Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ogólnie mam wszystko w dupie

Ludzie, którzy mnie znają dobrze, dobrze wiedzą że ja osobiście mam prawie wszystko w dupie. To po prostu mój styl bycia. Noworoczne postanowienie też w tym roku mam w dupie. Moja “bardzo koleżanka” na firmowej wigilii wiedząc że mam wszystko w dupie powiedziała że można moje postanowienie noworoczne powinno być powiązane z faktem że mam wszystko w dupie. Zgodziłam się z nią ale teraz nie wiem czy w nowym roku jako New Year’s resolution mam mieć więcej rzeczy w dupie czy mniej?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Autobus 133

Mam całe dwa tygodnie wolne od pracy –ok już minęło tydzień. Yipeee. Dwa tygodnie bez chodzenia z dziećmi do szkoły. Dwa tygodnie na wsi z dziećmi. Dwa tygodnie bez potrzeby korzystania z autobusu miejskiego.
Tydzień temu siedziałam na ławce i czekałam na autobus. Przyjechał autobus D. Wysiadł Pan. Pan był lekko zdenerwowany i mocno wybrudzony. Przyszedł do mnie jako jedynej osoby, która czekała na autobus…
Czy już był 133 (czyli sto trzydzieści trzy) bo nie chciałem jechać D tylko 133.
Jeszcze nie.
W tej chwili (przy wymowie sto trzydzieści trzy) zauważyłam że Panu z autobus D brakowało około 8 zębów z przodu. Nie oceniam go. Tylko powiem, że było mi bardzo trudno go zrozumieć bez tych krytycznych zębów potrzebnych do wymówienia 133. Ja mam wszystkie zęby i jest mi trudno wymawiać sto trzydzieści trzy po polsku.
Ile tutaj Pani czeka?
10 minut.
I nie było?
Nie było?
Nie.
133?
133.
Na który autobus Pani czeka?
Na 107 (czyli sto siedem).
107? Skąd Pani jest? Trudno jest Panią zrozumieć. Pani dziwnie mówi.
No ja pier… papier! I wtedy przyjechał 133 i Pan jechał dalej bez odpowiedzi na jego pytanie.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Good Enough Christmas

This year is the Christmas of “good enough”. We’ve been so busy (as anybody who gets paid by the hour can especially understand) that we haven’t been able to prepare for Christmas up to the usual standards.
The last two years we spent an astronomical amount on our Christmas tree. Yes, the trees were beautiful but c’mon, it’s just a tree. This year we managed to secure a tree straight from the forest-legally obtained, I assure you. It’s about 2 meters tall and a bit crooked. It is definitely good enough, and it came at a fraction of the cost of last year’s tree. It’s amazing what you can arrange while drinking beer outside the local shop.*
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We bought fewer presents than usual this year. Our girls left their letters for Santa on Saint Nicholas Day and we bought a few things from the list. We’ve learned from past Christmases that sometimes things very important on St. Nicholas Day are long forgotten by Christmas. As far as presents go, the girls received enough. (We decided not to buy the top present on the list. Can you guess what it is? This is how it was written: Tłajlajt Dasz. Any ideas?)
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Our house is pretty much clean. Well, it is much less dirty than if was a few days ago. I don’t really have the time or energy to clean it top-notch so clean enough will have to do. Nobody likes us so nobody is going to visit us anyway więc good enough for us is good enough at all.
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As far as our Christmas menu is concerned, we went easy on the labor, heavy on the out-sourcing. OK, I did go all out and make Christmas cookies myself. The rest I ordered from a hotel restaurant. Christmas supper was delicious. Merry Christmas to me.
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What does all of this good enough stuff mean? Well, it means that on Monday when Misiu went to work and the whole village was cooking and hoovering, we girls went to the village library to chill out. We had some books to take back plus some more books and puzzles donated by a friend, sorted out in her pre-Christmas cleaning frenzy. Lizzie and Rosie chose some books for the Christmas break and Lizzie even found a book from her second grade reading list that she needs for school. Then the girls set into making Christmas ornaments from plaster. They glittered up the whole library. I chose some books for Misiu including “Gulag” as a revenge for his last year’s Christmas present of two books about WW2. The librarian even made us tea. She was very moved when we gave her a chocolate-covered ginger bread and wished her a merry Christmas.
Good enough also means that on Christmas Eve we spent the whole day together and enjoyed each other’s company. OK, we exiled the kids outside for awhile but it wasn’t because we wanted them out from under our feet, but because the weather was so nice it was a pity to stay inside. The girls invited the neighbor kids and they had a pre-Christmas uczta in the barn.
Today we spent the morning assembling Legos. I mean somebody did. It wasn’t me. I chose the dollhouse pre-assembled and talking Barbie with batteries included**. Later the neighbor invited us because their new gaming system was in English and they couldn’t figure out how to switch it to Polish. We were served 5 different kinds of cake, all home-made, all delicious. Next we were served a collection of dishes- salads, fried fish, cold fish, bigos, pierogi. Once again, everything was homemade and everything was delicious and our hostess didn’t sit down for a minute. She said it’s not in her nature. She likes to be in the kitchen, on the move, serving people. To each his own.
Locating the Christmas tree in the kids’ room is a stroke of genius we happened upon a few years ago. All the Christmas chaos is contained in one area. It does have its drawbacks though, for Santa I mean. Get the presents under the tree undetected with two little ladies sleeping just a step or two away? Challenge accepted!
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I also had a minute to enjoy the sunrise which took place after we opened all the presents this morning. My little Amerykanki woke up pretty early.
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I hope that everybody had a “good enough” Christmas too.
*All and any beer consumed outside the local shop was done so by Misiu, not by me that’s for sure.
**I would like to take the opportunity to apologize to anyone who bought a talking Barbie that happened to scare their child this Christmas. Misiu couldn’t resist recording “I’m a scary Barbie” in a monster voice on most of the talking Barbies at Smyk. Whoopsee.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Giving thanks

The month of November for many is a time to give thanks for our blessings culminating in the thankiest day of the month, Thanksgivng. Thanksgiving in the US is followed by its dark sister, Black Friday, perhaps the greediest day of the year. What did I do, American in Poland, on Thanksgiving? Yeah, I cooked turkey and stuffing and all the fixings from scratch baby, from scratch. It was on Saturday and we still have turkey in the fridge 5 days later, but whatever.
I am thankful though. I know I like to complain a lot. It’s the Polish in me and a blog written by an eternally contented person would be pretty boring to read. No? You don’t think so? Let’s give it a go.
The sun is shining again today. I never knew that the sky could be so blue. I ate 7000 calories of chocolate again yesterday and lost 3 pounds. Isn’t that amazing? Everyday when I look in the mirror I am happier and happier with what I see. Hmm, what shall I wear today? My new book is coming out today. I should look nice for the premiere. Some people are saying it is going to be bigger than the Bible. Isn’t that hilarious? Back to the clothes - I have an amazing array of clothes to choose from as numerous world famous designers have decided that I am the new “it” girl (what are the odds at 40?) and have stocked my wardrobe with literally hundreds of designer looks for any occasion. I would ask my children to help me pick out something but my elder daughter is sitting her university exams. Yes, it is unusual for a 7-year-old to be a freshman at Harvard but she really wanted to go and they offered her a full scholarship. My younger child cannot help either as she is preparing her acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize. She’s discovered the cure for some nasty illness or something. What a precocious little thing. I’d ask my hubby to help but he is at the lottery center collecting our second win of the year. Isn’t that unusual? Gawd, we are just the luckiest and happiest family in the whole, wide world.
Ok, I stand corrected, that life would be interesting to read about.

I am thankful for all that I have achieved, big and small –ok, small and smaller. I am thankful that I could go to university and graduate on time without huge debt. I am thankful that we have a roof over our heads and are mortgage free. I am thankful for all the contacts, personal and professional, that I have made over the years. I am proud that I learned a bit of another culture and language. I am thankful and proud that I finally reached a level of maturity where I can stand up for myself. I am thankful that I decided to write to this blog and that somebody besides myself takes some enjoyment from reading it. I am thankful that I have parents who took care of me and are still together taking care of each other. I am thankful for my sister and her wicked sense of humor. I am thankful that my grandmother taught me how to cook. I am thankful that I came to Poland and met my husband. I am thankful for those two little boogers we call daughters. I am a lucky, lucky lady.

Here are some other things that I am thankful. Let’s call it November’s Top Thanks. I’ve been collecting them.

As I bent down at school to help my daughter with her new kozaki, I heard a terrible ripping sound. So I am thankful that my trousers ripped across the knee and not up the backside.

I am thankful for the Facebook defriend facility allowing friends and family I haven't seen or spoken to in 20 years to edit me from their lives.

I am thankful to be invited to the annual auction benefiting children with cancer. I am thankful that I quickly and inexpensively found something to wear to the auction and it fulfills the requirement from my husband that it not be gray (my whole wardrobe is gray). I am thankful that my children will attend the auction as guests and not as former patients.

Thankful that when I wore a dress this week, nobody asked me who died.

Thankful that I managed to buy a picture at the charity auction - it required a loud comment that I had no chance against the guy in front of me who bought about 10 pictures, but whatever. Thankful to everyone who told me what lovely children I have. Thankful to have such lovely children...that's why I chose that handsome husband, lord knows it wasn't for the money.

I am thankful that when husband and doctor were discussing whether to put child in the hospital or not, the issue of whether our insurance would cover it was not even on the table.

I am thankful for the people who come to my home, ignore the mess and even say 'it's not that bad, you can still see the floor'.

I am thankful that people have started replacing the word 'poor' with 'hipster' as in "Chris is a hipster" which sounds way better than "Chris is poor".

I am thankful that so many people don't like me that my Christmas shopping list keeps getting shorter and shorter.

Thankful for the crew who fixed our fence and reported that every woman in our village is a whore, excluding me of course.

Thankful that my group gave me props for my new hoodie. When I changed the color of my hair, nothing, but a new hoodie cannot go without comment.

Thankful for the dentist who fixed my tooth today and his understanding reaction to having a witch like me in the chair. When he said that my tooth (which was repaired there 4 months ago) would be charged, I only commented, "Maybe, but not to me."

That puts me in such a good mood, I might have to put up the Christmas tree.

What are you thankful for?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I will pray for you



Recently I was asked how I felt when someone says, “I will pray for you”. Well, I have to say it all depends on the situation.

I know some non-believers are very sensitive to this issue. Some say offers of prayer to an atheist are passive aggressive, while others liken it to being given the middle finger. I don’t feel like that. When somebody who knows and cares about me and knows I am having a tough time tells me that they will pray for me, I know it is their way of telling me that I am in their thoughts. I like it. It is nice to be thought about.

However, more often than not when people tell me they want to pray for me, it has absolutely nothing to do with sending good vibrations my way. It usually occurs about 5 seconds after finding out I'm an atheist. It has more to do with protecting my soul from eternal damnation for my atheist ways. Then I’m not so happy about it. I keep my cool though. I don’t want to offend anyone’s religious sensibilities. For some reason those same people often think that my sensibilities cannot be offended.








So, back to my recent conversation and how I really feel inside when somebody wants to pray for me. I guess I feel indifferent. I mean how would you feel if a Voodoo shaman offered to slaughter a chicken and dig through its insides for you. Would that have any meaning to you? No? Ridiculous, right? I mean that Voodoo religion isn’t any less made-up than yours if you have one.










Voodoo follower in prayer. Check out the rest of the intriguing photos here.
Several times a day, light casts down from an opening at the highest point of the grotto ceiling. During these times, many Vodouisants can be found making their requests to the Loa/Iwa. It was that same light that the Taino Indians in that region centered many of their rituals around.



Jesus vs. Doctor Who


And for Thanksgiving, an atheist prayer.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Egzekutor

As a full-fledged user of the local village library, I have decided to take advantage of the library services such as requesting a book that I want to read instead of just buying it. 24 zloty not spent is 24 zloty saved. Plus that, our librarian is very nice. It’s a pleasure to go to the library and now the library is also equipped with a computer and Wi-fi. Ok, so far I am the only person who has ever tried to use it, thus discovering that the library doesn’t know its own password, but whatever. Baby steps, baby steps.
gowniarzu marsz do kataRecently I requested the book “Egzekutor” by Stefan Dąmbski. It’s short, about a hundred pages, and took me a couple of hours to read. Stefan Dąmbski was a member of the Polish Home Army (AK) during WWII and a self-titled “egzekutor”. He participated in many “liquidation actions” as they were called, killing German soldiers returning from the front, German civilians, Polish people deemed traitors, random Ukrainians, general riff-raff and in many instances completely innocent people by mistake or just for fun. The book is not a complete memoir of his life or even his time in the AK. It wasn’t meant for publication and was only sent to publishers by family after Dąmbski’s death. It appears to be Stefan Dąmbski’s attempt to sort through his own memories and reflections before his death. Having said that, this book was hard to take, not because of the brutality of his descriptions, but because of the discrepancy between Dąmbski’s AK and the other accounts of the AK I have read.
Dąmbski as a teen, was permitted to join the AK after “taking care of” an informant, another young man that he knew well. In Dąmbski’s retelling, he volunteered to take care of the problem and killing the man was his idea. He claims that he had to convince the AK to allow him to do it and after a few hours of persuasion, they agreed. Perhaps that is true or perhaps it was the slick manipulation by the AK of a young boy eager to serve kill. And there’s another thing difficult to take in this book. Dąmbski does not present himself as a hero, but as a killer. He says that part of his motivation in writing his account is to contrast what the AK usually writes about themselves, mostly heroic stories. The writer of “Sołdat” had similar motivations. Dąmbski describes feeling like a hero, a patriot, at the time. His descriptions are however void of any heroism and patriotism and sound like the notes of a sadistic killer. What is war but sadistic killing colored with bóg, honor i ojczyzna.
The book includes some reaction of representatives of the AK, people who lived in the places he described and historians. Some of Dąmbski’s accounts are recorded in history a bit differently or attributed to different people. Dąmbski also does not include some actions he most certainly participated in. Some names are also changed, by the accident of memory or on purpose? We will never know. One accusation was that the AK did not participate in liquidating the locals. However, a historian was able to show documentation of such “actions”. I am struck by the absence of Jewish people in his writings. The AK has been accused also of “cleaning up” Jews in some areas. Perhaps Dąmbski didn’t participate in it, didn’t know about it, was so ashamed he didn’t want to mention it or not ashamed at all as not to mention it.
Dąmbski in his own defense in his own writing states,
Z każdej historii można wyciągnąć wnioski i się czegoś nauczyć, o ile wszystko opierać się na prawdzie.  Dlatego w tej książce piszę tylko o działaniach wojennych, w których sam brałem bezpośredni udział. Nie piszę tu o rzeczach, które mi opowiadano i których nie byłem świadkiem. Podaję tu fakty z życia prostego żołnierza Armii Krajowej.
From every story we can draw conclusions and learn something as long as everything is based on the truth. That’s why in this book I write only about those acts of war that I directly took part in. I do not write about things that were told to me or that I was not a witness to. I give facts from the life of a simple soldier of the Home Army.
Pisząc dziś te wspomnienia, próbuję – podając różne przykłady – usprawiedliwić siebie i takich jak ja, gdy chodzi o ogromne krzywdy, jakieśmy w tym czasie wyrządzili rasie ludzkiej. Za późno dziś, by prosić kogokolwiek o przebaczenie, tak się ludziom życia nie. przywróci. Niech to będzie jeszcze jedno ostrzeżenie dla przyszłych pokoleń i różnych organizatorów politycznych. Niech pamiętają, że każda wojna to tragedia, że w niej zawsze giną ludzie młodzi, mający całe życie przed sobą – i to giną niepotrzebnie.
Writing today these memories, I try – giving various examples – to justify myself and other like me regarding the enormous harm we did to the human race. It is too late today to ask anybody for forgiveness, it won’t bring those people their lives back. Let it be another warning to future generations and political organizations. Let them remember that every war is a tragedy and that in every war young people die, young people who have their whole lives in front of them die and they die unnecessarily.
I would have liked to read more about Stefan Dąmbski’s life before the war and after the war as he moved to the United States. I also wish that his reflections were more often and I guess with more reflection in them. I suppose this is a consequence of the fact that the text was written for himself and not for us and that in a few words he was able to reflect deeply enough for his own needs. Stefan Dąmbski perhaps intended to write more. His text ended abruptly mid-sentence. Stefan Dąmbski shot himself in the head in 1993 in Miami where he lived.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Book Drive

This is how it works. You announce on Facebook that you are doing a book zbiórka. Your friends go through their old books and give them to you –text books, poetry, history, art, detective, children’s books, anything and everything. You transport them to the village library and the glory is all yours! Sorry suckers!

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Just kidding. I am very grateful to everybody who donated. Thanks to one friend’s donation of intellectual and poetic reading materials, the local librarian thinks I’m quite a romantic.
All in all, more than 400 books were donated. I expect to be invited to the library re-naming ceremony any day now.

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The Alf collection: proof that our library is in need of some new books.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

In honor of Poland’s Independence Day tomorrow,

a lesson on how not to be patriotic.

The Skinheads of Greenpoint, Brooklyn

photographs by Adam Krause

article by Jordan G. Teicher

A shout out to dwakoty who spotted it first.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Quotes of the Week- The “What the What?” Edition

We have to start with the most controversial quote of the week from…drum roll, please…Priest Bochyński. Really, I am not specially targeting the Catholic church. It’s just that priests, bishops and other church supporters keep making idiotic statements in public places in full view of others who have eyes, ears, brains and recording devices. The latest unforgiveable and unable-to-be- explained-away quote was taken during an interview. Before anyone accuses me of taking the quote out of context, I will let you know that I read the transcription of the interview not just the article in the newspaper and the context is disgusting.  In the interview Priest Bochyński states that he personally knows of cases where, "same dzieci wchodziły do łóżek dorosłych, chcąc być spełnionym" and that "to był wybór dziecka".
Ok, English-only speakers, prepare to be disgusted because he said he knows of cases where “children themselves crawled into the bed of an adult looking for fulfillment” and that it was “the choice of the child.” All together now… Aaaamen.
You will be glad to know that the reaction of the media and the church has been swift and the punishment of Bochyński has begun.
I highly recommend this article http://joannasenyszyn.natemat.pl/81237,koscielne-lemingi which sums up what has been going on in Poland recently regarding the church and criticism of the church.
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The next quote is from one of the leaders of Ratuj maluchy. They collected a million signatures and demanded a referendum about the issue (among others) of lowering the age kids start school from age 7 to age 6. They are against lowering the age. Parliament voted against the referendum.
Łukasz Elbanowski said right after Parliament voted down the referendum,
“To, co widzieliśmy dzisiaj, to było lekceważenie demokracji.”
“This what we saw here today is a disregard of democracy.”
I couldn’t disagree more. I think it was rather a regard for democracy. They collected a million signatures. They were permitted to address Parliament. Parliament voted - just not how they wanted. There was also some talk of our constitutional rights being raped…I wonder how they feel about catechism in public schools being funded by the national budget and days off for the whole school to go to mass? Whose rights are being raped then?
The next quote comes straight out of the exciting private life of Chris. Envy on stand-by, please.
Next to my children’s school there is a private Catholic school, so I am often walking to school in the company of priests and nuns from our public school and/or the Catholic school. In Poland, people greet members of the clergy with a variety of phrases such as ‘praise the lord’ or ‘god bless’ and such others. If I have to, I say ‘good morning’ and if I can get away with it I give my best “you talkin’ to  me?” face. You will get no “praise be to god’s” from me. Anyway while walking to school this week I overheard this conversation between 2 nuns:
Nun # ONE "Wow, I got 8 Szczęść Boże's today just from home to here.”
Nun # TW0 "Well, yesterday I got 11 Szczęść Boze's just in the morning."
I suppose collecting Szczęść Boże's is like Facebook "LIKES" for nuns.

It says, “Let’s take care of this quickly. Which one of you has the most fans on Facebook?”
I know you are green with envy at my glamorous lifestyle. Can you handle more from the real life of Chris? This quote is from the village doctor who was recently needed as our Lizzie has pneumonia. The village doctor is cool. You can go to his apartment (above his office) without calling day or night and if he is home and sober, he will see you…all for the small price of…get ready for it…30 zloty. In addition to that, you will hear gems such as “można się zrzygać”  (you can puke) referring to tummy troubles you may have after taking strong antibiotics and the top hit of the week “i też można się zesrać” (you can crap yourself) referring to toilet troubles that often accompany aforementioned tummy troubles. What can I say? It’s the absolute truth. Oh, and I have no photo or graphics for that, thank goodness, so how about this…

Stay healthy!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween in Poland Review

Halloween po polsku – Our 1st Halloween party in Poland with kids
Our Halloween in Poland – The Positives and The Negatives – My first contact with the negatives of Halloween
Halloween is around the corner… Preparing for Halloween
We are lucky ducks! A fantastic surprise from our favorite Polish Housewife
Halloween 2011 A rocking Halloween party and one of our best
How does Poland celebrate Halloween? Only I thought this funny
With all due respect, Bishops of Poland,… Where I learned that Halloween opens the door to satanism, in case you didn’t know.
A white Halloween My first snowy Halloween and our first Halloween in the village
And Halloween 2013 may just be called The Halloween that wasn’t. We haven’t planned our usual party and this year will probably be more of a chill-out than a blow-out. We’ll see.
Have a good one!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Kielbasa Land czyli I’m rich and nobody likes me


This map of Poland aka Kielbasa Land was probably made as revenge for…


…this map, “The World according to Americans”. Hey, I thought Europe was one syllable (Yurp), not two (Yurop).

Hee, heee.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sołdat

Some time ago I started my adventure with reading whole books in Polish. I read a lot of newspapers in Polish but I had avoided whole books until just this summer. My first attempt was Wypędzone. It was a good choice as a first book for me. It wasn’t too difficult to read and I was interested in the subject matter enough to push through even with my language problems.
I decided to read Sołdat from the same series as my next book. I know it is kind of heavy on the WWII history. The book is heavy but at the same time insightful and informative. I had never read anything about WWII from the perspective of a Red Army soldier so that alone was enough to catch my interest. That and the total szacun I got from other people on the beach as I read it.
After that I watched the documentary entitled “900 Dni - Oblężenie Leningradu” (worth watching)and I finished off with the book  Bij w werbel i nie lękaj się wspomnienia - Maria hrabina von Maltzan. It’s a very interesting book and Misiu described the life of the duchess as zajebiste. Her life was amazing and eventful, but I wouldn’t want to have as zajebisea a life as hers. I also shed a tear as she described saying good-bye to her favorite chestnut trees from her family’s palace. I know this place well and those trees are still there. It’s not the most harrowing event of her life but it was touching for me.
I’m a peculiar person, I know.
So from Wypędzone I was able to learn 20 new ways to describe getting raped, here in Sołdat I was able to learn an amazing number of ways to say flaki. Oh and ziemianka which I kept reading as ziemniaka.
This in the introduction of the book Sołdat, the memoir of Nikołaj Nikulin, is what made me decide to tackle this book despite the difficult subject matter and difficult language for me, Polish.
Wojenne zwycięstwa i heroizm są powszechnie znane, przez wielu były opiewane. Lecz w oficjalnych zapisach nie ma prawdziwej atmosfery wojny. Ich autorów prawie nie interesuje, co naprawdę przeżywa żołnierz. Zazwyczaj wojny wszczynali ci, którym zagrażały one najmniej: feudałowie, królowie, ministrowie, politycy, finansiści i generałowie. W ciszy gabinetów układali plany, a potem, kiedy już wszystko było skończone, pisali wspomnienia, podkreślając swoje męstwo i usprawiedliwiając porażki.
Większość pamiętników opiewa samą ideę wojny, stwarzając tym samym przesłanki dla nowych planów wojennych. Zaś płacą za to wszystko ci, co giną od kuli, realizując plany generałów. Ci, którym wojna jest absolutnie niepotrzebna – pamiętników nie piszą.
Victory in war and heroism are commonly known and have been praised by many. But in the official records, there is no authentic atmosphere of war. The authors almost take no interest in what the soldiers actually experienced. Typically, war was launched by those it least threatened: feudal lords, kings, ministers, politicians, bankers and generals. In the quiet of their offices they drew up plans, and then, when everything was over, wrote memoirs, highlighting their bravery and justifying their failures.
Most diaries celebrate the very idea of war, thereby creating the conditions for new war plans. And to pay for all those who die from a bullet, carrying out the plans of generals. Those to whom war is absolutely useless, do not write memoirs.
You can’t get through this book without reading about death, useless, senseless death. Death is everywhere in this book. It’s a war memoir. Death is unavoidable.
Tak więc stosunek zabitych: jeden do dziesięciu lub nawet więcej – na korzyść przegranych. Ten rachunek prześladuje mnie ciągle jak najgorszy koszmar.
Czyżby nie dało się inaczej? Przecież tyle środków przeznaczano na armię przed wojną. Teraz nawet nie ukrywa się faktu, że na początku wojny nasze siły były wystarczające, by pokonać wroga.
Po upływie wielu lat oceniam, że inaczej być nie mogło, ponieważ ta wojna różniła się od wszystkich naszych poprzednich wojen nie sposobem jej prowadzenia, a jedynie rozmachem. Uwidoczniła się nasza cecha narodowa: wykonywać wszystko maksymalnie źle przy maksymalnej utracie sił I środków.
Thus, the ratio of dead: one to ten or even more - in favor of the losers. This account of affairs still haunts me like the worst nightmare.
Could it have been otherwise? After all, so many resources were allocated to the army before the war. Now, the fact is not even hidden that at the beginning of the war our forces were sufficient to defeat the enemy.
After the passing of many years, my evaluation is that it could not have been otherwise because this war was different from all our previous wars, not in the way it was conducted but by its momentum. It only served to highlight our national character: to do everything as badly as we can with a maximum loss of forces and resources.
And because hindsight is always 20/20:
Czasem w pamiętnikach generałów czytamy: “Jeśli zrobiono by tak, a nie tak, jeśli posłuchano by mnie, wszystko poszłoby inaczej…” Co by było gdyby! Czasem winią Stalina albo inny ludzi.
Sometimes we read in the memoirs of generals: “If it had been done like this and not like that, if they had listened to me, things would have gone differently…” What would have been! Sometimes they blamed Stalin, sometimes other people.
In describing the attitude to people and to life:
Pewnego razu podsłuchałem rozmowę komisarza z dowódcą batalionu strzeleckiego, który w tym czasie toczył walkę. Ta rozmowa wyrażała istotę rzeczy: Powalczymy jeszcze dzionek, dwa, dobijemy resztę I pojedziemy na tyły na przegrupowanie. Wtedy dopiero się zabawimy!
Once I overheard a conversation between our Commissioner and a shooting battalion commander, who was fighting a battle at the time. This conversation expressed the essence of the matter: “We will fight a day or two, kill off the rest and go to the back to regroup. Then we’ll have some fun!
Killing off the rest is in reference not to the enemy, but to their own soldiers. Killing off meant allowing the enemy to kill them, but what’s the difference to you the lowly soldier of the front line?
Zresztą, wojna zawsze była podłością, a armia – instrumentem zabójstwa. Nie ma wojen sprawiedliwych, wszystko one są – mimo różnych uzasadnień – nieludzkie. Żołnierze zaś zawsze byli nawozem. Zwłaszcza w naszym wielkim mocarstwie i szczególnie w czasach socjalizmu.
Besides, war has always been vile, and the army – an instrument of killing. There are no righteous wars, all of them are - despite various justifications - inhuman.  Soldiers have always been fertilizer. Especially in our big superpower and especially in times of socialism.
“Ludzie to pył. Naprzód!” “People are dust. Forward!” quote of general who was told his approach was a death wish for his division.
The author frankly cannot hide his disgust at journalists and other good for nothings who stayed at the back and profited from the death on the front line. He resents how they tell their stories and collect their medals.
Pogrzebią szlachetną pamięć o tych, którzy naprawdę walczyli i zginęli. Wojnę, o której sami wiedzą niewiele, przedstawią w romantycznej aureoli. To, że wojna oznacza strach, śmierć, głód, nikczemność – odejdzie na drugi plan.
They bury the noble memory of those who actually fought and died. The war, of which they know little, they present with a romantic aura. The fact that war is fear, death, hunger, wretchedness – comes in second place.
About injuries and survival:
Ludzie, którzy naprawdę walczyli na wojnie, bezwarunkowo powinni albo zginąć, albo trafić do szpitala. Nie wierzcie tym, którzy mówią, że przeszli całą wojnę bez jednej rany. To znaczy, że albo wałęsali się na tyłach, albo sterczeli przy sztabie.
Mnie ratowało od śmierci nie tylko szczęście, ale – głównie – odniesienie rany. W krytycznych momentach pomagały mi uciec spod kul. Ranienie – byle nie w brzuch i nie w głowę, bo równało się to śmierci – było szczęśliwą okolicznością! Idziesz na tyły, tam cię myją, przebierają, kładą na czystym prześcieradło, karmią, poją….O zranieniu żołnierze marzyli jak o urlopie. O lekkim.
People who actually fought in the war should unconditionally either die or end up in hospital. Don’t believe those who say that they passed through the war without a single wound. This means that they were either loitering at the back or waiting it out at the headquarters.
I was rescued from death, not only by luck, but - mainly – from getting wounded. In critical moments, that helped me escape the bullets. Getting wounded – just not in the stomach and not in the head because it meant death - was a happy circumstance! You went to the back, where you were washed, dressed, put on a clean sheet, fed, and watered...Soldiers dreamed of getting wounded like dreaming about a vacation. Slightly wounded that is.
But don’t even think about injuring yourself on purpose. For that they shot you in the head.
And now to get the perspective of the Russian aggressors described by the German women in the previous book:
As the Russian army crossed over into German territory…
Teraz wojna pokazała jeszcze jedno – zaskakujące dla mnie – oblicze. Wydawałoby się, że doświadczyłem wszystkiego: śmierci, głodu, ostrzałów, pracy ponad siły, zimna. Otóż nie! Było coś straszniejszego, co mnie dobiło ostatecznie. W przeddzień wejścia na terytorium Rzeszy do oddziałów frontowych przyjechali agitatorzy. Niektórzy wysokiej rangi.
-Śmierć za śmierć!!! Krew za krew!!! Nie zapomnimy!!! Nie wybaczymy!!! Pomścimy!!!
I staliśmy się tacy sami, jak naziści. Co prawda, tamci rozrabiali planowo: utworzyli gett, obozów, stworzyli protokoły i zestawienia zagrabionego majątki, rejestr kar, planowe egzekucje i tak dalej. U nas poszło po słowiańsku, żywiołowo. Bijcie, chłopaki, palcie, głuszcie! Marnujcie ich kobiety! Oprócz tego przed ofensywą sowicie zaopatrzono wojska w wódkę. I poszliśmy.
Now the war showed me one more surprising  face. It would seem that I had experienced everything: death, starvation, shellings, exhaustion, cold. But no! There was something terrible, which eventually “killed” me. On the eve of entering the territory of the Reich, agitators arrived to the front. Some were high ranking.
-Death for death! Blood for blood! Do not forget! Do not forgive! Revenge!
And we became the same as the Nazis. In truth, they did their damage following a plan: they created ghettos, camps, created records and statements, seized possessions, recorded penalties, planned executions and so on. We did our damage the Slavic way, spontaneously. Beat you guys, burn, smother! Ruin their women! In addition, before the offensive, the army was provided with ample supplies of vodka. And so we went.
As the war comes to an end, the author made it from Leningrad to Berlin.
Kontakty z sojusznikami były nikłe. Przeszkadzała bariera językowa i powściągliwość Anglików, którzy patrzyli na nas z góry. Amerykanie byli bardziej bezpośredni, zwłaszcza Murzyni, którzy z nami sympatyzowali.
Contacts with the Allies were slim. The language barrier interfered as well as the reserved nature of the English, who looked down on us. Americans were more direct, especially black Americans, who sympathized with us.
He goes on to describe an amusing situation in which a drunk Russian soldier stopped a German on his bike, hit the German in the ear, stole his bike and went on his way. The German complained to the English and they recovered his bike. Later a black American soldier got that bike from the German and handed it over to the Russian with a friendly slap on the back (for the Russian) and another punch to the ear for the German.
While that story is sad yet mildly amusing, the next is not.
W Berlinie widziałem, jak Amerykanin pobił śmiertelnie swojego rodaka – Murzyna. Bił go bestialsko, podkutymi butami kopał w brzuch, w twarz. Wszystko to nie wzbudzało sympatii do sojuszników.
In Berlin I saw an American beat his black compatriot to death. He beat him so savagely, with his spiked shoes he kicked him in the stomach, in the face. All this did not arouse sympathy for the allies.
I chose these few remarks from the book to give you a taste, however, the book consists of much more. The author includes his war story, the stories of others, anecdotes both humorous and tragic, his reactions and later reflections of what went on. Sometimes I got lost in the chronology as I think the author did as well in 1975 when he finally decided to put his story down in writing. I also got lost in my Polish occasionally mixing up active and passive tense as I do. I am fortunate enough to know war only from books and documentaries. I hope it stays that way.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Polecam

I recommend two articles from natemat.pl about… What else?
America!
Admit it, you thought I was going to write religion, didn’t you?

The first one http://natemat.pl/76325,nowa-fala-american-dream-mlode-pokolenie-pokochalo-stany-zjednoczone describes the fascination some young Poles have with America and American culture. It’s worth reading.
Sometimes my younger students (under 30) ask me about some musical artist or some movie and are shocked when I haven’t heard or seen it. Sometimes I have never even heard of it. I have heard more than once with a laugh, “Are you really American?” I don’t know…I don’t think knowing whole dialogues from “Scarface” by heart is necessary for me to prove myself as an American. Gawd, if you don’t know “Ciemność widzę” does that mean you’re not Polish enough?
I recently referred to a very popular American television series that I have never seen as “Waking Bad” and almost get my ass kicked by one very loyal Polish fan. Sorry, bitch.*

The next one http://natemat.pl/76847,my-tez-mielismy-swoj-american-dream-czy-mlodzi-maja-powod-by-zachwycac-sie-stanami includes experiences from Polish people who emigrated to America at different ages for different reasons at different times in history and with different results.
Are they living the American Dream?
I don’t know what the American Dream means for Polish people but for me it means the possibility to markedly improve your educational and financial status through your own hard work. Following that definition, most economists would agree that the American Dream is dead.

I think I have written a lot about what can be surprising or irritating to people moving to Poland**, but what can be surprising or irritating for those people moving to America. Well, a lot things.
The fact that you can work and work and work and have nothing. That losing your job can put you in dire straits, not only with your bills and bank but with your health care and your children’s health care. Not that it only happens in America, but that it shouldn’t happen in America of all places. At least that’s we think before we go.
The fact that health insurance is very expensive and not guaranteed.
The fact that your employer doesn’t have to give you vacation days.
The fact that people over a certain age can be found in all kinds of jobs, meaning that some jobs are not just reserved for the young.
The fact that there are plenty of poor people in America. That people go hungry. That one street away from the beautiful and modern city center is a street of burned out buildings with people sleeping on the street.
That people smile at you on the street.
That university is so expensive, but mortgages are cheap.
That you can wear jeans and sneakers to church.
That gasoline is so much cheaper, but everything is far away.
That food is so much cheaper and portions are so much bigger.
That people throw away perfectly good stuff and them buy new stuff.
That a person who has never been to Poland but has one Polish family member from three generations back thinks that he is Polish too and call Poland the “old country”.
That people will drive from one end of a strip mall to the other instead of just walking.
That doing business in America is like entering another mindset.
That nobody will steal your hubcaps and you can live a pretty calm life until the moment you get shot.
Enjoy the articles. I think I will go to the new American diner in town to enjoy my Polish dream.

*One character from that show calls everybody “bitch”. I’m rude, but not that rude.
**Drinking age is 18. People will help you get your baby carriage on/off the bus without even asking. Cashiers almost always ask for exact change. You can buy raw milk from a machine without getting arrested. Old ladies crowd you everywhere you go and like to jump line. You are supposed to sit in your assigned seat at the movies. You don’t get a bill from the hospital after having a baby. If you forget to pay your ZUS, they block your entire account not just the unpaid amount. Bread is still pretty good. You can walk more places because there usually is a sidewalk. Priests and nuns work at school. Dog poo bombs are everywhere. People don’t smile on the street but they do say hello/good-bye when entering/exiting stores, the doctor’s office, post office, etc. If you drop something you should pick it up and blow on it. If you have to provide a urine sample, you need to bring the sample with you. They play the dirty versions of all the foreign songs on the radio and your 7-year-old will sing along to “…this is fucking awesome.” I could go on and on but you get the picture.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

As seen in Poland

This is my own private Catholic Culture Day here on Kielbasa Stories. I am a big fan of the roadside crucifix. Though not a Catholic, I can appreciate the fact that I live in a Catholic culture and can admire the symbols of the religion (except in my children’s classrooms). It seems that the fashion of our area involves plastic flowers and streamers for stand-alone crucifixes and little or no adornment for crucifixes near a church or chapel building. Our village doesn’t have a real church, but just a chapel in an old building. We also have a large, modestly decorated crucifix. Some smaller communities just have their decorated crucifix (no chapel) with benches around or without. They hold some church services there. Either the parish is responsible for upkeep and decorating or it is passed around the parishioners house by house as it is in our village for cleaning and decorating the chapel. I opted-out. Enjoy.
SDC14087
SDC14088
SDC14089
SDC14090
SDC14092
SDC14086
SDC14085
Readers from other parts of Poland, do you have a different decorating trend in your neighborhood?

Monday, September 30, 2013

In case you missed it…

…somebody in Rzeszów went too far. Read about it here.
Apparently, the headmasters of public primary school #27 in Rzeszów have lost it. As they do every year, this school is celebrating Christian Culture Week.
Here’s the breakdown of the schedule:
Z internetowej strony SP nr 27 w Rzeszowie - propozycje tematów realizowanych na lekcjach (pisownia oryginalna):
Informatyka: Utworzenie prezentacji o Sanktuariach Maryjnych naszej diecezji
Matematyka: Rozwiązywanie zadań tematycznie związanymi z sanktuariami
J. polski: Pisemna prace: List do Papieża Franciszka z podziękowaniem za Sanktuaria Maryjne z zaznaczeniem o obchodach Tygodnia Kultury Chrześcijańskiej, który stał się tradycją naszej szkoły oraz prośbą o błogosławieństwo dla wszystkich uczniów, nauczycieli i pracowników naszej szkoły
Religia: Omawianie i poznawanie sanktuariów w naszej diecezji
Historia: Chronologiczna segregacja Sanktuariów Maryjnych diecezji rzeszowskiej
Język angielski/niemiecki/francuski: "Zdrowaś Mario" w różnych językach
Muzyka: Śpiewanie i nauka Pieśni Maryjnych
Przyroda: Tworzenie mapy wybranych Sanktuariów Maryjnych diecezji
Plastyka: Malowanie lub wyklejanie obrazu Matki Bożej
Świetlica: Film o tematyce Maryjnej
Wystawa na korytarzu: Figurki Matki Bożej, książki o Matce Bożej, obrazy, prace uczniów. W czasie przerw prezentacja multimedialna o Sanktuariach Maryjnych
Did somebody say “ja pierdole”?
Kids who don’t want to participate in Christian Culture Week can go to the library, but the main principal meant only during mass. Yep, mass. Where can those kids go to escape the above lessons with a Catholic theme? On the list there’s IT, math, Polish, catechism (as expected), history, foreign languages, music, science, art and even in the day room (the place kids who don’t go to catechism are often sent). What can non-Catholic teachers say? Probably nothing, unless they want to wave bye-bye to their jobs.
I teach a boy who goes to Catholic school. They had Jewish Culture Week last year and every year. It involved Polish, history and music lessons and was very well-received by parents and students alike. I see a distinct difference between those two “Culture Weeks”. In my opinion, Jewish Culture Week was just that, a week to become more familiar with the culture of the Jewish faith. Christian Culture Week in this school in Rzeszów sounds more like “Our Parish Days”.
The headmasters defend themselves with this:
The topics for the lessons are only suggestions, but are appropriate to each subject and within proper learning objectives. No one or almost no one protested in the past and the majority rules. Children are not required to participate (they mean only mass and catechism class).
In my experience, most people that I have talked to who support catechism at public school feel that the possibility to opt-out of catechism is enough of an allowance for non-Catholics. And that’s the core of our disagreement. If my children were students of this school in Rzeszów, I would most likely keep them home for the whole week. They would receive the dreaded “1” which is an “F” in the States for all the assignments. Older kids can straighten out what they believe, what the school promotes, and what their parents think about it, but this is elementary school. Not fair in my opinion and quite nachalny.




Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Pain


Part of my getting my shit together plan is to come to terms with the past and resolve any conflicts while looking ahead into the future. At least that’s what it says on the list.
Well, I’m not exactly going to do that.
I have one personal conflict in the family with my mother-in-law. It doesn’t bother me in the least. I’m not in need of patching things up just in case one of us were to pass on. It is what it is.


However, I thought I would just write something about the time I was ill, just to get it out. I don’t like to talk about it. I don’t even like to think about and avoid the topic altogether if anyone asks me about it.
I started to think about it again after reading an article about pain. You see, pain was my most dominant symptom.
The article which appeared in Gazeta Wyborcza’s supplement Duży Format. Wyłam z bólu. Oni pytali: co za śmieć tu leży? is the title of the interview of patient Anna Kleszcz by Grzegorz Sroczyński. The title in English would be “I howled in pain and they asked: what’s this piece of trash lying here?”
“Przez dwa lata prowadziłam prywatne śledztwo, na ile powszechne jest to, co mi się przydarzyło. Tortury w polskich szpitalach są niestety zgodne z prawem.” (“For 2 years I have led a private investigation of how common it is what happened to me. Torture in Polish hospitals in unfortunately in accordance with the law.”) Anna Kleszcz is fighting so that what happened to her and still happens to other parents each day will change. I wish her all the best. After reading her story, I felt like I knew her.

Ms. Kleszcz suffered from an abscess on her spinal cord. I cannot imagine the pain she suffered, but I can identify with what I can only call cruelty of the medical personnel which by not easing her pain, in fact, tortured her until she lost consciousness and almost until she lost her sanity. It reminds me of one of my doctor’s commenting to the other, “Do something. You are turning this poor woman into a crazy person.” And crazy with pain, I was.
In my case and in Ms. Kleszcz’s, the hospital did not lack the drugs or the means to administer them. The drugs are neither expensive nor addictive. They simply lacked normal human decency, and it is not an isolated incident. Ms. Kleszcz has the data to back up her claims. Additionally, she is collecting cases of patient suicides. People of all ages some with serious illnesses, others without, all sharing in pain, throwing themselves out of hospital windows or down hospital stairs. This is the determination and desperation of patients to end not their lives, but their pain.

I’m not surprised by Ms. Kleszcz’s shocking treatment. I was once that crazy lady writhing and screaming in pain in many a Polish hospital and no I’m not referring to giving birth. For that you scream in pain for awhile, but soon it all goes away and you get to go home with a baby. I just got, “We don’t know what’s wrong with you, but we suspect it’s all in your head.” Then they write on your release papers that you’re sick in the head but in Latin. You take those papers to the next doctor who starts out prejudiced against you and that’s how you go without diagnosis or treatment from doctor to doctor, hospital to hospital.
In the hospital they ask you to stop screaming, then they tell you sharply, then they start screaming. After that they send in the head shrinker. In my experience when you tell the head shrinker to go and fuck herself, you’re not any closer to getting the pain meds you need, but I did thank her (give her the finger) for suggesting meditation and acupuncture. That was right after I begged her for mercy. She showed me none.
I was tested and examined inside and out over more than a year. Every orifice was probed and if you could camera in there, then they did. They even cut some pieces from some pretty strange places and tested them but all was normal except the pain, the pain which kept growing stronger and encompassing more and more of my body.
In one hospital when I told the doctor that my bladder hurt (the main, but not only source of my pain) she said it was impossible. I insisted. She laughed and asked, “How do you know it’s your bladder?” I pinched her arm hard and twisted. She screamed, “Ow! What do you think you are doing?!”  I asked, “Did that hurt?” She shouted, “Yes, it hurt! You pinched my arm!” “How do you know it’s your arm?” I asked. That doctor didn’t help me either.

Countless doctors visits, hospital stays, tests, procedures, research. After 2 years of constant and increasing pain,I could tell you what I didn’t have. I didn’t have stomach ulcers, diverticulitis, stomach cancer, intestinal cancer, or bladder cancer. I did not have ulcers on the inner bladder wall nor bacteria embedded in the wall. There definitely was not a parasite of any kind in my bladder, stomach or intestinal tract, believe me, you don’t want to know how they check it. Additionally, I did not have TB of the kidneys, an ailment I did not even know existed. Although a very stupid ER doctor diagnosed me with kidney stones, my kidneys (as well as my liver) were all clear. Incontinence was not a problem either and bladder capacity seemed to be normal, well, normal for me (no gold medal bladder awards for me even before I was ill).
What did I have? Constant pain, at first starting in my bladder and then taking over practically my whole body along with the never-ending urge to urinate. Add to that intestinal spasms and the slow numbing of my backside and thighs and I was a wreck.
That’s the first time I ever thought that life was too long. I had ‘lived’ 2 years already with this pain and I couldn’t imagine living 2, 3 or 10 more. I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t. I barely ate or drank. I daydreamed about death the way people dream about winning the lottery. But just like the lottery, winnings rarely come right before you spend your last penny, and quick and painless accidental deaths rarely come to those contemplating suicide. I was gonna have to take matters into my own hands.
And I will leave that subject there.

I traveled all over Poland for treatment. I also went to a private hospital in Germany which sent me back to Poland untreated but on the right path to finding a proper diagnosis. I finally found help with doctor #28. Despite my informing him that the medical community was a kurwidół and all doctors were kurwy, he still treated me. (translated to whore’s den and whores – such a proud moment of speaking Polish but I was too sick to enjoy it) He told me what he thought my problem was based on my symptoms and test results. He suggested a treatment method and a time frame. His plan included pain relief. It took almost 5 months before any noticeable change took place, but while taking the pain meds I could sleep a bit. I could eat. After one year, I could smile. After a year and half we starting a weaning plan. After 2 years I was pain-free and thinking about children. I’ve had one relapse since then which was taken care of in a matter of weeks of treatment by the same doctor. It’s a pity he was not doctor #1.
There it is. I’ve got it out.