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An American studying medicine in the PRL 1978-1985: my story


rybnik 18 | 1,462
19 Feb 2011  #1
I'm relatively new to this forum and while posting on other threads I was encouraged to start this one by my fellow users. So here goes!

When I was younger I thought I knew the answer to the question "Why did you choose communist-Poland of all places to study medicine"? Now I'm unsure. Anyway, with your permission and patience I'll start laying it out for you in the days/weeks to come. You see, no one has ever asked me to talk about my time in Poland and my memories of that time are a bit hazy. I'll be relying on the forum, to a certain extent, to jog my memory with your questions.
SeanBM 35 | 5,808
19 Feb 2011  #2
So why did you choose communist-Poland of all places to study medicine?

Are you an American of Polish decent?

Were there many nonPoles studying with you?

Were you "Interviewed" because you came from the other side of the iron curtain?
isthatu2 4 | 2,708
19 Feb 2011  #3
So why did you choose communist-Poland of all places to study medicine?

A heck of a lot cheaper than a US Uni and just as good?
BBman - | 344
19 Feb 2011  #4
I'm relatively new to this forum and while posting on other threads I was encouraged to start this one by my fellow users. So here goes!

Thank you!

When my parents were in uni in Poland there were several foreigners in polish unis. Most of them were from other commie countries but a few were from Canada/USA. According to my parents they had it good in Poland: cheap living expenses, cheap tuition, great social life (women loved the foreigners), good treatment, etc. After completing their studies, they all went back to Canada/US and after some difficulty they were able to work as physicians. Americans and Canadians still do this as it is extraordinarily difficult to get into med school (at least here in canada).

Are you a medical doctor now?

How was life for you in Poland (social life, living conditions, food etc.)?
OP rybnik 18 | 1,462
19 Feb 2011  #5
A heck of a lot cheaper than a US Uni and just as good?

yes
asik 2 | 220
20 Feb 2011  #6
That's it?:)
OP rybnik 18 | 1,462
20 Feb 2011  #7
So why did you choose communist-Poland of all places to study medicine?

Are you an American of Polish decent?

Were there many nonPoles studying with you?

Were you "Interviewed" because you came from the other side of the iron curtain?

Both my parents were Polish. My mom was born in the eastern town of Stanislawow and my dad just outside Raciborz, in Upper Silesia. They met in Scotland after the war and emigrated to the States. Mom was an only child and dad's family was split between living in Poland and Australia. My childhood was devoid of an extended family-no uncles, no aunts and no cousins. This was an abstraction for me. I remember how sad I used to become upon hearing of my friends' recounting their fun weekends with cousins and family. I wished I had cousins! I used to think connecting with Polish family was the main reason for going to Poland to study. that I'm older I see the reason I went was to please my uber-Polish-nationalistic father...........My journey began in August of 1978 along with a plane-load of other young, excited and hopeful Polonians. The plan was this: spend a month in Krakow, attend Polish language classes, after "passing" the language test in early September continue on to your Akademia of choice. I was strongly

advised to stay in Krakow for the year to work on my Polish, which I did. It turned out to be a good decision (although I remember being crestfallen at the time). This first year in country was organized in the States by the Kosciuszko Foundation based in New York City........No. There was no "interview" from the PRL side at all. I remember filling out a student visa application, that's it!
isthatu2 4 | 2,708
20 Feb 2011  #8
yes

Wow,a simple yes/no answer from a medico,old nick is pulling his overcoat on as I write :)
OP rybnik 18 | 1,462
20 Feb 2011  #9
,old nick is pulling his overcoat on as I write :)

?? :)
isthatu2 4 | 2,708
20 Feb 2011  #10
beelzebub is ice skating...;)
But seriously, your parents stayed in Scotland how long? Coz it seems our respect for a financial bargin and an occasional lapse into mono word conversation washed down to the next generation regardless of actual blood ties to Scotland :)

(but not that much,if theyd stayed here you could have graduated from Edinburgh having been paid to attend by the state ;) )
OP rybnik 18 | 1,462
20 Feb 2011  #11
I'm glad you asked me that question. Now I only know what I was told by my parents so forgive me if it's not accurate.... After the war a lot of the polish soldiers stayed in GB, seeing as most of them feared returning to their homeland. My mom was raised in Winipeg(or Lose-a-peg,as the Canadians refer to it) Manitoba, studied Library Science and after attaining her Masters degree, went off to Scotland to work and adventure. There she met my father, who of course was the man to see if you're Polish and need a room,job, etc. They fell in love and settled in Aloia(sp). From all accounts they loved it there and they planned to stay. However, (now this is where it might get a little shaky fact-wise) anti-immigrant sentiments began to grow and they, as a result, emigrated to the US in 1953. In a few years I came along.
isthatu2 4 | 2,708
20 Feb 2011  #12
No,not shakey at all Im afraid..... Now,these are not excuses,but,by this time britain still was under even more extreme rationing than during the war years (Marshal aid didnt come our way...) and once all the servicemen had been demobbed there was also the clamour for jobs. Now,saying that it also depends on the area. Im Scots born but was brought up in Yorkshire ,in my part there has been a very large Polish population since the 40s, and these people rarely faced any real anti immigrant sentiment(baring I presume encountering the odd knuckle dragger that can be found anywhere on earth). In one local area all the local GPs had been Doctors with the 1st Polish Independent Parachute brigade and every class (30 ish kids) when i was at school had atleast 4 or 5 kids with 'ski names :)

But,and I'll probs get a virtual slap from some more Scots scotsman....but Aloa,is that an island? Probably anti imigrant in that case would equate to not wanting any dirty Glaswegians there either :)
OP rybnik 18 | 1,462
20 Feb 2011  #13
Now,these are not excuses,but,by this time britain still was under even more extreme rationing than during the war years (Marshal aid didnt come our way...) and once all the servicemen had been demobbed there was also the clamour for jobs

Right. That's what mom said. It was all about jobs. She got that and never held a grudge. She always reminiced fondly her Scotland years (she did prefer Edinburgh though-maybe I shouldn't say ;) )
isthatu2 4 | 2,708
20 Feb 2011  #14
:) Its where I was born,but dont hold that against it :)
emha - | 92
20 Feb 2011  #15
1978-1985 - special period in the history of Poland

1978 John Paul II reigned as Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church
1980 - strikes , Solidarity was founded
1981 - 1983 - martial low in Poland

Did you noticed it?
jonni 16 | 2,485
20 Feb 2011  #16
Did you noticed it?

Yeah, we all know that already.
emha - | 92
20 Feb 2011  #17
I try to refresh rybniks memory.
Did you fight with ZOMO? (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZOMO)
OP rybnik 18 | 1,462
20 Feb 2011  #18
1978-1985 - special period in the history of Poland. Did you notice it?

Of course I did! lol We danced with the nuns on the Krakow Rynek; saw the Pope on the Planty in the summer of 1979, which was just a few blocks from my Student Dorm ; my ex-wife's brother-in-law was a Solidarity rep and yes, I did encounter the ZOMO, once in Wroclaw- tear gas mostly.
isthatu2 4 | 2,708
20 Feb 2011  #19
was a Solidarity rep

Im lucky enough to own one of the origional solidarity underground newspapers and a couple of those little stickers ,about 2 by 3 inches, of the logo.They were given to me by former,well,the couple still wouldnt say exactly,lets just say there was a long family tradition of underground work,I guess old habits die hard. :)

Ive also got a photo book from Krakow published around your era. You can see the lovely Krakow I know but it also looks pretty grim on many levels, I guess Nowa Huta was to blame for the "scorched" look of the buildings,thankfully all it seems to do these days is fill your nose with crispy black snot within 2 hours of arriving in town :)
OP rybnik 18 | 1,462
21 Feb 2011  #20
YES! I remember that newspaper! We used to read it around the kitchen table on our weekends when we would drive to my ex's home-town...Right. Krakow was very dreary, as were all towns during that period. Of course Huta had a lot to do with it. I can't beleive my eyes when I see pics from Krakow and Wroclaw on the TV; the buildings are so clean and bright that I have to do a double take. What a difference!..I also remember the smell of burnt two-stroke fuel that the Trabants and other two-cycle-powered cars used. That along with the sound of their putt-putt engines competing with the screech of the trams. Man o man what an exciting and strange time those first few months were for this young, naive American:)....I'll have to share my Nowa Huta story with you but I don't have enough space.....next time:)
isthatu2 4 | 2,708
21 Feb 2011  #21
yep, I first went to Poland in the early 00s,13 or so in 89 so it was still a big deal for me and so I did notice some of the "remnents" of the rpl era,dodgy little polski fiats in varying states of terryfying look unroadworthieness and Mig 15s lined up beside a gas station !!! But I was genuinly shocked when I a few months later back in the UK bought that book,it was only a little over 15 years old but looked like a mix between the victorian bleakness of Dickens and New York in the early 70s(minus the huggy bear types obviously ;) ).
PolishTraitor - | 20
21 Feb 2011  #22
I try to refresh rybniks memory.
Did you fight with ZOMO ?

Or did your daddy supervise for the party the production of the machinery the regime needed to crush the democratic opposition and then hightail out of Poland just before the regime fell?

Or did you answer a request from the Polish government to come to Poland and help the country with your special skills? And have you been paying tax here ever since?

If the answer to the second set of questions is yes, don't bother posting here: you're the kind of scum PolishForums doesn't need.
isthatu2 4 | 2,708
21 Feb 2011  #23
oooh,get her,meeeoooow.......whats with the unfoucused bile spouting fella?

And have you been paying tax here ever since?

you're the kind of scum PolishForums doesn't need.

What,a Tax payer?????....
OP rybnik 18 | 1,462
21 Feb 2011  #24
Or did your daddy supervise for the party the production of the machinery the regime needed to crush the democratic opposition and then hightail out of Poland just before the regime fell?

WTF? Where is that coming from? calma, calma te. lol
BBman - | 344
21 Feb 2011  #25
If the answer to the second set of questions is yes, don't bother posting here: you're the kind of scum PolishForums doesn't need.

PolishTraitor = Harry = some sad limey or aussie cunt living in Poland. Disregard this troll and continue with your experiences!

Rybnik: Did you complete medical school in Poland? Are you a medical doctor now in the States?
OP rybnik 18 | 1,462
21 Feb 2011  #26
Did you complete medical school in Poland? Are you a medical doctor now in the States?

Thanks BB. Yep, I finished AM in Wroclaw and I'm a practicing physician
BBman - | 344
21 Feb 2011  #27
How difficult was it to get your polish med school credentials recognised in the US?

What is this process like today?
OP rybnik 18 | 1,462
21 Feb 2011  #28
compared to the present hurdles it was a peice of cake. I took an exam at the victoria hotel in warsaw during my 5th year, passed it and was good to go. Nowadays it's much more than that. I'm afraid I can't elaborate, as I'm far, far removed from it all.

Did you fight with ZOMO ?

I did not fight with them but I did get a very good look at them(about 10) while resting(breaking skulls is hard work I guess) in their bus on Plac Grundwalski, Wroclaw. I saw their faces through the windows and was impressed by 3 things: 1)they all were very attractive 2) well-fed, healthy-looking and 3)ALL of them had this crazed look in their eyes as if they were on something, amphetamines maybe. This one guy's expression I'll never forget. It scared me by its intensity. He looked intense.
aphrodisiac 11 | 2,445
22 Feb 2011  #29
ALL of them had this crazed look in their eyes as if they were on something, amphetamines maybe.

it is a well known fact that they were.
OP rybnik 18 | 1,462
8 Mar 2011  #30
The flight in 1978 from New York to Warsaw was long and bumpy. It was only the second airplane flight of my life and it was taking its toll. My ears were killing me! I had never experienced such pain. Later, much later, I realized my uncomfortable flight was an auger of things to come. For most of the ride I suffered in silence. I don't recall hearing much conversation going on amongst my fellow polonia. Maybe I just couldn't hear them!

After 8 1/2 hours we finally landed. I recall noticing how empty of planes the place was; how small, dull and gray the terminal was. Oh boy. I'm here. I'm finally here on Polish soil. The land of my forefathers and I'm sad. I'm sad because the place looks sad!

We filed out of the airplane onto the tarmac and into this large, loud, smelly bus. We were packed in tightly (more preparation for things to come).Thankfully, the ride to the terminal was short. Inside was a large space with several lines of travellers having their passports checked and stamped. The polish officials were very intimidating in their uniforms,badges and hats. I remember being quite scared. My God real communists! They could send me back for being a capitalist! Keep cool; show no fear and SMILE I recall telling myself. Of course they let me through. Actually. the only people there excited by my presence were the money-changers "chenge mahnee" and the taxi drivers!

Next: out of the airport


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