- Posted June 4, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Eye on Poland
The Polish party spirit
Other international students report different experiences, but Poles have been almost invariably kind, friendly and a bit curious towards me. Some invite me over to practice their English and offer me dinner, wine and insights into Polish politics, economy and future prospects (I am studying international relations). Others, complete strangers, have gone out of their way to help me find the right train in a station devoid of English-speaking staff, or made my train journey much more fun by talking to me for the duration. Despite our differences in language and culture, I feel that Poles and I have in common a Catholic upbringing and a simultaneous love of partying, public displays of affection and vodka. Besides their food and drinks, they have shared with me their laughter (and sometimes raucous sense of humor), their life stories and their homes - I spent Easter with a Polish family I had never met before, and they treated me as if I were a relative, despite the large language barrier. Also, most Poles I have gone out with and seen out in town do love to dance, so much that some fail to notice the people around them and keep bumping into them while gliding across the dance floor.
I have not detected the pessimism and constant complaining I have heard attributed to Poles. I have detected, however, that many I have talked to don't realize the beauty of their country. They wonder how, and why, I ended up in Poland. I tell them the truth: I got a scholarship that brought me here. I didn't know much about Poland before, but thought it would be nice to learn a new language and savor a different culture. I have largely failed at the first task (it's a difficult language and I was shamefully lazy in this respect), but have definitely succeeded at the second one. I will sorely miss Poland and its people when I leave, and not just because of the cheap good food and drinks and the constant partying, but because somehow it feels like home - although, admittedly, I'm not part of mainstream society since I only know a few words in Polish. Also, I don't have a job besides doing research, and that isolates me from the daily grind Poles go through. It also isolates me that I don't share any of their history - I wasn't around during communism and don't have Polish relatives that I know of.
This does not preclude me from appreciating what Polish people have overcome. Going to the places where their history unfolded - Auschwitz, Wawel Royal Castle, Westerplatte - and visiting the museums telling their story - such as the Warsaw Uprising Museum and Wroclaw's Raclawice Panorama - I have come to deeply admire their resilience and fighting spirit. Their country has been squeezed between Germany and Russia, both great powers hungry for Polish territory from time to time, but through the partitions, invasions and destruction, the Poles have put up a fierce fight and never given up even when the odds were overwhelmingly against them. Their country has come back on the map, a lot more whole and with a lot more prospects for wealth and development than in a few centuries.
The well-manicured city centers do not mirror the level of development in much of the rest of Poland, but the country has come a long way in terms of infrastructure, rebuilding and rehabilitation. Hopefully the European Cup, which Poland is co-hosting with the Ukraine in June, as well as Wroclaw's election as the European Culture Capital for 2016, will have lasting effects in bringing more tourism and investments to Poland and motivating local authorities to keep building and improving beyond their duration.
So come by and meet the Poles - they'd be happy to have you.