Wednesday, May 30, 2012


You’ve probably heard the President  Obama had a wpadka while giving the posthumous Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski – the man who tried to warn the world what the Nazis were doing.  No, you haven’t heard about it? Well, then you don’t live in Poland. I’ve found one article about it in English so far. There’s not enough room here to link to all the Polish articles.
Here’s what President Obama said -
“Before one trip across enemy lines, resistance fighters told him (Karski) that Jews were being murdered on a massive scale, and smuggled him into the Warsaw Ghetto and a Polish death camp to see for himself."
Yes, he shouldn’t have said “Polish death camp”. It was a huge faux pas on the part of his speech writer. He has since apologized and corrected himself, I believe using the term Nazi death camp. Of course, it would have been a bigger faux pas if Merkel had said it rather than Obama. I think the acceptable term now (if there can be an acceptable term for something as awful as a death camp) is Nazi Germany death camp. Some other common (but not necessarily correct) references to the death camps in Poland that I have found via my intense googling are Polish camps, German camps, camps of Nazi Germany, Nazi camps. Obama is not the first and probably not the last to misspeak on this topic.
It is argued that Obama and others who use the phrase Polish death camps are actually referring to the location as in death camps in Poland, but are they really? Do they really understand the difference? One of my friends in America said that American people don’t really care about the difference because they don’t know about history. I disagree. I think she’s got it backwards -they don’t know about history because they don’t care. And that is each person’s prerogative.
Poland is especially sensitive for being accredited with crimes of WW2 that they didn’t commit such as ownership of the Nazi camps. I get it. Who wants to be falsely blamed for something so atrocious, not the victims, that’s for sure, but some folks have trouble copping to the crimes which were to “our” (Polish) credit. I recommend reading the book “Wielka trwoga. Polska 1944-1947” by dr Marcin Zaremba in which he attempts to explain the psychological state of people in Poland during and after WW2.
I once had the pleasure of speaking to a gentleman who had survived Auschwitz and had later settled in England. He was a boy at the start of the war and a man by the end. After the war, he decided to make his way “home” hoping that someone from his family would make it home as well. When he arrived to his former home, he found it occupied by a Polish family. He inquired if anyone had returned. They not so politely informed him that his family had been shot in a ditch in the woods (as he had already suspected). With dim hope, he waited anyhow. After a few days of waiting in the doorway of his former home, he began to fear for his life as the Polish family not so politely informed him that in order to keep their/his house they were willing to “help” him join the rest of his family in that ditch.  No Nazi’s involved here. Just regular folks. We have to cop to that.
Later this man traveled to Wroclaw and decided to settle in England. I asked him why he didn’t stay in Wroclaw where everybody was “new”. He said that it was too lonely for him in Poland. Then he told me something I will remember forever. He said to imagine that you woke up one day and you couldn’t find a single person that you knew. Not your family, not your former neighbor, not your former classmates, not even a shop clerk, nobody. That’s one of his reasons for leaving the country. I guess if you don’t know anybody “at home” you might as well try your luck elsewhere. The other reason is that he began to hate his fellow Poles. He already hated the Germans for obvious reasons and wasn’t too fond of the Russians either and after many experiences like the one above he added the Poles to his list. He learned his lesson well, that he was first and foremost Jewish, not Polish. (It reminds me of a scene in Lalka -in the book, not in the film.  Anyone know which scene I am thinking of?) He said that if he could kill any of those people, even today, he would do it. That made me sad. That it wasn’t enough to take family and freedom and joy and hope away from this man but to take a boy and turn him into someone who wanted to kill. I enjoyed speaking to him very much, but I wondered how so much vengeance could be harbored in such a nice, smiling and otherwise optimistic man?
Leszek Miller this morning on the news said that the award from Obama should have been refused – that we (Poland) should refuse such accolades until the rest of the world learns its history lesson. I can see his point but it kind of sounds like the great comeback that you think of 2 hours after the argument. Sounds good in theory but difficult to pull off.
I prefer the old George W. faux pas like when he said that he planned to visit Czechoslovakia. Apparently, he was planning a trip back in time.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Majówka and more

May 3rd Parade05032012455
You have to come all the way to Poland to see a parade of U.S. military vehicles :) Misiu and Lizzie were both very happy.05032012451
Opening of the new bike path on the old “wąska parówka” as Rosie says :)05032012458
05032012460  0503201245905032012464
PKP curtains anyone?
A view from our village12052012783
Some things you can find in the forest
Some krasnoludki you can find in the forest if you are very quiet
I hope to post more pictures in June. Bring on the June-ówka!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

So you wanna have a baby in Poland, Part 4

I should finally finish this series and get to the birth of Rosie, I guess – especially since Rosie is 4 years old already and I have been writing this blog for what, 3 years now.
The fact that I see Rosie’s beautiful face everyday especially early in the morning – Mommy, you sleepin’? - should have reminded me to get my thoughts together and put something down on paper, well, on computer anyway. What reminded me that I should write, however, was a news story I saw the other morning (or rather heard,  I was doing my make-up) on TVN24. Apparently, Poland has a problem with aggressive patients. That’s what reminded me to write about Rosie’s birth. Don’t worry, Rosie wasn’t an aggressive newborn ;)
Ok, so the news report wasn’t exactly about aggressive patients…it was about signs hung in the doctor’s office to remind patients how to behave – to knock and wait, to not knock and wait, to just wait, to be nice to the personnel, to not be aggressive to the personnel, that aggression towards personnel will be prosecuted and that there is some registry of aggressive patients. Po prostu Bareja ;)
Even the coolest of the cool can blow their tops sometimes especially when we are sick, we have to wait in line for 3 hours,  the lady at the registration desk basically told us to feck off and the patient next to us has sneezed something gross all over our shoulder. Maybe we should keep our cool in situations such as these. It’s not the doctor’s fault. We shouldn’t take out our frustration and aggression on the doctor. But sometimes, just sometimes we should.
Let’s continue our story…
We had our little bald, baby Lizzie at home (she’s 6 now) and everything seemed perfect. One cool thing in Poland is that a mid-wife comes for a few home visits after you and baby come home from the hospital. Our mid-wife was very nice, helpful and experienced. I appreciated her visits very much. For you American moms some information- giving birth is covered under the health fund here– you don’t get a bill no matter what -even if you have complications, even if you have to stay in the hospital longer. The condition of the hospital certainly won’t be as nice as you’d like but, anyhow, you can’t really do anything about that. The mid-wife who comes to your house is within the health fund services as well, as are the first pediatrician visits and any GP visit for you and child (if you can just get your foot in the door…but more about that later).
What I didn’t know was that if you got stitches for any reason after giving birth, you could report back to the hospital and go to a special room where the nurses removed stitches all day long. I visited this room with these ladies after Rosie was born. They were surprisingly jolly for removing stitches from crotches and bellies all day long. My doctor, the Ordynator, did not inform me of the possibility to visit these jolly ladies with Lizzie. I had to go to his private office and pay to remove the stitches. It later turned out that he had MISSED a few and the mid-wife removed them for me in my own home (she carries a sterile kit with her).
I was enjoying my time as a first-time mom – diapers, breastfeeding and everything. Unfortunately, I got a pretty bad mastitis in one breast. Or maybe I should say fortunately, for my private doctor. 9 visits and 2 months later, I still had mastitis, 5 cm in diameter to be exact. It’s like having a 3rd breast – a very painful 3rd breast. Finally, I convinced my doctor to drain it, but when I arrived at the hospital at 7:00 a.m., baby in tow, he decided we would wait (?!?), treat it with a “laser” from some machine that looked like the control panel of Czernobyl, and I should come again to his private office.
I have a new doctor.
Who is not afraid of 3rd breasts…
…or scalpels.
Lizzie was soon turning one. It was time to take stock.
Our inventory:
MC900072629[1] Mom with 2 healthy breasts, no wonky 3rd breast thanks to the new doctor and his trusty scalpel
MC900072629[1] Dad – very enamored with the new baby and grateful to the new doctor for returning Mom to normal, well, as normal as Mom gets
MC900072629[1] Baby Lizzie makes 3, unaware of breast issues, sleeping through the night, eating “real” food
We asked ourselves, Hmmm, why not 4? And why not now?
That’s exactly what my doctor asked when I visited him for a check-up and said that we planned to try to get pregnant in a couple of months. He said “Why wait? You have a beautiful egg just waiting to be fertilized”. Actually he said something like this, “Dlaczego? Piękna jajeczka czeka.” Is it wrong that I told my husband that eggs can be fertilized for up to 15 days? And that for those 15 days vigorous sex was needed at least twice a day? Nah, that’s not wrong. I mean look at the results – Rosie! Yep, we made ourselves a baby Rosie. We even got to see her on the sonogram in egg form. Amazing, isn’t it?
Well, the whole pregnancy went fine. I was much more tired this time taking care of a baby (Lizzie was 1 when I got pregnant), carrying a baby and looking after myself and our home…oh, and my husband…oh, and working. By week 36, I was ready to pack it in and had already planned my last week of work. Rosie would be arriving any day now…except that she wasn’t. Each child is different as is each pregnancy blah, blah, blah and I should have known to expect anything. What I wasn’t expecting was to be pregnant ONE MONTH longer with Rosie than with Lizzie. Believe me, I was so relieved to be on my way to the hospital.
My relief ended when I actually entered the hospital. I knew where to go because I had been a patient there a few times before. We had official permission for a family birth from my former doctor, the Ordynator. It was a little after 7:00 a.m. and not much was going on at the hospital yet. The nurse opened the door at the Admittance Office and asked loudly, “What’re you doing here?” I thought it was pretty obvious but answered, “Having a baby”. “Not here,” she replied. “Why not here?” I asked. “We’re full,” and she closed and locked the door from the inside.
It was all a little too “no room at the Inn” for me, but I wasn’t ready to start looking for a manger just yet.
I didn’t sit down either because as you may know, it is practically impossible to sit down while in labor. I paced the waiting room and waited for Misiu who was parking the car.
He came in and the zadyma began. The nurse was quite flustered by Misiu and got the Doctor on duty. I remember this in a kind of a fog because I was in labor and my point of concentration was between my legs not on the doctor in Izba Przyjęć. The Doctor (whose nickname is too vulgar to write here) very unkindly informed us that the hospital was full and that we should go to another hospital. It was 7:15 a.m. – the start of morning rush hour. I informed him right back that there was no time and he said with one hand on the door handle, “You’ll make it”. He did not examine me nor did he offer transport. And a “full” hospital means that NOBODY is giving birth, all the birthing rooms were unoccupied. The regular hospital rooms, however, were full.
Not to put the cart before the horse, I told the Doctor that he could transport us – baby and me – after the birth. He said, “No. That is not possible”. I began yelling at him that it was not a fecking toothache. The baby was on its way. Then he finally examined me, quite roughly, said all was ok and left. I told the nurse that I couldn’t just leave, that I was afraid that something could go wrong. She did a quick KTG (CTG) and declared, “You hear that, lady. Your baby is alive.”
What a relief.
Misiu’s stance the entire time was, “Doctor, you will admit my wife to this hospital”-which he repeated over and over. I’m sure that all the Polish folks reading this understand very well, but I will spell it out for the rest. I was no longer a private patient of the Ordynator. I know that being his patient wouldn’t have made the hospital any less full, but you can be sure that if I had still been his patient, we would not have been treated so poorly.
It was 7:30 a.m. and we had been escorted to the door and asked to leave.
I realized that this was probably going to be the first birth in this hospital unattended by any medical personnel, but you can’t stop the birthing process just because the Doctor says no. There we were in the waiting room. What to do? Risk a car trip that would take at least 45 minutes maybe longer? Drive down the street to Biedronka’s parking lot and call an ambulance? Give birth right there in the waiting room? Another couple had arrived for a planned C-section and had heard everything that had transpired. They were in panic – for us, not for themselves. We choose the last option as the only option. Rosie was on her way out and there was nothing we could do about it.
I can tell you that  if you want to get the ball rolling, just remove your pants in a public place. Things will definitely start happening after that. In fact, more problems should be solved by pants removal. (I accept no legal responsibility for this advice. Remove your pants in public at your risk.)
Things will happen - such as doctors will admit you to the hospital…it may also have had something to do with something Misiu said involving the words “dam ci w łeb”, but who can be sure?
Does that qualify us for the aggressive patient registry?
At 7:45 a.m. I was walked upstairs to the birthing area. One annoying thing is that they repeat the admittance procedures upstairs – extremely annoying when you are a foreigner and in labor. Anyhow, I told them that I was in labor - in labor-labor not just first contractions-labor and was promptly hooked up to the KTG for the second time. Super.
Slowly and loudly, the mid-wife said, “When you feel the baby move, press this button.”
Me: How about when the baby starts to cry I press this button?
Mid-wife in her smooth “I am talking to a crazy person/flight attendant” voice: Once again, when you feel the baby move, press this button.
After a  minute-
Mid-wife: You don’t seem to understand. When the baby moves, press this button.
Me: I understand very well. The baby is not moving because the baby is coming OUT.
The mid-wife took her first peek under the sheet and shouted “Oh my, let’s get you to the birthing room”.
It was 7:50 a.m.
Across the hall to the birthing room we went where Misiu was waiting for us.
There was some water breaking. I learned a new word “kucaj” and that kucanie is a great birth position. I learned that drugs are expensive and there are not enough for the mid-wife and for me ;) I got a vitamin B shot. My strength gave out during kucanie and the mid-wife helped me onto the birthing table for the grand finale and said that I was very zgrabna for a pregnant lady (compliment no 1). No cutting was necessary – but in a crucial moment  the mid-wife looked up at me from between my legs. I expectantly awaited her instructions when she said,(compliment no 2)…
“You know what? You have a really nice smile. Please tell me that you don’t use just plain old toothpaste. Now push.”
And just like that Rosie was born which I was able to see reflected in the light fixture on the ceiling. Misiu cut the umbilical cord. There were some tears. All was well.
It was 8:00 a.m.
4 years ago.