Department of History
printing press (from left to right) History undergraduate Maria Young and REEI graduate student Jason Vincz work with Witold Luczywo to create an authentic Solidarity-style underground printing press.

Professor Kenney Takes Students Underground

How do you get students engaged in history?  Professor Padraic Kenney’s solution was to take students underground.  He and thirteen students worked with Polish Solidarity activist Witold Luczywo to recreate the underground printing presses essential to Solidarity’s takedown of Communism in Poland.
The course combined lectures with hands-on training in the creation and distribution of clandestine literature. The goal, Professor Kenney notes, was to provide students with some context for the information in written histories on the period.  This “made their brief study of the anti-Communist opposition in Eastern Europe compelling and real,” he said.  One of the students who took part in the course was Maria Young, whose studies usually focus on Western Europe.  She agreed with Kenney, claiming, “Everybody had a much better idea of how things unfolded.”  Young thinks the opportunity for hands on history meant students were more in-tune with details.  Students had to recreate the printing presses only with materials available to Luczywo at the time and even fabricated their own paper for printing.  This meant actually fabricating the tools they would use to study and understand the topic.  At the end of the course students distributed their leaflets on streets and from rooftops on the IU campus.