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My experience in Poland 15 years ago as an American trying to live and work there.


michaelmansun 11 | 135
1 Nov 2010  #1
It is a small exert from a book I have written and which will soon be published. I realize it isn't valid for today, but I believe it is accuracte to the time. 1995-1997. Your opinions are welcome. I realize I will receive a lot of insults and rebukes. That is OK. That is what I want. It is about trying to fit in in Poland. Looking for work. etc.. By the way, I had 4 degrees in Business when I first went to Poland in 1995. Finance, Banking, Logistics..etc.. So this leads into the start of this chapter.

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Another day another bank. I just had a meeting with an old woman in the human resources department in a bank in the Rynek Glowny, who said she thought I was a spy come from the USA to steal their banking secrets. Funny how the things you think you want in this life are not really worth having. But we try to get them anyway because if they are not worth having they should be easy to get, but when we cannot get them we are even more resolved to get them. But you fail anyway leaving you utterly confused.

I have a feelng, recently, that I am going to become some kind of limbo guy caught in a time warp of underachievment. I should leave. Why don't I leave? I know why. I have been here too long already and I feel that what I had before in the USA does not exist anymore. I just keep runing into Americans who say they are doing well. But then, of course, you discover that they have dual citizenship. Mom and Dad are Poles who escaped to Chicago 25 years ago. Is this some kind of circular mind trick geared into the human brain that programs us into destroying ourselves? Do all people suffer with this or just me? Am I becoming dellusional or do I really have reasons to be paranoid about the people here in this beautiful hell of Krakow? Why is everyone so suspicious of everyone? It must be the continuation of the atmosphere of a communist society is which it was dangerous to be normal, and it is a mechanism of self-preservation to whisper in dark places, to conspire against your neighbor, to belong to the right party, but to appear to be reformed as a new social democrat. All the same people, just a different outward appearance. Still bureaucrats, but now with money instead of a rubber stamp and coupons.

Well, after a thought like that I know I should leave. I came, I saw and got conquered. Poland really is depressing. Now I know why everyone stares at me in disbelief when I say I want to live here. They think something is wrong with me. There wasn't but now there is. I have got to run from here!! But now I have a girlfriend. I like her, but I am not in love. I don't have the capacity for love. But I do all those things that someone in love would do. No, that isn't it. It's like me and dogs. If I see a dog suffering, on a chain, in a cage, I feel compassion for it. I feed it, and try to help it escape. Maybe it's because I have felt that no one ever helped me in my life and now I cannot abandon someone who is obviously naive and helpless, but really too Polish to see how desperate her situation is. She is a village girl from the East, with no education and she has been loyal to me. If I leave she will turn into a babunia selling pretzels out of a little cart in the street and I will feel terrible and live with regret. I am obviously a basketcase. It comes with months and months of malnutrition and being traumatized by the Polish reality, which I am still trying to understand. For now, I can only determine that the administrators, the new rich, the new social democrats are all former communist, ignorant, arrogant ******** who abuse even their own people, and who really do not want foreigners to come here and compete for the very limited opportunites they reserve for their own children and friends. This is a total waste of time which I do not have. Krakow is just a fairly large city with a small village mentality I have to make an exit plan.

I have decided that I have not tried hard enough to have the things that I don't really want? Does that make sense? No, but I think I am trying to settle so that I can stay with this girl, for her sake, not for mine. Does that also make any sense at all? Yes, in my own little world I have created in my nutrient depleted brain, dining in Krakow's communist throwback milk bars and eating with aluminum forks and spoons, which I hear is wonderful for cognition and for your bones. I will teach English. Afterall, everyone pushes me into the profession. And I need money. I will teach.

Wow! English teaching really is a great job!! For British alcoholics! This sucks! And the money is ****! Damn. It is true what is written by the old farmers. The only way to get rid of weeds is move off and leave them. I feel so drained of energy all the time I don't even trust my own judgement anymore. I just keep running into people who say, "You can do a lot here! You are an American with an American education!" It is such Hollywood bullshit I cannot even begin to analyze this isolated, inbred thinking. Too many Camel advertisements with muscular, leather-dressed guys on Harley motorcycles, holding a map of the USA and gazing out over the open road or the Grand Canyon. Has anyone ever done that? I have and it also sucks. Bugs hitting you in the face at 70 miles an hour. Engine burning your legs and it destroys your back. Life is truly the pursuit of illusions.

I watched an old woman try to climb up on a bus today. It was raining and the steps were slippery. She fell flat on her face. I laughed and didn't even try to help her get up. OK. Now I understand. When you enter Poland you must leave your soul at the border.
SeanBM 35 | 5,808
1 Nov 2010  #2
You sound like you were young and suffered from a nervous disposition, would I be right in thinking that?

What made you decide to write a book about this now? or are these notes from when you lived here?
grubas 12 | 1,391
1 Nov 2010  #3
You better leave dude,the sooner the better (for everybody).

If I leave she will turn into a babunia selling pretzels out of a little cart in the street and I will feel terrible and live with regret.

Oh that's so cute.Kinda fairy tale "The prince and the little match girl".
Who are trying to fool?She will be just fine with or WITHOUT you.Have a nice trip!
SeanBM 35 | 5,808
1 Nov 2010  #4
You better leave dude,the sooner the better (for everybody).

He is in America with you.

Read the title "My experience in Poland 15 years ago as an American trying to live and work there."
grubas 12 | 1,391
1 Nov 2010  #5
He is in America with you.

Maybe he is in the US but surely NOT with me.
SeanBM 35 | 5,808
1 Nov 2010  #6
Are you NOT in the US?
grubas 12 | 1,391
1 Nov 2010  #7
Yea, ok I see what you saying.
OP michaelmansun 11 | 135
1 Nov 2010  #8
Again, I feel it was true to the time, in Krakow. Remember, it was 15 years ago. I continued to live in Poland for six years and have visited several times since and it is a much better situation, for EU expats anyway. Yes, it is written from my daily journal from that time. Also, I married the girl, and yes we live in the USA.
SeanBM 35 | 5,808
1 Nov 2010  #9
I feel it was true to the time, in Krakow.

Fair enough but it also says a lot about yourself back then, full of confusion, doubt and you sound nervous, even sickly (perhaps undernourished?).

With a touch of the old "crime and punishment" thing setting in there at the end, laughing at an old one falling on her face...

I married the girl,

So you fell in love in the end? I like happy endings :)
aphrodisiac 11 | 2,445
1 Nov 2010  #10
I like happy endings :)

me too, but Michael has a way of dragging everybody down with his posts- it is his nature as far as I remember;)
SeanBM 35 | 5,808
1 Nov 2010  #11
has a way of dragging everybody down

Have you read crime and punishment? all the way down to a prison in Siberia for killing an oldone...
(Great book though)
grubas 12 | 1,391
1 Nov 2010  #13
Again, I feel it was true to the time, in Krakow. Remember, it was 15 years ago.

Well,sorry.But I already don't like your book since it won't do Poland any good.
Grzegorz_ 51 | 6,163
1 Nov 2010  #14
It is a small exert from a book I have written and which will soon be published.

Fascinating. I'm sure your book will hit the headlines.
SeanBM 35 | 5,808
1 Nov 2010  #15
Insult one. Thanks.

It would only be an insult if it were not true, if it were true it'd be an observation.

What's your book called?
ShortHairThug - | 1,103
1 Nov 2010  #16
Michaelmansun
I’ve seen this movie, Adam Miauczyński comes to mind, life must be hell for the likes of you.
OP michaelmansun 11 | 135
1 Nov 2010  #17
Yes, I understand your nationalist point of view. Very unlike the USA where we enjoy making fun of ourselves. You position is a very common theme throughout the book. I suppose Polska dla Polakow is still hanging on with some folks. And that is OK.

I enjoy visting Poland now. It was a really difficult time back then. It all depended on what you wanted to do there. If you were a foreigner and ambitious, forget it. A visiting professor? Sure, you could do that. Sent as a director for a large corporation? Yeah. Business education just trying to work and live normally, but without Polish lineage, and no foreign corporate sponsorship? No chance. Not in Krakow. If you wanted to teach English and stay drunk all the time, it was a great life. I learned that after a while and did enjoy part of my time there after coming to terms with that.

I really have no hard feeling against Poland or her people. It was a somewhat isolated country with limited opportunities. Life, especially for the Poles was pretty difficult. I still have several very good friends there.
grubas 12 | 1,391
1 Nov 2010  #18
It was a somewhat isolated country with limited opportunities

You are wrong here.It was a country with limitless opportunities at that time.So called "wild east",90% of today's fortunes were started back then.
skysoulmate 14 | 1,297
1 Nov 2010  #19
I don't want to insult, no reason for it. Overall I like the day-by-day style of your recollections. When you advertise that you have a girlfriend but don't love her you sound pretty selfish, the idea of her falling apart if you were to leave her is probably an acknowledgment of your own insecurities. The part where you won't help an older woman who falls onto her face makes me want to knock out your teeth, but that's irrelevant.

Every now and then I'm not sure if you're quoting someone or if you're using your own words?

...I just had a meeting with an old woman in the human resources department in a bank in the Rynek Glowny, who said she thought I was a spy come from the USA to steal their banking secrets.

Is the part I highlighted a quote? If so, where are the quotation marks? I'm assuming it's a quote because of the confusing grammar (the lady's English skills?) and lack of punctuation.

This sentence somehow doesn't jive with me...
I have a feelng, recently, that I am going to become some kind of limbo guy caught in a time warp of underachievment.

Overall, I like your style, I'm sure things have changed since your Polish adventure.

PS. Next time you see an old woman slipping onto her face, help her out instead of laughing at her.
aphrodisiac 11 | 2,445
1 Nov 2010  #20
Have you read crime and punishment?

yes, I have, a very long time ago, but I know what you are saying here. There is a difference between being realistic and being pessimistic or plain crazy, or I did not get your gist;)
OP michaelmansun 11 | 135
1 Nov 2010  #21
I have changed the title several times. First title was, "Seven Months of Winter" as it started snowing in late October and continued even through the following April. 2nd was "Paranoid in the Polsih Reality" but that just didn't ring. 3rd was "Six Years of Solitude" but the title was too similar to "100 Years of Solitude" so I scraped that. The 4th was "Life and Death in Divison 303" because I lived there for some time while I was writing.

You give it a title.
Havok 10 | 912
1 Nov 2010  #22
very accurate observations. i'd be interested in reading the whole thing.

several times since and it is a much better situation,

That is very kind of you, a lot of the old mentality is still present though...(as you see above) Actually I find this thread kind of hilarious.
skysoulmate 14 | 1,297
1 Nov 2010  #23
You give it a title.

I prefer titles that are "to-the-point".

It wasn't easy!
An American's perspective on Poland's tumultuous transition from communism to capitalism and democracy.

poland_
1 Nov 2010  #24
Remember, it was 15 years ago

Ok lets talk about 15 years ago,

Krakow 1994, I remember going in to the market square and thinking how beautiful it was and then all of a sudden,being accosted by a romanian kid, begging for money, he would not let go of my coat, I got some wrigleys out of my pocket and gave him a piece, more romanians seemed to come out of all corners pawing at me for gum, I felt a hand in my coat pocket, at that point I tried to pull the kid off me, he wouldn't let go, so I slapped him around the head, and pushed the woman who had her hand in my pocket, it was like a freeze frame from a movie, everything stood still except me. I took four steps backwards away from the pack, no-one moved, the Poles going about their daily business stopped and stared without emotion on their faces, not because they felt sympathy for me as a foreigner, who had just endured a stressful situation, no they looked on in relief that it had been me and not them. I gained my composure and took one step forward towards the romanians, I knew, I now had the upper hand, I shouted at them in a language they did not understand, there was a startled look on their faces of the pack, even on the faces of the crowd that was now gathering. I took another step forward I was ready to attack, I felt a hand on my arm and I was being pulled away, my fiance whispered "lets go,just get out of here" I backed away from the hostile crowd, keeping my eyes on their eyes at all times.

I was only in Krakow for two hours waiting for the connecting train to Zakopane, so I am sure you can do better than that.
Havok 10 | 912
1 Nov 2010  #25
Ok lets talk about 15 years ago,

Krakow 1994,

LMAO

to survive an encounter with Rumanian beggar in Poland you need to get in to a fetal position asap, stay quiet and motionless for at least 20 minutes, once Rumanians start to leave all confused then you run your as$ off. Fing tourists don't know sh1t.

btw, there were more beggars in Zakopane than Krakow back then.
OP michaelmansun 11 | 135
1 Nov 2010  #26
Yeah, I remember when I was first learning Polish, I was walking through the park near Slowackiego and I passed an old man. I said in my clearest Polish possible, "Good Afternoon, how are you sir?" and continued to walk. The old man spoke to me in a surprised voice, "Do I know you?" I replied that, no we do not know each other. "Well why did you speak to me?" It wasn't a thing to do back then. It is an American custom. Poles just weren't used to strangers speaking to them unless they were going to ask for money. The Romanians were all over the place when I was there. Little children forced to play accordians too large for them to hold, dropping them and crying and with a little cup at their feet. I felt very sorry for them, but after a while I learned what the Poles do. You just have to pretend they aren't they. If you have sympathy for them, they will beg until you are broke. They beg with big eyes, and when they are done with you they start playing and running around in circles. Still, they just needed money. And yes, the Poles stuck to their own affairs with tunnel vision. Not a Polish thing, really. It was just the way you had to behave to get by, maybe especially back then.
Havok 10 | 912
1 Nov 2010  #27
ohh yeah, mmm ..... good ol' days
OP michaelmansun 11 | 135
1 Nov 2010  #28
Yes, I know how you feel. The point was that I was losing my humanity. The old woman was pushing her way onto the bus past everyone who was had been waiting. You ever see the film "Dzień SŚwira "? That is how I felt back then. Standing in line at the stores. Let's say you are second in line, well the others just form another line off to the side and push their way ahead of you. Or you are in a resturant waiting to be seated. Your table just comes open and someone walks in the door at the same moment and just walk straight to your table. I could have written that story. I could have played the leading role in that film.

It can be the same everywhere. That is true.

One other thing about those days in Krakow. The air was really poor. The pollution had your head spinning and your lungs burning. I think part of my problem was oxygen deprivation. When it snowed, it would all turn black within hours. Drivers never paid any attention to pedestrians. You cross the street at your own risk. I used to carry a 2 kilo metal wieght in my coat pocket and pull it out when a car got to close. They got the message and hit the brakes.

I remember one day near McDonalds, there was a guy there all the time selling socks. He would say, "Skarpetki, Tanio Okazja, Polecam" One day I was walking down Florianska and he said it again and again and again. The rumor was that he was selling narcotics. I said, "Narkotyki, Tanio Okazja Polecam" Everyone around me roared with laughter. All Poles, because they knew that was the rumor. And the poor guy was on canes because he was handicapped. I became an ******* for about a year. I absolutely just could not get used to wasting so much time doing things I felt were beneath me for very low money. I had become a real freak. This is when decided it was probably best just to get out of there. Then there was the American guy who attacked me with a knife. He was an exporter of illegal Soviet and Polish war antiques. He was a real drunk who had a reputation for pulling knives. So one day he tried some of that with me. I was ready with a small baton in my pocket. I broke his arm until the bone almost came through the skin. Tow months later, his arm in a cast, he attacked me in the street near the Rynek Glowny, and being trained in street fighting, I broke his nose and dropped him to the ground with one punch. Another time he attacked me in a movie theatre with a hook knife and I stuck him between the eyes with the metal end of an umbrella.

Those first two years were the most bizarre of my life. I guess that is why I resolved to write a book about the entire experience. There are so many odd stories. The homosexual professor, Wladyslaw, at UJ who invited me for a private meeting in Przygorzaly, and being robbed by some Russians be had living out there with him. The Ukrainian mafia run in when I was with my friend from Holland who had a bar in the center. The guy in the long trench coat from Syria or wherever, who stood around in the Rynek Glowny selling cocaine, who tried to cheat me out of 800 zloty for a mobile phone because he thought I was a stupid tourist, and now spends all his time in the little casino near the center. Sitting behind one of the Turkish cafes selling cocaine, and playing with his knife to intimidate me, which I obviously wasn't intimidated by that time. In fact, I took his watch and gave it to a bum in the street who was asking for money. Value at that time about 400 zloty.

It goes on like that. And all in about two to three years. Of course I would write about it. It was a magical time. Never boring. Always something insane happening. It could make a maniac out of anybody.
delphiandomine 83 | 17,625
1 Nov 2010  #29
Great piece of fiction, reminds me of one of Andy McNab's books which was set in Estonia in the late 1990's. The atmosphere also reminds me of one book by Dick Francis, set in Moscow in the 1980's.
Spaceman77 3 | 58
1 Nov 2010  #30
I think he was just high and felt he wanted to write about what he felt at the time, but for some reason, I liked reading it.

The thing is... There is a little bit of him in everyone of us. Specially if you are trying to fit in in some distant land.

I wish his experience was a pleasant one, but it sounds like he was bored of the "Back-then-Poland" and who can blame him.

P.S.: He shouldn't have laugh about the woman who felt down the bus. That was the only thing I didn't like about his "memoir". Even a soul-less person would feel bad.


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