and Tońko as celebrated film stars. The song – performed in the film by the Lwów Armenian actor Jerzy Michotek who, not much later spending years in various Soviet prison camps, after the war worked for the newly established Polish radio in Wrocław, and in 1990 published his memoirs with the same title – became a hymn for the expatriates of Lwów and it has remained so to this day. We keep in store this song with translation for the illustration of another post.


This is also the title of a study by Olena Onufriv, editor of the music department of the Lviv radio, published in the volume Lemberg: eine Reise nach Europe in Berlin in 2007. The study begins with this summary:

“When in September 1989 in Lviv they celebrated with great solemnity the 50-year anniversary of the local radio, the generation born after the war found nothing strange in it. Only elder people may have wondered, since they still remembered the pre-war radio broadcasts, for example Szczepko and Tońko, whose funny radio dialogues amused the whole city, and who in 1936 and 1939 even featured as movie stars. Of course, the radio broadcasted in Polish at that time. But the same thing happened to the local Philharmonic Orchestra and Conservatory, whose birth was also counted from 1939, although they had existed for a half century in Lemberg and Lwów. The editorial staff of the Lviv radio became active only in 1999, on the alleged 60th anniversary of the radio, by demanding the recognition of the true founding date of 15 January 1930. Officially this has not happened until today.”

Editorial staff of the radio of Lwów in the 1930’s (sitting: Tońko and Szczepko) and its station


It is not known when the first radio started to receive in Galicia. The first police documents are from 1927. At that time the possession of a radio was bound to a license and the payment of a regular fee, and in that year police swooped down on 56 illegal radio receivers, while in 1934 already on 457. In the meantime the nationwide radio broadcast started in 1929, and the newly formed Polish Radio Lwów Stock Company announced on 17 September 1929 – exactly ten years before its abolishment – to the municipal authorities the establishment of their broadcast station of 10 kW.

Polish radio stations in 1939

Debut of the Lwów radio at the national fair and its building still standing at Bátori street 6


The most successful program of the Lwów radio was, besides the full-day Merry Wave of Lwów, the daily Merry Week of Lwów, a radio version of the famous cabaret of Lwów. A résumé was published in the morning papers, and in the evening they broadcasted the comic radio dialogue spiced with the songs by Szlechter and Wars, performed either by Aprikosenkranz and Untenbaum (Mieczysław Monderer and Adolf Fleischer), popularizing countrywide the Galician Jewish humor and the Yiddish dialect of Lemberik, or by Szczepko and Tońko, featuring as the representatives of a particular Lwów subculture, the suburb of Lyczaków (the “Gangland”) – home of “the kids of Lyczaków” who in 1920 defended the besieged city – and using the typical, singing “argot of Lwów”, strongly mixed with Ukrainian, Hungarian, Yiddish and German. They even went so far as to invite the Governor of Poland Józef Piłsudski on his birthday to taste the famous sausage in Lwów, for which Piłsudski said thanks on the same day in a telegram. From this we know that the best sausage in Lwów you could buy at Aunt Bandziuszkowa. The framed telegram hung on the studio wall until September 1939.


The daily papers of Lwów report on the radio dialogues and on their last page publish details of them

Famous was also the music department of the radio led by Adam Sołtys, through which the largest part of the country got to know Ukrainian music for the first time. The first Ukrainian opera by Petro Nichnsky was broadcasted from here in 1939, and several Ukrainian folk singers as well as Jevhen Kosak’s four-member male chorus were daily on program.

The radio tower was bombed on 16 September 1939 by the German army, and its studio was looted the next day by the Soviet army. The recording of a single broadcast survived in Warsaw, in which a patient of a mental institution by mistake becomes an office manager and terrorizes his subordinates. The fate of Fleischer and Monderer is unknown. Szlechter died in 1943, at the age of 37, we do not know where. Wars emigrated in time, and he established together with several former colleagues the Merry Wave of Lwów Theater to amuse the Polish exile army on the front. After the war they all stayed in the West.

And here we could finish the post, had we not received a comment from Alfanje some days ago, after the publication of the map of Lwów’s monuments, including two photos on the miraculously surviving multilingual inscriptions of a milk shop in Lviv.



And as we started to read chronologically backwards the uniquely concentrated, informative and sharp-eyed blog of Alfanje, soon we discovered the entry of 26 July in which he published the photo and inscription of a memorial plaque on the southern side of the main square of Wrocław.


W tym domu w. 1945 r mieściła się pierwsza
siedziba Polskiego Radja we Wrocławiu.
W 25-ta rocznicę nadania
pierwszej Polskiej audycji na fale eteru
Towarzystwo Milośników Wrocławia

29 września 1971


In this house was in 1945 the first
studio of the Polish Radio of Wrocław.
On the 25th anniversary
of the Polish transmission on the waves of the ether
the Association of the Friends of Wrocław

29 September 1971

The staff of the Polish radio who began transmitting in Wrocław almost exactly six years after the radio in Lwów became silent, arrived from Lwów to Breslau on the back of that big wave which is summarized in a concise way by Adam Zagajewski, leaving to unfold the details to several other Polish and German authors:

“In 1945 almost my entire family was packing suitcases and trunks, getting ready to leave Lwów and vicinity. At the same time countless German families, who were told to leave their homes and apartments in Silesia, Danzig, Stettin, Allenstein and Königsberg, were also packing. Millions of people were forcing resistant suitcases shut with their knees; all this was happening at the behest of three old men who had met at Yalta.”

So this is how the radio of Wrocław started to broadcast in 1945, partly with the staff exiled from Lwów such as Jerzy Michotek, and this is how it reached to its 25th birthday in 1971. However, similarly to the anniversary celebrations in Lviv, this memorial plaque does not mention that previously another radio had been already working in Breslau, which in 1945 could have celebrated the 21st anniversary of its founding.







The Schlesische Funkstunde of Breslau began transmitting on 26 May 1924. From here they broadcasted Fritz Walter Bischoff’s Hallo! Hier Welle Erdball!, the last major radio play of the Weimar Republic (1928), as well as Erich Kästner’s Leben in dieser Zeit, his most successful work, before the National Socialist goverment publicly burned all the works of the author. On the radio we can read in detail (with many illustrations) in the memoirs of Hans Ulrich Berkner, and some of its photos can be seen on the historical site of the Wrocław radio (from where we have selected the above ones). Its former signature tune can be heard in the sound collection of the Hungarian “Radio Exhibition”:


Radio Breslau, signature tune before 7 February 1945

It was the transmission station of the Breslau radio standing in Gleiwitz, at the Polish border, which was attacked on 31 August 1939 by German SS soldiers in Polish military uniform, thus providing a pretext to the invasion of Poland. The action almost failed, as the attackers did not know that this station had been operating for many years only as a transmission station of the Breslau tower, and it had not broadcasted a program of their own. Thus for long hours they were unable to read the text of the provocation: “Attention, the station of Gliwice is finally in Polish hands, the hour of the freedom has come! Long live Poland!”

The station of Gleiwitz (today Gliwice) in 1939

Ether, the “fifth element”, quinta essentia was in Greek natural philosophy the supreme matter in this world, whose rule was above the rule of all other elements. Before the advent of television and internet, as the above examples show, it was obvious that whoever controls the ether, controls the present, and as we know from Orwell, who controls the present controls the past. And who controls the past controls the future.

On 22 June 1941 the Moscow radio announces the beginning of the war which had been already going on for two and a half years


Na falach eteru. “On the waves of the ether”. Polish soldier’s march. Performed by the military band of Kielce

1 comentario:

alfanje dijo...

So "the waves of the ether" was a military march! Thanks a lot, Studiolum. You closed the circle.

Indeed when one visits Wrocław or L'viv it is not difficult to realize that half of the stories are somewhere else. Sometimes it is in the other city, sometimes in a world which does not exist anymore...