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Saturday, 04 March, 2006

Impressions Of Poland
(with comments)

This week, the country up for discussion is Poland.

For some reason, Poland has become the butt of thousands of jokes. Once again, I'm surprised by the size of this country -- "slightly smaller than New Mexico."


  1. By William Tell. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @08:31am:
    In 1939 Adolf Hitler said the place was crawling with (jewish) terrorists, and as a matter of national security, Germany was forced to invade. That tripped the British-French declaration of war, and we had WWII (called the European war at the time). Hummmm... what does this remind me of?
  2. By Mean Jean. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @08:33am:
    Martha Stewart is Polish.
  3. By doc. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @08:41am:
    Meathead was polish.
  4. By doc. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @08:46am:
    "Having regard for the existence and future of our Homeland,
    Which recovered, in 1989,....." from the first line of the Polish Constitution. Recovered from whom?
  5. By J-Walk. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @08:57am:
    My mother was part Polish, so that makes me part Polish.
  6. By susan. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @09:03am:
    I'm full-blood, so watch what you say.
  7. By Pancho. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @09:09am:
    Compared to western european cities, Warsaw is drab. The streets are dirty and potholed. Very few people speak english, and they seem a bit reluctant to smile. I doubt I'd go on vacation. On the other hand, folks are very upbeat about their country and their prospects in the EU. They have very competitive labor rates and great access to both major Western and Easter European markets. Great place for business.

    By the way, for a very easy and entertaining taste of Poland's history and heritage, Michener's novel is very good.
  8. By john beardsworth. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @09:19am:
    That's one country I don't think we (Brits) have ever bombed or invaded. Can't be many of those.
  9. By Birdie. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @09:28am:
    Two bits of Poland in my family, for what it's worth
    :
    My Uncle was Polish, and when he realized that my German Aunt had a propensity for finding the worst in a situation, he'd laugh and call her what sounded like "Ma-run-sek"...a Polish word that meant complainer or whiner, he said. It usually snapped her out of it.

    The family I married into came over from Poland and changed their name at Ellis Island. Evidently, the original name had two or three Z's in it, and was judged too hard for America. What they came up with now ends in "-sky" to appear Russian, rather than "-ski", which would have left no doubt they were Polish.
  10. By meg_mac. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @09:57am:
    are we forgetting Lech Valenza?? probably the most important voice of freedom to ring out in our life time!
  11. By William Tell. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @10:01am:
    pancho: If you want streets with no pot holes, and smiling people who speak english, perhaps you should stay in the state/continent you grew up, and live, in.

    Personally, I like to experience the pot holes and the non speakers of the English language. That is why I travel.
  12. By Emwu. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @10:02am:
    Birdie,

    "Ma-run-sek" - could it be "marudziarz" (pronounced, roughly, "mah-roo-jash")?. And the "-sky" endings in last names could also indicate the Jewish origin, at least in America.
  13. By Carter. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @10:30am:
    Pope John Paul II who died less than a year ago was the first Polish pope and the first non-Italian pope since the 16th century.
  14. By Pancho. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @10:30am:
    William, have you a bit of a hangover this morn? Missed you last night.

    I, too, value the different experiences when visiting other countries. Potholes and garbage are correlated with a country's wealth. With the business enthusiasm I saw there, Poland will soon leave those behind.

    Smiles are the same in any language and, strangely enough, they are correlated with my enjoyment of a place.
  15. By Birdie. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @10:30am:
    Emwu,
    My uncle died in 1974, so I can't ask him....does 'marudziarz' mean about the same thing?
    (He may have been playing with the word, too--or double teasing her with her own mis-pronunciation of it...lol)
    About the family name...only repeating what they told me. Another family who arrived at the same time just shortened their 13 letter name and ended up with Nodo.Ugh.
    THIS way worked better for the "-sky's".

    ;^)
  16. By William Tell. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @10:45am:
    Pancho: I decided to stay sober for a month or two, and see if my belly reduced in size. Initially I measured the circumcision, then a doctor friend did a fat analysis, and my wife, the physicist, divided speed and mass and came up with energy. Anyway, I just want to get rid of my belly, so no beer or alcohol for me for a few months. I need to get in shape.

    Sorry if I was a bit rude, but your post sounded pretty stupid :)
  17. By jestem. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @10:52am:
    I've been to Warsaw countless times and don't think I've seen a pothole. Of course, I'm ususally walking along the streets and not driving on them. I have done some driving and plenty of riding in other cars and buses. . . It IS quite drab though. The buildings are still a majority from the post WW2 communist build-up. And they are getting quite dingy. And the older buildings are often very dingy and bullet-holed. But there is a lot of new construction changing the city. And one thing I've always loved about Warsaw (there is much I like), is the great amount of greenspace. They love their parks. Big and small. Lots of parks and lots of people walking through them.

    They also have great vodka & meats (especially the hams and cured sausages).
  18. By Lonestar. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @10:55am:
    I lived in Poland for a year in the 70s as a teenager. This was when it was still considered to be "behind the iron curtain."

    It was a blast for my brothers and I, but I do think it was a tad hard on my mother. Finding even basic things like toilet paper was a luxury. I learned the real reason people keep old newspapers in the bathroom while in Poland. ;-)

    The thing I remember the most is all the destruction from the war that was still evident and widely spread. My parents even took us to see Treblinka.
  19. By Thrash Cardiom. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @11:05am:
    Meg_mac: Lech Walesa is the chappie you are thinking of. He is an important figure but no more so than others who have done similar things such a Mandela and Ghandi.

    A little known fact is that Poland is known for its intravenous drug users inventing a method of extracting heroin from opiate based drugs. The method was known as "The Polish Method" in Europe.
  20. By meg_mac. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @11:32am:
    THRASH.. thanks for the correct spelling. i was thinking in terms of the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. no argument with you on Ghandi and Mandela!! but of course they weren't Polish !
  21. By Adrian. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @11:59am:
    Poland, a country with a great history. The only true US ally in Europe yet it is so mislabelled at all times. I visited Poland three times and I enjoyed my stay there. My family memebers from Guam and Puerto Rico came with me and we had a great time. Pleasant people, great food, lots of awesome places to see.
  22. By Tombraider. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @12:06pm:
    William Tell - you measured your circumcision without telling us the circumference of it? Do tell!
    One thing I know about Poland involves Katyn Forest - the Polish officer corps and cavalry were well-known as the best in the world (you would want to be careful telling Polish jokes around the likes of those warriors) so the Red Army craftily massacred those they had captured and then blamed it on the Nazis. My Dad took a little trip into Poland years ago (he also got to visit Italy and Germany on the same tour - all while getting paid by the Army.)
  23. By Lonestar. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @12:17pm:
    I dug out some of my Dad's old photos from Poland!

    Check out this photo of my mother and my brothers and I at Mjdanek. I'm the guy half-way up the stairs on the right. This is a mausoleum built at Mjdanek that contains some 70 tons of human ash and remains.

    The inscription at the top says, "Our fate is a warning to you," or something like that.

    mkdanek7ai.jpg7
  24. By Kevin H. Stecyk. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @01:04pm:
    One of my favorite photographers in Flickr is Agnieszka from Poland.

    You can see her and her photos here: Agnieszka. While there, be sure to look at her photos groups of Auschwitz - Memoriam, Cracow, John Paul II - A Tribute, and Glimpses of Poland.

    Hope you enjoy.
  25. By Lonestar. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @01:10pm:
    Those are awesome photos Kevin!
  26. By El-Roy. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @02:48pm:
    Polka music - Polska Kielbasa - Names like Przybyszewski (Pronounced Shu-ber-shev-ski). The only guy I've met from Poland was named Jerzy and was born in a nazi concentration camp. He looked like Larry Fine of the 3 stooges.
  27. By Andie. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @04:09pm:
    Kevin,
    Thanks. I checked out the Auschwitz photos. They make quite an impression.
  28. By fancypants. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @05:03pm:
    Pancho, I have to second that Michener suggestion. It is a great and entertaining history lesson.
  29. By deaudonnee. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @05:04pm:
    I read somewhere, probably in a Uris book, that the Polish cavalry took on the German army when Germany invaded. Pretty brave.
  30. By Mean Jean. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @05:08pm:
    I think that was at Katyn Forest.
  31. By Trev. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @06:37pm:
    The Polish fighter squadrons during the Battle of Britain had the greatest reputation for fierce dogfighting amongst all the squadrons, and all of the other nations squadrons were great, so that speaks a ton for the Polish warrior.
  32. By Mary. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @07:59pm:
    I had a good friend whose family hid out in the forest through an entire winter to avoid the Nazis; in the end, they were found and taken to a concentration camp, except for my friend and his younger brother, who escaped. All the family perished except the two boys. My friend never went back to Poland, although he retained great love for his country and told many stories of very, very brave people and after reading Leon Uris and Michener, I think bravery is just part of the character of the Polish people. Hitler wanted EVERY Pole exterminated, Jew and non-Jew alike; very few went down without a fight.

    One other thing he told me is that when he was young, children were taught about wild mushrooms and wild plants just as a normal part of their upbringing. He introduced me to the wild mushroom - and to many of the wonders of space (he was an astronomer), and he was a great teacher.
  33. By meg_mac. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @09:17pm:
    MARY... i had forgotten this book until your story jogged my memory. its an amazing story of love and survival during ww11 in Poland. 'In a World Gone Mad'

    http://amyhillhearth.com/work4.htm
  34. By Pawel. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @10:09pm:
    A very important, although not widely known, Polish contribution to the Allied victory in World War II has been the breaking of the secret German Engima code by three mathematicians from Polish Cipher Bureau, few weeks before the war started. Poland gave the replicas of the Engima Machine to the British and French. The success of the Polish mathematicians made the war shorter and could have even changed the outcome.
  35. By Daniel. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @10:12pm:
    If the people in Poland are called 'Poles', why aren't the people in Holland called the 'Holes'?
  36. By Ronx. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @10:23pm:
    http://www.swulinski.com/travels/JerseyCity.html
    http://www.swulinski.com/travels/show/JerseyCity-show.html?2

    In school, we were taught that the gathering and massacre of Polish intellectuals intentionally left Poland without intellectuals and leaders for a generation and was the root of Polish jokes implying Polish people had no intellect.

    A monument containing the ashes of 15,000 intellectuals who were murdered in Katyn Forest during World War II is across the Hudson River, in Jersey City, ironically in the shadow of the World Trade Center Towers.
  37. By Ronx. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @10:25pm:
    The Katyn Forest massacre was reminiscent of Pol Pot in Cambodia and part of a brutal thread that has and continues to run through human history. The question, I guess, is which side of current social pogroms are we a part of, and if being a victim once automatically grants you a future right to be the aggressor? Also, can a holocaust morally be ignored? What about Chad and the Sudan?

    By the way, when you did the states, you followed up the next day with a “what I learned.” Why don’t you do that with the countries?
  38. By meg_mac. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @10:32pm:
    ronx.. all good and important questions
  39. By Mary. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @10:36pm:
    Thank you, meg_mac - I'll add that to my library list. When I first met Wieslaw, I read several books about Poland and WWII, but it's been many years now. I'll definitely enjoy this one.

    The parents of one of my friends in high school had been incarcerated in the camps and it seems to me that her father was from Poland, but I'm not sure what area; both parents and her grandmother had the tattoos on their forearms. My friend was 6 years old before she was reunited with her parents. Her father taught me to polka (or at least he tried to). They were pleasant, successful people, yet there was always a black hole of something disturbing there and I was many years older before I understood enough to figure out what it was.

    The holocaust was horrific; there is no doubt. However, we would be wise to recognize that virtually the same things are going on right now to other people - who are also human beings and not disposable.

    Just my two cents.
  40. By Ronx. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @10:38pm:
    Mean Jean,

    Katyn Forest is in Russia and it wasn't a battle, but a massacre by the Stalinist Russians. I know about the massacre because I was just on a High School field trip to the monument.
  41. By Mary. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @10:38pm:
    "The question, I guess, is which side of current social pogroms are we a part of, and if being a victim once automatically grants you a future right to be the aggressor?"

    Therein lies the $64,000 question.
  42. By Pawel. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @10:40pm:
    Have you heard a joke about Polish mine detector?
    As a matter of fact, a Polish officer invented the first practical electronic mine detector that was used by the British during World War II.
  43. By Mary. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @10:55pm:
    Those massacred at Katyn were Poles, however.
  44. By meg_mac. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @10:59pm:
    MARY... sadly this has been at the crux of my questioning of US government and some of its allies.
  45. By Ronx. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @11:04pm:
    A quote from the memorial table: Katyn 1940 - "... a treasury of lies, Stalinist and Poststalinist, a subterfuge by governments, international commissions, writers - a treasury of infamy"

    "This monument is dedicated to the memory of 15,400 Polish officers, intellectual leaders, and prisoners of war brutally massacred by Soviet N.K.V.D. in spring 1940 and buried in mass graves in the Katyn forest near Smolensk and other undisclosed sites in the Soviet Union."
  46. By Pawel. Comment posted 04-Mar-2006 @11:11pm:
    The Katyn massacre was not the worst in term of numbers but it was one of the biggest lies of the twentieth century. Soviets had denied it for almost 50 years while Western politicians kept quiet not to provoke the Soviet Union.

    What is going on with Chechenia right now?
  47. By Mean Jean. Comment posted 05-Mar-2006 @07:27am:
    Who's Polish? http://www.shef.ac.uk/uni/projects/pc/page24.html

    Copernicus, Dr. Sabin and Roman Polanski to name a few.
  48. By emwu. Comment posted 05-Mar-2006 @12:10pm:
    Birdie,

    About "marudziarz": Yes, this is exactly the meaning of this word - in English, "grumbler" or "grouch".

    Polish names usually did get massacred in their conversion to English. For example, "Zabriskie" was originally spelled "Zebrzydowski" (pronounced "Zeh-bshi-DOV-ski", an ancient Polish noble family.) But, hey, Polish is a difficult language.
    By the way, would you like to try the famous Polish tongue-twister:
    "Chrzaszcz brzmi w trzcinie w Szczebrzeszynie"?

    As for Katyn, an interesting thing about it is that, even after Gorbachev admitted the Soviet guilt, nobody involved into this massacre ever got punished (one of its main architects, Molotov, just died peacefully in his bed.) At present, some politicians in Russia even deny that it has ever happened! This stands in stark contrast to the Holocaust.

    Best books on Polish history have been written by Norman Davies. A very good novel about the Polish participation in WW2 is Alan Furst's
    "The Polish officer".
  49. By Ned. Comment posted 05-Mar-2006 @02:29pm:
    A lot of what is now Poland was primarily German, mostly in the northern and western parts. Gdansk was Danzig, Szczecin was Stettin, &c.

    When WWII ended, Soviet troops, seeking revenge, set up the Polish state with its current boundaries, and brutalized the Germans that lived there. Women were raped, a couple of million (here I'm including the Germans that lived throughout Eastern Europe) were murdered, and the overall effect was ethnic cleansing.

    What was done to the ethnic Germans in this region was despicable, and is one of the democides that has been largely ignored.
  50. By A.L. Fransen. Comment posted 05-Mar-2006 @03:37pm:
    The northern part of Poland actually used to be Prussia (wel, the Duchy of Prussia), the rest of poland has been part of Prussia for some time as well. So, a part of Poland is quite German...
    Other factoid: Russia didn't free Poland in WWII, It occupied East Poland (in 1939)(and murdered a lot of Military), Deliberately misled Warsaw freedomfighters to rise against Germany, and then not help them, then occupied the rest of Poland until about 1980...Prussia and Russia allready invaded Poland 1n 1780, and occupied it till 1900 or so. If I was Polish, I think I wouldn't trust Germans or Russians...
  51. By emwu. Comment posted 05-Mar-2006 @05:03pm:
    Ned,

    You are absolutely right about the plight of the civilian German population in 1945 in what is now the western and (partly) northern Poland. These lands were given to the Poles in a forced exchange for the eastern Borderlands (mostly what is now the Ukraine and Belarus.)
    Thanks you, Messr. Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt!

    A. L. Fransen,

    To give this info a bit of historical structure: the old Poland - also known as the First Republic - underwent three partitions, in 1772 (Russia, Prussia, Austria), 1793 (only Prussia and Russia) and 1795 (all three powers again). A relatively small area became independent under Napoleon from 1807 to 1813 (officially to 1815) as the Duchy of Warsaw. The Republic of Cracow - just the city and environs - had been independent between 1815 and 1848. Other than that, Poland did not exist for 123 years (1795-1918).
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