30 sty 2010

Loanwords in Polish - zapożyczenia

Loanwords show intercultural contacts and influences between the nations. Today I'm presenting you a short history of Poland on words*. Many examples below come from a very useful dictionary "Wielki słownik poprawnej polszczyzny PWN".

1. In the beginning it was of course a Slavic mix. Most basic, every-day life words in Polish have Slavic roots (can be also based on German and Balt languages). E.g. names of seasons, food, tools. If you speak any other Slavic language, you will find many similarities.

2. With Christianity and the "baptism of Poland" in 966 religious words came from Latin via German languages and Czech. Even after 1000 years ago the origin can be noticed:

krzyż - cross
poganin - pagan

3. In the Middle Ages many new cities on Polish land were established regarding the German law. That's why we have some old words from German connected with administration and trade.

burmistrz - mayor
rynek - market

4. In that time Polish contacts with Czech and Hungarian language were more developed because of the kings' dynasties. So we have e.g.:

Cz. hańba - shame
H. orszak - procession

4. During the Renaissance and the rule of Italian queen Bona Sforza d'Aragona not only Italian vegetables came to Poland but also noble people started to be interested in Italian culture. This trend remained in the XVII century - on the court and in rich manor-houses Italian art was worshiped.

fontanna - fountain
pomidor - tomato

5. For many centuries Latin remained an international language of well-educated people in Europe. In the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth there were 3 official languages: Polish, Ruthenian and Latin. And of course till now we have many Latin words.

historia - history
immunitet - immunity

7. But the time has come for Latin. From the XVII till XX century noble people had to speak French. French loanwords in Polish date from the XVI century with a short episode of the rule of king Henryk Walezy (Alexandre-Édouard de Valois-Angoulême). And we have a lot! They are mostly connected with elegance, hygiene and social life. We write them in a Polish way. If you know French, it will be much easier for you with the Polish vocabulary:)

prestiż - prestige
makijaż - make-up
fryzjer - hairdresser
bagaż - luggage

8. Because of developed relations with eastern neighbours in Polish we have words from Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian. Not as many as you could expect, it's because Poles always preferred to copy the Western style of living.

U. hultaj - rascal
B. posag - dowry
R. czajnik - kettle

9. Because of the wars and peace contacts during the XVII century with The Ottoman Empire we have also Turkish words in Polish:

dywan - carpet
torba - bag

10. And from the XX century English is bombaring Polish as many other languages. The domination of Anglo-Saxon culture is inevitable and loanwords are unaccountable. They are connected with a new international life style, technology, sport.


*There are of course many types of loanwords but we don't need this philological knowledge here.

28 sty 2010

Polish films in English in Etnokino in Warsaw

Good news! Etnokino in The State Ethnographic Museum in Warsaw presents another series of Polish films with English subtitles. You have a chance to see Polish classic with Jerzy Stuhr - a really great actor.

This is what I received in the newsletter (I'm just copying!):

01.02.2010: TOP DOG/WODZIREJ – reż. Feliks Falk, Polska, 1977, 104 min.
08.02.2010: CITIZEN PISZCZYK/ OBYWATEL PISZCZYK – reż. Andrzej Kotkowski, Polska, 1988, 101 min.
15.02.2010: CHANCE/ SZANSA – reż. Feliks Falk, Polska, 1979, 85 min.
22.02.2010: HERO OF THE YEAR/BOHATER ROKU – reż. Feliks Falk, Polska, 1986, 115 min.

TOP DOG - Lutek Danielak works for the provincial branch of hotels company „Estrada”. He is the sixth in the hierarchy of dance leaders and masters of parties organized for children and pensioners. When he hears about the great opening ball in the „Lux” hotel he is determined to be its dance leader. He knows he is good, but so are his competitors. Everyone understands this is an unique opportunity to start a career. Danielak's advantage is his young age. Although his manager promises to support him with a slogan „time for young” Danielak decides to eliminate rivals by his own means.

CITIZEN PISZCZYK - The film is a continuation of a famous Polish film „Bad Luck”. The action takes place during the period of social transformation that had started with Stalin's death. We observe the figure of a loser and washout who can't find himself in the new reality. He is a typical example of anti-hero; a coward who only tries to make good impression ending with the reverse result. The film is a bitter satire on totalitarian system.

THE CHANCE - Life in the eighties depicted through the conflict and competition between two teachers in a high school. One teaches history and the other - sports. The latter organize a handball team and motivates students to participate. Everyone is pleased with his activity but he starts to get students away from learning and their other hobbies. He is so determined to be in control of their lives, so he even uses blackmail. The history teacher stands for them and by helping them he demonstrates use of democratic solutions and freedom of opinion.

HERO OF THE YEAR - The film is a continuation of famous „Top Dog”. The character from the first film - Lutek Danielak - loses his job in television and works as leather clothes salesman. However, he didn't forget about aspirations he had and tries to get into the entertainment industry again and appear at front pages of popular magazines. His ideas result from the concept of television; that it might transform a simple man into a national celebrity. The film describes the sick nature of television as well as the dark sides of human soul.

Tickets for 10 zł.

The State Ethnographic Museum
Warsaw, ul. Kredytowa 1
tel.: 609 525 756

Kraków and Małopolska

Foreigners often ask me what to see in Poland. The first destination (after Warsaw;) is no doubt Cracow. In Polish the city is called Kraków and it's pronounced [krakuf]. Even though it's so obvious and well-known Kraków maintains a magical place for me. People from destroyed and renovated Warsaw long for a medieval city with original building complex. The atmosphere is unique. I could go there every year just for a walk or a dinner. Unfortunalety, I went there for a few days 5 years ago and for 2 hours about 2 years ago. I really miss Kraków and it's time to drop in.

I'm not going to write about all tourist places in Kraków, you will find a lot on the web. On youtube you can watch a very nice video made by Lonely Planet. Yes, Wawel Royal Castle and the cathedral are amazing. It's a special place for me because there is a grave of the best Polish artist ever (in my opinion, we can discuss about it) - Adam Mickiewicz. Kazimierz - the Jewish district is becoming more and more lively and goes back to its roots. Nowa Huta - the impressive communist district is something for tourists who look not only for evidently beautiful places.

For Kraków you need at least 3 days. Train connection with Warsaw is very comfortable. This train (regarding Polish conditions) is quite quick. There are also many cheap flights to Kraków from different parts of Europe. But the best option is to go by car and see more in this area. The whole region is called Małopolska (small Poland) and it's big and interesting. I'm presenting you only a few places close to Kraków (I must leave the mountains now).

What to see in the surroundings?

Wieliczka - old, precious and wonderful salt mine. Obligatory!

Auschwitz-Birkenau - there's no need to say more. You may don't want to but you should go. In Polish: Oświęcim-Brzezinka.

Pszczyna Castle - not so well-known but worth seeing!

Bochnia - the smaller salt mine, you can sleep, dance, sail or have a ride on the slide underground!

Wadowice - a place where Karol Wojtyła/Jan Paweł II (John Paul II) was born.

Ojców National Park - breathtaking views, cliffs and caves. In Polish: Ojcowski Park Narodowy.

And a lot of castles and ruins. Check this page. One of the biggest is the castle in Pieskowa Skała. This is the official website.

And I also recommend this website.

So where are you going for the next holiday?:)

P.S. The photo above as well as the main photo on my blog were taken by my dear friend - Kasia. Here you can find her other works.

26 sty 2010

Polish artist for Europe

I'm happy to announce that the project created by a Polish young artist has a big chance to win the international competition:) Maria Mileńko from Poznań designed lively and modern poster for Europe Day 2010. I really think it's the best and my local patriotism isn't the reason. If you like it, please help and vote here! Everybody is the jury!

And this is Maria's blog.



That's enough! At night -22 C in Warsaw and -28 C in the Mazovia countryside:/ During the day it's sunny but the temperature isn't much higher. It's not typical, last winter was for sure warmer!

I can't put more clothes on as I have 2 pairs of trousers and 4 layers on the top. Who doesn't have to go outside, stays at home. Social life is in danger - cars don't want to work and in some buses and trams there's no heating. How is that possible that in public transportation there's no heating? Well, it's not that it doesn't work, it was never installed! The oldest trams in Warsaw are these and we hate them most. They were produced from 1959 till 1969 and still 247
carriages are doing well:/ Step by step they are replaced by new ones but I don't know why I always encounter them on my routes in the winter time. On the other hand, the new ones are terrible during summer because of extremely inconvenient windows. In my opinion their designers have never used public transportation! Probably they have no idea how people feel in +30 C and no draught inside the carriage. Think about a crowd and stink around you! Here you have an example of this ingenuity. You can't open windows properly. Don't count on air condition - if you're lucky maybe once a week in the city center you will find a tram which offers this pleasure;)

Sorry about my grumbling but I want to prepare you if you choose trams in Warsaw. The best option is always of course underground but in 25 years Poles were able to build only 22 stations in Warsaw. I will write more about Polish slowness in construction works!

22 sty 2010

Is Polish language really extremely difficult?


No dobrze, it depends. I can guarantee that if you speak any other European language* (and you do) learning Polish won't be a traumatic experience. Many times you will be even surprised. On this map you can see what are the language groups around the world. In Europe most languages are somehow connected. It's hard to imagine how many loanwords there are in every language. Poles have borrowed a lot from Latin, French, Italian, German and nowadays - English (examples here ). I'm always happy when foreigners discover it during the lessons.

Not only vocabulary is similar in Europe. Slavonic grammars' descriptions are based on Latin. You can be also familiar with some idioms and use of the language.

And what about the Polish pronunciation? Well, I understand that words like "dźwięk", "szczotka" or "powyłamywanymi" can discourage in the beginning. But once you know how to read, you won't have problems. It's not like in English when also native speakers aren't sure how to pronounce a new word;) In Polish you can read everything by yourself. I'm a teacher - believe me.

Of course if you are a Slav or speak any other Slavic language, your potential difficulties with Polish will be easy to overcome. But not only Slavs are able to say that Polish is quite easy, the same told me my motivated Portuguese student:)

So don't be scared, it's not so bad!

* Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian and Basque (Euskara) don't belong to the Indo-European group and I don't know what similarities you can find between them and Polish. Maybe you could write me something about that?

Book guide part 1.

Thanks to my nice student from Guatemala I read quite interesting memoirs from the 90's in the back country of Poland. Irishman Tom Galvin came to Poland as a young volunteer in order to teach English at a public school in Mińsk Mazowiecki. He hadn't known what to expect and of course austere conditions surprised him a lot. As social and transport infrastructure in so called "Poland B" was and is rather plain, living and working there was challenging. How he managed to stay 5 years? As many foreigners he found here love. His future wife lived in Mińsk and also because of her he became more interested in our country. Probably they are still together - all the best!

The book is amusing and portrays Poles in a warm way. In the eyes of a foreigner Polish hospitality isn't a stereotype but remains real and precious. Tom Galvin observed also changes in Poland, our accession to the European Union and mass emigration to Ireland for work and money. When he came back home, Poles started to arrive. Our cultures seem to be not so distant and they will probably mix more in the future.

So worth reading! The only thing I can't accept are misspellings in almost every Polish word! A Pole should have read it before publication because it looks terribly. Sometimes I also do proofreading - send it to me before the second edition!

My second puzzle for you is: what does the title "There's an Egg in my Soup" refer to?

18 sty 2010

Summer in the middle of winter!

I would like to recommend it to everybody who is now in Warsaw! Till the 30th of January you can feel how it's like to spend hot summer in our capital:) On plac Konstytucji there is a big white cube made from styrofoam. Go inside, experience +35 degrees and watch a film about the plac in summer. This is not a commercial, it was created by Fundacja Centrum Europy in order to fight off a feeling of depression which affects the inhabitants. Great idea! For more details watch a video here.

17 sty 2010

Polish vodka - polska wódka

I found a very interesting short documentary in English about the vodka wars between Poland and Russia. The name is a bit exagerrated because the problem isn't that big - Poles are really not familiar with this topic. From time to time we can hear about new plans of how to convince international consumers that vodka should be spelled "wódka" or it should be registered as an alcohol made only from grain, rye, wheat, potatoes, or sugar beet molasses (we failed in the EU). Discussion with Russia on who first made vodka is for me only the next method to show independence/domination because the problem cannot be solved as there are not many written sources from the Middle Ages. It's a part of not serious local nationalism. Of course in Poland they tell you that there is no better brand than Wyborowa, Żołądkowa Gorzka, Luksusowa or Żubrówka. In Russia they will praise their own.

In the field of drinking I'm completely not Polish because I don't like alcohol;) I never drink vodka (even on weddings;) and everybody got used to it. Do Poles drink a lot? Well, it's not something typical only for us. The problem here is that there is a huge pressure on drinking. It's especially dangerous for teenagers who often feel forced to show off on parties. And sometimes for foreigners;) But if you enjoy it, come to Poland, you will be warmly welcomed:)

In the movie you can hear the word "gorzała". It's a very old term for wódka. It's still in use also as a friendly diminutive "gorzałka". It's colloquial so better avoid it in very official situations:)

See the film. Polish dialogues are not translated so you can listen to the language.

16 sty 2010

Polish movies - what to watch?

It will be only a first small note, I don't want to write a history of Polish cinematography, I wouldn't even try.

Maybe you've heard something about the Polish Film School (check Wiki)? Maybe you know Polish directors: Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Roman Polański or Agnieszka Holland? Or maybe you haven't seen anything yet? There is a lot to see!

I was thinking about my list of top Polish movies ever. In fact it's quite difficult to create. There is one of 100 films made by a lot of people here. For sure I haven't seen everything so my suggestions for you are very subjective. There is no order.

1. Komedia

"Miś" - top comedy from the times of communism. Absurd and smart! You can see how that system really functioned.

"Rejs" - experimental comedy which takes place on a boat.

"Dziewczyny do wzięcia" - also black and white about girls who look for love in a big city.

"Kiler" - Poland after transformation - very funny gangster plot, you can compare it to "Miś" and see what has changed and what hasn't.

2. Komediodramat

"Dzień świra" - presents life of a Polish teacher in public school and deals with Polish myths.

"Wesele" (by W. Smarzowski, not A. Wajda) - one of the most drastic movies about Poles, you are left with a rather bad mood.

3. Dramat

"Zero" - about men and women in contemporary Poland.

"Masz na imię Justine" - shocking history of a Polish girl sold in Germany as a prostitute.

4. Film historyczny/kostiumowy

"Pianista" - presents the history of Polish Jew Władysław Szpilman during the WW II, based on his book.

"Ziemia obiecana" - adaptation of XIXth century Polish novel about early capitalism in the international city of Łódź. Wajda can make a masterpiece even from a mediocre text!

"Rękopis znaleziony w Saragossie" - adaptation of a very weird XVIIIth century novel written by Jan Potocki in French. Action takes place in Spain.

"Popiół i diament" - my favourite Wajda's one. Mediocre novel but fanstastic movie about chaos in Poland just after the WW II. It's not easy to understand who is who so be patient.

"Potop" - adventure and romance during XVIIth century wars in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

"Gorączka" - the beginning of XXth century in non-existent Poland in the eyes of young revolutionists.

4. Film obyczajowy (everyday life)

"Sztuczki" - nice and warm family history.

"Panny z Wilka" - one man's return to the past, lyric and sad but beautiful.

I still haven't seen "Eroica", "Europa, Europa", "Plac Zbawiciela", "Kanał", "Symetria" and "Dom zły"! But I can recommend them to you;)

12 sty 2010

WOŚP - The Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity

Since 1993 January is in Poland a month of a massive civil movement called The Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity Great Finale (Finał Wielkiej Orkiestry Świątecznej Pomocy). It was established in order to collect money for children in hospitals. Everybody knows how difficult it is. How can you convince people to give money on a massive scale? One man did this in Poland! His name is Jerzy Owsiak and he became a celebrity (which doesn't happen often in NGO sector). He changed people's attitude to charity. It started to be entertaining and trendy! He engaged young people and even children are now volunteers. One Sunday in the whole country there are concerts and other lively events. Every media are reporting how much money was donated and on what it will be spend. This year the finale was dedicated to children’s oncology. Medical equipment is terribly expensive and Polish poor hospitals can hardly buy what is needed. Poles buy it themselves via the WOŚP Foundation. This year in one day it was possible to collect around 36 million zlotys (in Poland there are around 38 mln citizens!). Check the other incredible achievements of WOŚP here.

Red heart is a symbol of WOŚP movement. Everybody who gives money, receives a sticker. We are proud to wear it!

9 sty 2010

Polish winter - polska zima

I don't know to what extent the stereotype of Polish icy climate is spread in the world. Poles think that their country is considered to be very cold and often laugh about polar bears seen in Poland (actually you can only encounter them in the zoo). We only have grizzlis in the mountains. Anyway, Poland isn't for sure a hot country. Winters are rather painful and we complain about the temperature every year. Winter can last from November till the end of March which is too long even for Poles. It usually starts to snow in December, melts on Christmas (to make it even more irritating) and continues later on. The coldest month is January with medium temperature around -6°C to 0°C. The most extreme temperature during the XXth century was recorded in 1940 and was -41,0°C! Howewer, summers can be very hot like that in 1921 (+40,2°C)! So you have to be prepared and possess the whole range of clothes!

Fortunately extreme winters (in Polish "zima stulecia") don't happen very often. The last one was in 1978/79 when snow and frost paralysed transport and life everywhere. Here you can find a photo from that time. This year is constantly snowing and hopefully it won't be like that!

Winter has generally only negative influence on the economy. Costs are high. Poles spend huge amount of money not only on heating but also on winter tyres, car and house repairs, clothes, roads. But of course there are some advantages. You can ski in Poland (even in Warsaw)! Our ski resorts are maybe not as impressive as in the Western Europe but they are developing. If you are interested, check: Zakopane, Białka Tatrzańska, Krynica Górska, Korbielów, Czarna Góra, Wierchomla, Karpacz, Zieleniec.

And what about people's moods in the winter? I know some who love it and feel great. Snow and frost create a fanstastic atmosphere around Christmas and look magically. If there is sun white world looks beautifully (it's rather cloudy all the time). But the best is when after a cold winter comes lovely spring and everything is blossoming. Nothing compares to the first spring signs! It's worth to spend a winter in Poland just to have this experience!

P.S. On the photo above there are my bicycles covered with snow. This year I forgot to pack them before winter time and this is the result.

7 sty 2010

K+M+B 2010

You can see this inscription on some door in Poland. What is it?

For Christians* the 6th of January is the day of the Epiphany of Jesus Christ (Swięto Objawienia Pańskiego). In Poland it's rather called the Three Kings' Day (Dzień Trzech Króli) - who due to the legend visited newborn Jesus and brought him gifts. I think that most Poles consider these 3 letters as kings' names - Kacper, Melchior, Baltazar in Polish. But in reality it's something completely different. Originally it should be C+M+B which is in Latin "Christus mansionem benedicat" – let Christ bless this house. Pluses are in fact crosses. = sign is completely redundant but it maintains a part of the Polish tradition. The inscription is written with chalk (consecrated in church) every year at the 6th of January in order to give home symbolical protection. As secularization of Poland is progressing, especially in big cities this inscription is disappearing.

* there are differences between churches

3 sty 2010

Dzień dobry! Hello everyone!

So let's begin:)

Boże Narodzenie (Christmas) is behind us, the remains of meals are eaten, after Sylwester (New Year's Eve) parties everybody has to go to work. It's a good time to start this blog. I wish you a great year and - myself - creativity in writing to make my texts worth reading.

I have the first puzzle for you - what is on the photo? Of course it's Polish and traditional.