Thursday, June 01, 2006

Poland Through a Train Window

Poland is still gray. That's the one impression that hits hard as I sit on a train to Warsaw after visiting my family by the Czech and German border (It's soooo damn far from Warsaw). The country, at least outside of the main cities, is still depressed (maybe the unseasonably cold weather is contributing to my mood). I am now passing through the mining region, even more depressed than most parts. Many of the buildings have not been painted for decades, it seems. Of course, just as I write this, I look out the window and see a 'makro' wholesale store and plenty of billboards. Of course, in this grayness Poland is moving forward, in many ways by leaps and bounds.

My short time with the relatives here was, as always, eye-opening. One side of my family seems to be stuck in the past, the other seems to be moving with the times. On one side, it seemed like all I heard about is their ailments, their woes, their struggles to survive from small paycheck to the next. I sympathize because they do have it rough. But even as I tried to change the subject, we just circled back to the same refrains. I love them all, but I can't take too much of this in one dose.

Many Polish families, it seems, are stuck in gray, like some of my relatives. In an opinion piece in today's edition of Polish financial daily Parkiet, Jacek Fudowicz calls many of these folks "homo sovieticus", who complain and reminisce about the past, seeming to forget how things really worked, or didn't work, under the old regime. I know some people like that, but I'm sure that my relatives, who had always opposed the communists, are not longing for the past too much. But there is this lethargy in the air among the citizens of small cities. Not only have they been thought to be passive by the pre-1989 rulers, they have also been disappointed by the corrupt and usually ineffective governments since then.

So a couple more days in Poland and then back to the U.S.

1 comment:

beatroot said...

Good one. Homo sovieticus? of course, You get that in all ex-communist countries. And a new system comes and you lose out then you are going to think that the dull but predictable old regime didn't mess with their jobs etc. And, crucially, there wasn't the inequality back then. Everyone had nothing!