Dorota Nieznalska, The Case of Stanisław Pyjas

May somebody for once
Be grateful for my existence
Stanisław Pyjas, 8 September 1972


Dorota Nieznalska’s exhibition The Case of Stanisław Pyjas, just like installation Violence and Memory shown in 2019 at MOCAK, represents a new artistic movement, in which the starting point is archival materials. This kind of art is characterised by full respect for the document and its truth. The artistic gesture consists in composing the selected images and texts in a specific way. The result is a message which voices the most important humanist and symbolic aspects.An exhibition becomes a surprisingly configured document revealing the artist’s emotions, feelings and beliefs towards a subject which is important to them.

Dorota Nieznalska is an artist of unique sensitivity. She is not afraid of potentially shocking contexts – for which, incidentally, she has often paid the price. Her art touches upon the issues with the strongest influence on human life and sensitivity, such as war, religion and death.

In the project The Case of Stanisław Pyjas, the choice of documents creates “a picture of life defined by death”. The artist shows that the communist system of surveillance also oppressed people for the fact that they wanted to read books, live in mental freedom and strive for dignified self-determination.

– Maria Anna Potocka   …


On 7 May 1977 in Kraków, Stanisław Pyjas, 24, fifth-year student of Jagiellonian University Polish studies, poet, anti-Communist opposition activist, died in unexplained circumstances that had to do with the Security Service. His death came as a shock to the community, his family and circle of friends, sparking the opposition movement activities in Kraków. On 15 May 1977 the Student Solidarity Committee in Kraków (SKS in Polish) was announced.

In light of all surmised circumstances of Stanisław Pyjas’s tragic death on the night of 6 to 7 May 1977
in 7 Szewska Street in Kraków, Public Prosecutor’s and Institute of National Remembrance’s five attempts to reopen and discontinue the investigation along with exhuming his remains in 2010, followed by forensic experts confirming three times the hypothesis that he died from the fall – the particulars of this tragedy still remain shrouded in conjecture and overtones.
What we do know for sure is that Stanisław Pyjas actively worked together with the Workers’ Defence Committee as he and his group of friends had been kept under surveillance for at least a year by the Security Service. The intelligence operation was in progress until the last moments of his life, which makes his murder premeditated.

The “Stanisław Pyjas case” has ample context: who this very politically mature young man was then
or how his senseless demise and the hasty investigation resulted in other deaths (of Stanisław Pietraszko or Marian Węclewicz, for instance) to cover the tracks. In addition, the anonymous denunciations written by Kraków’s Security Service officers and received by Stanisław Pyjas and Bronisław Wildstein might have been another motive for his murder. Also, the Lesław Maleszka case – who was, as it turned out, secret police informant Ketman, reporting on the SKS in Kraków – and other crucial facts you cannot remain indifferent to magnify both the enigma and the drama of the case.

The premise and aim of the proposed multimedia exhibition is to rekindle the memory of Stanisław Pyjas as a figure. Taking into account how higher-order values such as truth, courage, integrity, individualism, nonconformity or respect for others, set against hypocrisy, cynicism, subservience and opportunism, are being cheapened at present, the exhibition will try to endorse the former as touchstones for action and norms for social relations. As democratic values, paradoxically the very
same that Stanisław Pyjas laid down his young life for, are currently in crisis, recalling his steadfast, brave, committed stance seems imperative.

– Dorota Nieznalska   …


Dorota Nieznalska – artist, Gdańsk Academy of Fine Arts’ Faculty of Sculpture graduate.
She lives and works in Gdańsk. She has taken part in over two hundred individual and group exhibitions at home and abroad. Her works are part of collections in National Museums in Gdańsk, Kraków and Wrocław, NOMUS New Art Museum, MOCAK in Kraków, Łaźnia Centre for Contemporary Art,
Centre of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko, Arsenal Gallery in Białystok, European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk, Sweden’s Norrtälje konsthall and Kunstforum Ostdeutsche Galerie in Regensburg. In 2012 she won Minister of Science and Higher Education’s scholarship for outstanding artistic achievement. In 2013 she was awarded a PhD at the Faculty of Sculpture, Intermedia specialty, at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk. From 2010 to 2017 she lectured at the Faculty of Sculpture and Intermedia. The works she creates explore the fields of sculpture, installation, photography, video. In her early works she made use of, among others, religious symbols. There, the issue of strong Catholic tradition, deep-rooted in Poland, was linked to male dominance in society. She also broached the topics of identity, sexuality and stereotypical roles for men and women. Currently, she is interested in violence-related social and political interactions. Research projects she is driving forward are to do with sites of memory, traces of memory/oblivion and history.

Official artist page


Exhibition partners





Media patrons