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My impressions on Poland I: The People, Politics, The Countryside and Infrastructure


vdondera
16 Sep 2011  #1

My impressions on Poland, part one



The 1930s guidebook I browsed before the trip described Poland as 'nothing particular apart from being the gateway to Russia'. The defining features would be the German and Russian (tsarist, not soviet) architecture, poor and uneducated people and - here the guidebook was a bit anti-semitic - powerful Jewish community, practically ruling over the major swaths of land. Today, in 2011 things have changed a little - though the Jews are practically extinct.

The People

I speak four languages at least good enough to form sentences. Most of the Poles don't even understand English - a necessity in the modern world. Most of the time, I could count on Miroslaw, my interpreter, host and excellent friend - but even then many Poles were too afraid to even answer simple questions. In a small town near Wroclaw a middle-aged gentleman with a walrus mustache answered to Mirek's question about the museum thusly: "Aeeeeyyyeeeeh". At first I thought that was Polish for "No, thank you", but later on I learned that, though very common it in fact meant "go away, you annoying little person" in the universal language of grunts. When I explored Warsaw on my own literally one single person over the age of 40 dared to answer me in English.

It's no wonder the Poles aren't famous for their hippie movements - the youth, though talented and resourceful are incapable of defying their elders. That's the reason why the Church has been dominating the country for millennia, or why the seats in trams are to be exclusively used by the elderly. The revolution of 89 was conducted by serious-minded forty year olds - because the sixty-year-olds were comfortable with the status quo and the twenty-year-olds genetically had to obey. Middle-aged is apparently the quintessential Polish age. With this obedience goes the Polish school system - I imagine that there are very few Pink Floyd fans in Poland.

Customer service stinks on ice. Mirek explained to me that in Communist times the store did not depend on the customer as the source of income - they received wares each month from the supplier, and they'd sell regardless of service. But, and that was not the first nor the last time I cried, exasperated - that was thirty years ago! I truly can't understand how the phantom of Stalin can still force the Polish salesman to stare dumb and said "do it yourself".

Some people claim that that Poles do not show emotion - it's wrong, they only don't like strangers (which is perfectly understandable given their history). My friends and their friends, as well as the various people became the paragons of politeness and friendliness... once we knew each other's names. Once you get past this barrier (which was to me a very formal act) you've graduated from "suspicious foreigner" to "trusted acquaintance".

Politics

I had the pleasure to meet both the President of Poland, Bronislav Komorovski, and the leader of opposition, Mr Kaczynski.
Komorowksi, to be honest, reminded me of a jovial uncle, or a doddering fool. I could not understand how the Poles could've elected such a buffoon... until I met the alternative.

Mr Kaczynski does not know English but (I was involved with Euro 2012 preparations) by Mirek's translation eagerly informed me that his party was attempting to purge the corruption from the football league and in fact is responsible for the Euro 2012 organization - two facts I didn't need to hear (I don't even look Polish - I'm a Latin American, originally from Chile), and as Mirek informed me, were both bold-faced lies. In person, Kaczynski seemed like a cartoon character brought to life - but understandably also he seemed like a nervous wreck.

I honestly think that the plane crash that killed his twin brother was not a coincidence, and I understand that he could genuinely fear for his life - but I expect that he'll leave the country if he loses the upcoming election.

Frankly, the Polish TV (my hosts, like many American families often left the TV running in the background) devotes too much time to politics and politicians. The "public" TV is actually a propaganda tool of the government, and private stations tend to have agendas of their own. The two major parties aren't really that different (like in the US), yet they constantly bicker.

What surprises me is how smoothly the revolutionaries of 1989 seem to agree with the ex-Communist. Despite his anti-communist stance Kaczenski party seems to contain a lot of former communists. Pragmaticism or genuine reconciliation?

The Countryside and Infrastructure

I'm used to much southern climates, and felt depressed by the rainy and stormy Polish summer. Still, the polish countryside would be beautiful - if not for random communist sheds or unfinished (EU?) investments. There are people living in conditions worse than, say, favelas in Brazil, with walls strengthened by fruit crates - while the cities are also full of empty buildings, and the countryside is dotted by abandoned factories. It's terrible.

The Public Transportation system is brilliant. Even in the smaller cities like Rzeszow or Balystok the buses were new, shiny, on time, and only occasionally overcrowded. And yet Poles complain about it. I didn't have much experience with cross-country buses and trains but people told me that they were much much worse.

Polish Police is underfunded and overworked. I don't understand why the Poles invest so much money in their military (who it'd fight?) and skimp on the Police. That has to change.
isthatu2 4 | 2,708
16 Sep 2011  #2
There are people living in conditions worse than, say, favelas in Brazil, with walls strengthened by fruit crates

lols, another dumb mistaking allotment sheds for houses..............

I imagine that there are very few Pink Floyd fans in Poland

Oh, pl easee ,give over with you you plum....

Most of the Poles don't even understand English

lols,the oldies maybe dont,whys should they,do you speak Polish?no,you dont you arogant nob,you used an translator...

hahahahahahaha. what a heap of steaming bull sh!t..............." I used my 1930s guidebook".............oh, FFS, who are ya, frikkin Frank Sinatra in that New York New York musical? :):):)

Tell you what though ,when chille is perfect and youve hung all the fascist bastards come back and speak again....
Palivec - | 380
16 Sep 2011  #3
Most of the Poles don't even understand English - a necessity in the modern world.

In Europe it's common to learn a few sentences of the local language. Makes people smile and incredibly helpful. Going to a foreign country and expecting the people to speak English is simply arrogant.

lols, another dumb fekker mistaking allotment sheds for houses..............

Ever been to Wałbrzych?
hythorn 3 | 580
16 Sep 2011  #4
I am fascinated by your report.
Please provide your address and I will pay for a subscription of Razzle magazine for you
hague1cmaeron 14 | 1,377
16 Sep 2011  #5
vdondera

I honestly think that the plane crash that killed his twin brother was not a coincidence

This once sentence alone illustrates the ridiculousness of the rest of the observations.

The 1930s guidebook

Why would you browse a 1930's guidebook for a country in the 21st century?

Russian (tsarist, not soviet) architecture

Quite funny,ever been to Russia?

Today, in 2011 things have changed a little

Just a little-really?
shinga
16 Sep 2011  #6
browsing an 80-year old book before visiting a country shows your attitude and makes me not really interested in your 'impressions". It's like going to USA and expecting the apartheid.
hague1cmaeron 14 | 1,377
16 Sep 2011  #7
too afraid to even answer simple questions.

Really? Perhaps they don't like conversing with an idiot from a country on the ass side of the world by the name of Chile-just a thought.

Latin American

Coming from Latin America, you have honestly got to have some cheek.

Have you ever actually read a history book about Poland, or done any research at all about the country before embarking on your trip? It's only a rhetorical question by the way.
mische 1 | 14
16 Sep 2011  #8
There are people living in conditions worse than, say, favelas in Brazil

oh, really? Can you name polish village that you think is worse than the brasilian slums?
Ironside 47 | 9,574
16 Sep 2011  #9
My impressions on your impressions : :D
a.k.
16 Sep 2011  #10
There are people living in conditions worse than, say, favelas in Brazil, with walls strengthened by fruit crates

I wonder if you mean by any chance ogródki działkowe? These are areas with small gardens and little sheds, people doesn't live there. They are just recreational areas.

"Aeeeeyyyeeeeh". At first I thought that was Polish for "No, thank you"

Or maybe just "I don't know". If people say eeeeeeeee, yyyyyyyyy it's like American ammmmmmmmm, a sound which people make when they think :) Aaaaaaa on the other hand means uh-huh!

Most of the Poles don't even understand English - a necessity in the modern world.

Most older Poles don't understand English that's right. Younger Poles are better at this point but not necessarily can hold a conversation in English.

I truly can't understand how the phantom of Stalin can still force the Polish salesman to stare dumb and said "do it yourself".

IMO the real reason is that those tellers earn usually little money.

rainy and stormy Polish summer.

That's right, the summer this year was exceptionally awful. Hopely in general summers in Poland are slightly better.

Regards to you, and I hope if you ever was to visit Poland again your impression would be much better :)
poland_
16 Sep 2011  #11
Poles aren't famous for their hippie movements

Przystanek Woodstock (Polish for "Woodstock Station"; English-language materials often refer simply to the Woodstock Festival) is an annual free rock music festival in Poland, inspired by and named for the Woodstock Festival, that has taken place since 1995. Since the 11th festival, its organizers have called Przystanek Woodstock "the biggest open-air festival in Europe". The festival's motto is "Love, Friendship, and Music."

en.wosp.org.pl/woodstock_festival

"Aeeeeyyyeeeeh"
pip 10 | 1,661
16 Sep 2011  #12
this post is so funny it is sad- and so wrong. when did communism end? according to you 30 years ago, you might want to revisit that number. once the wall fell- everything didn't turn bright green and full of happy people. it takes time. my father in law still thinks Poland is communist and he lives in Canada- and has for 23 years. you can't erase a peoples history.

almost everything you have written is so off base- is this some sort of joke?
southern 76 | 7,103
16 Sep 2011  #13
Poland is the best slavic country after germanization of CR.And slavic countries are the best in my taste.Only black spot in Poland are the PKP individuals.
Richfilth 6 | 415
16 Sep 2011  #14
While I don't agree with the impressions the OP took with him, I can completely understand how he arrived at them. Superficially, Poland does still present itself as a backwards country of walrus moustaches and bad customer service.

To be honest, if I had only spent a week here and had to meet Kaczynski during that time, I'd leave with a bad taste in my mouth too. It's just a shame you didn't get to see the other, better side of the country, that isn't related to politics or infrastructure.

As for these sorts of comments:

do you speak Polish?no,you dont you arogant nob,you used an translator..

Polish is not an international language. English is one of, if not THE, important language for international communication. I don't say that with pride, it's just a fact. If Poland WANTS to attract more foreigners (and their money) it will have to change this ridiculous attitude of "no, YOU learn POLISH." When you went on holiday to Egypt, did you learn Arabic first?
MyMom 6 | 137
16 Sep 2011  #15
my father in law still thinks Poland is communist

socialist would be a better word
pip 10 | 1,661
16 Sep 2011  #16
well, he is 65- lived till he was 45 in Sopot. He can call it whatever he wants.

but out of curiosity why do you think that Poland was socialist and not communist?
MyMom 6 | 137
16 Sep 2011  #17
but out of curiosity why do you think that Poland was socialist and not communist?

I do think Poland IS socialist. Redistribution of income, welfare system, state owned enterprises, priviliages for certain professional groups, heavy employment law accompanied with fiscal discrimination of those who work for themselves, government subsides, etc. Still, there are more socialist countries in EU than Poland.

Regarding the time before 1989 - I don't really want to engage in the discussion about terminology here.
pip 10 | 1,661
16 Sep 2011  #18
I know what socialism is. I am Canadian- I appreciate it and support it much like my European cousins. You sound like an American spouting the evils of socialism. complete crap. have a look at the world- are countries with socialist aspects like Sweden, Canada, Germany or Australia going through the same crisis as the U.S? U.S is in a complete sh1thole at the moment.

As for being anti socialist- your library, public parks, pools, roads, bridges and many more are all socialist programs, maybe you are not aware.
Wroclaw 44 | 5,389
16 Sep 2011  #19
I wonder if you mean by any chance ogródki działkowe?

some of those places are solid brick and used as day time summer houses. the odd one or two are quite posh !
MyMom 6 | 137
16 Sep 2011  #20
Current USA problems have nothing to do with it not being socialist enough.
Also had a chat with some Swedes and Germans, ambitious, young enterpreneurs - they all said the taxes were killing them. Maybe if you are a social parasite...

The socialism in Poland pretty much amounts to: some groups are privileged, while others are left to themselves or even discriminated against, all according to political agendas. That's your socialist paradise in practice.
joepilsudski 26 | 1,391
16 Sep 2011  #21
I imagine that there are very few Pink Floyd fans in Poland.

Well, there is a DVD of a very beautiful concert that David Gilmour & Rick Wright did in Gdansk...There were certainly a lot of Poles at that particular concert.
a.k.
16 Sep 2011  #22
I forgot to comment on this:

Frankly, the Polish TV (my hosts, like many American families often left the TV running in the background) devotes too much time to politics and politicians.

There will be elections to the parliment in October.
pip 10 | 1,661
16 Sep 2011  #23
The socialism in Poland pretty much amounts to: some groups are privileged, while others are left to themselves or even discriminated against, all according to political agendas. That's your socialist paradise in practice.

sounds like a comparable situation is happening in the u.s. and not a socialist to be found. they call themselves "capitalists"

I am not going to argue with you. But you don't live here do you? You heard from somebody that this is how life is. The fact is- in this country everybody has access to healthcare regardless of income. I am not talking about politics- because no matter what party you follow there are always as$holes in the bunch.

you have to be kidding "some groups are privileged, while others are left to themselves or even discriminated against, all according to political agendas." this is the u.s to the letter- this is the very core of America.

Any well run country requires its citizens to pay taxes. otherwise is impossible. in return you get health care and other social systems that actually help the people of the country. any well run country also has aspects of socialism. you don't hear a lot of problems in Scandinavian countries- their taxes are higher, but they get other things in return- two years maternity leave and health care comes to mind. Plus a lot of other benefits.

America is for the wealthy. Unfortunately the middle class make up the majority of its citizens and they are suffering the most at this moment.
MyMom 6 | 137
16 Sep 2011  #24
Well, there is a DVD of a very beautiful concert that David Gilmour & Rick Wright did in Gdansk...There were certainly a lot of Poles at that particular concert.

Look at this:
lp3.polskieradio.pl/topnotowanie/
That's the most famous Polish all times hit chart (of radio channel 3) - compiled based on the votes from listeners. There are 5 Pink Floyd songs in the top 20.
a.k.
16 Sep 2011  #25
MyMom
joepilsudski

I think that vdondera by saying that seemingly Pink Floyd aren't popular here was really meant to be a metaphor for lack of nonconformism... You took it so literally :D
MyMom 6 | 137
16 Sep 2011  #26
But you don't live here do you? You heard from somebody that this is how life is.

I do live in Poland, you on the other hand comment on the situation in both Poland and USA, while at the same time you said you are Canadian...

The fact is- in this country everybody has access to healthcare regardless of income.

Jesus Christ. People are waiting months (not 2, 3 months - more like 6-10 months) to get an appointment with a specialist when they are seriously ill. That's the idea of a public healthcare in a poor country.

you have to be kidding "some groups are privileged, while others are left to themselves or even discriminated against, all according to political agendas." this is the u.s to the letter- this is the very core of America.

So in both systems, capitalism and socialism, there are privileged groups. Looks like former Warsaw pact countries are a bit behind despite this apparent similarity to the USA.

you don't hear a lot of problems in Scandinavian countries- their taxes are higher, but they get other things in return- two years maternity leave and health care comes to mind. Plus a lot of other benefits.

I do hear a lot of complaints from Scandinavians. Especially those who are ambitious and entrepreneurial, those who finance that socialist paradise.

America is for the wealthy. Unfortunately the middle class make up the majority of its citizens and they are suffering the most at this moment.

Funny how we virtually have no middle class in Poland, at least not according to American standards. BTW go to some small town in lubelskie and ask people how many of them make "średnia krajowa" (country's average pay).
pawian 153 | 8,405
16 Sep 2011  #27
hahahahahahaha. what a heap of steaming bull sh!t..............." I used my 1930s guidebook"............

Well, just a provocation which contains a grain of truth but also a lot of BS, indeed.

But it is humorous at least. :):):):)

E.g.,

The Public Transportation system is brilliant.

:):):):):):):)

I wonder where the guy comes from that he/she thinks so. The Antarctic where he/she uses dog sleds only? ):):):):)
a.k.
16 Sep 2011  #28
Well, just a provocation

how do you know that?
joepilsudski 26 | 1,391
16 Sep 2011  #29
I think that vdondera by saying that seemingly Pink Floyd aren't popular here was really meant to be a metaphor for lack of nonconformism...

I understand what he was saying, but I think he was being silly...As far as music, there is a whole series on YouTube of the history of rock music in Poland from the 60s thru the 80s, in other words, throughout the communist era...I forget what it is called, but it is quite good, with a lot of footage of Polish musicians, and certainly these musicians were not mindless conformists.

I think many Westerners who visit Eastern European countries are spoiled by the plethora of material junk in the West, and can't really understand the spirit of those who lived through communism...They are quick to judge and underestimate people who lived through a different system.
pawian 153 | 8,405
16 Sep 2011  #30
how do you know that?

I am intelligent. ):):):)

When I read sth like this:

I speak four languages at least good enough to form sentences. Most of the Poles don't even understand English

I smell a rat.

Don`t you? :):):)


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