23 gru 2011

Wesołych Świąt! Merry Christmas!

15 gru 2011

Andrzejki - st. Andrew's Day

It’s almost Christmas but I would like to come back to November because it’s worth to write about an interesting tradition from the Central and Eastern Europe, still popular in Poland, especially at schools. On the 30th of November we celebrate st. Andrew's Day. Not many people know who was it and that it’s the last day of the year in the Catholic Church, but everybody knows that it’s a good occasion to learn something about your future ;)

On the previous day (night) young people gather and perform magic rituals. Now it’s usually organized by schools only for fun, nobody really believes in the results of the future telling. Even 6-year-olds can get to know the name of her/his future husband or wife. I have all good memories from my primary school :)

What do we do? Most customs are connected with love and marriage, for example:

- whose shoe will be first at the door, this person will marry as first
- you peel an apple and throw the skin – it will form the first letter of the name of your future wife or husband
- you write names of potential candidates on the small papers and put in under the pillow. In the morning you choose one and it will be this person.

The most popular and complicated is pouring hot wax through a key to water. Then you interpret its shape. The shadow on the wall pictures something that will happen next year.

It’s better to watch than to read, so I recommend you 2 short films: here and here.

For teenagers and older Andrzejki is a good opportunity to organize a party, dance and drink. Maybe you will also try it in 2012?

4 gru 2011

Polish sexuality 2011

As maybe some of you know I’m a volunteer sex educator (no practice, just the theory!) and I work for young people. I’m very interested in human sexuality and today I would like to comment the recent study on Polish sexuality done by a famous professor Zbigniew Izdebski and TNS OBOP. It’s a big project and many results are not published yet. I also wrote a short article about this report in Polish.

Professor asked 3206 people (mostly heterosexual) about their sexual behaviour. In all poles like this most people (68%) are happy with their sex life. We should ask what exactly does it mean for them, especially when for 63% of men and 50% of women sex is important. 71% have sex at least once a week – not so bad!

Do people lie? Especially in this kind of poll they probably tell what they think they are expected to. On average Poles have 4,5 sexual partner in the whole life. Really? Only 30% of women declare that they masturbate – it’s still a huge taboo in Poland. For sure the one reason is Church which considers masturbation as pure evil. But Poles are not so religious as you may think. The Church is present everywhere but only 4% of people connect sex with sin.

52% tried oral sex (more than before) and 15% anal sex.

21% of men and 12% of women admit they cheated. What is interesting the relationship remained the same. According to the report Polish women look for something else because they feel bored with their partners.

51% of men i 31% of women think that a woman HAS TO satisfy her partner. Patriarchal patterns persist!

Only 9% of Poles have ever done a HIV test. HIV isn’t VERY dangerous in Poland but for sure the situation will be worse. In Eastern Europe and Middle Asia the number of infected is growing very fast!

66% of Poles use condoms. Hormonal contraception is still not very popular. 21% think that a withdrawal is a contraception method!

Only 25% of Poles consider homosexuality as normal. 35% would like to cure it!

31 paź 2011

Polish wedding

I was asked to write about the Polish wedding traditions. I must say that it’s a big topic because they are in a process of change. I will put it from my point of view which means a person living in a big city.

Firstly, a dictionary:

ślub – wedding

wesele – party after wedding

pan młody – groom

panna/pani młoda - bride

młoda para/nowożeńcy - newly-weds

goście – guests

świadek/świadkowa – best man, one from the bride’s side and one from the groom’s

wieczór panieński/kawalerski – hen/stag night

For many people ślub is an extremely important moment, planned even 2 years ahead. If you want a special place for wesele, you should book it very early. Still mostly women take care of wedding preparations but hopefully it’s also changing.

Before a wedding there are wieczór panieński and wieczór kawalerski. The idea of these parties depends on the engaged couple, can be quieter or more crazy. Usually best men organize this evening at home or in a club, so it’s a surprise. Some people are happy to receive erotic gadgets from sex shop and some aren’t so please take it into consideration if you are a guest:) You can for example order tort (a cake) like this:

There are 2 kinds of ślub: cywilny and kościelny (Catholic as most Poles are TRADITIONALLY Catholics).

a) Ślub cywilny takes place in Urząd Stanu Cywilnego – a public institution. It lasts 15 minutes. Here there’s an example of przysięga małżeńska (wedding vow). Then newly-weds exchange obrączki (rings) and are free to go.

b) Ślub kościelny – a special mass that lasts about 50 minutes. You can watch it here. Ślub kościelny requires a lot more preparations – you must attend to nauki przedmałżeńskie – a course of the Catholic version of preparation for family life (including family planning). A confession is also obligatory. Poles are good in avoiding all kinds of regulations, there are some way-outs if you don’t want to do this;)

After the wedding in front of a church or Urząd Stanu Cywilnego guests give flowers and presents to newly-weds. Now many people prefer to avoid flowers and ask for books, wine or a donation to charity. What main gift should you give? The best idea is to ask, money (in envelopes;) is very popular. The amount depends on how close you’re to the newly-weds and if you’re invited to wesele.

If you are, then you go to a place of wesele – can be far away from the church. Wesele starts with welcoming newly-weds by their parents. Usually there’s a music band that plays all sort of Polish and international music. Can be fine, can be a total kitsch. DJs are more and more popular because newly-weds like to decide about the music on their party. The two most important songs are "100 lat" and "Gorzka wódka" (bitter vodka) after which newly-weds should kiss to make it sweeter.

The first dance is important, bride and groom often prepare something special.

On wesele you should have fun, so eat, drink, dance and take part in competitions. If there’s a good konferansjer (master of the ceremony), it can be really a great party. Don’t feel obliged to drink a lot of wódka – I never do this and nobody forces me. You can drink wine or water, it doesn’t matter. More and more people drink less and don’t end under the table;)

I would like to write you about the Polish wedding traditions. What part is the most interesting or different for you? What should I explain better?

17 paź 2011

New Sejm and Senat

The election’s results were not so easy to predict, everything could have happened. Fortunately they appeared to be great (naturally from my point of view):

Platforma Obywatelska 39,18%
Prawo i Sprawiedliwość 29,89%
Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe 8,36%
Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej 8,24%

Voted 48,92%

In fact my party Ruch Palikota is the biggest winner! We expected this amazing result but our opponents did everything to convince the public opinion that we should lose. Media also tried to diminish our political impact but voters trusted us. Our hard work this year gave us marvellous satisfaction. We have 40 MPs and will introduce different topics to parliamentary debates.

The coalition remains the same: PO with PSL. I hope that the prime minister Donald Tusk will be braver and do more. For sure it’s his success to be elected the second time (unusual in Poland) but his main opponent Jarosław Kaczyński is so dangerous for Poland that many people voted against him. Last 4 years were quite calm but on the other hand idle, very few things have changed to the better. 10% for Ruch Palikota shows it perfectly – people want faster progress both in social and economical matters.

I would like to thank everybody who voted for me! 456 votes is a wonderful result, 55 from abroad really surprised me! This is just a beginning! I will still be a volunteer in my party but this blog won’t become political;) You can always ask me about the current matters in Poland and send me your opinions.

25 wrz 2011

Polish parliamentary election 2011

On the 9th of October we will vote for 460 new posłowie i posłanki (members of Sejm - the lower chamber) and 100 senatorowie and senatorki (members of Senat). For me this is the most important election ever because I'm running for office! For a few months I’ve been a volunteer in a new party Ruch Palikota and I became one of the candidates on the Warsaw’s list (list number 4, me on the 8th place). What I do every day during the campaign you will find on my website, there’s also my political programme. My party receives more and more support and I’m very optimistic.

More in English about me and Ruch Palikota on Cogo - a portal on Central and Eastern European Matters.

I encourage all Poles living abroad to vote! You all choose candidates from Warsaw’s lists.

Check Ruch Palikota.

13 sie 2011

Holidays on the Polish seaside

This year I decided to spend my summer holidays in Poland. For a few years I’d gone abroad looking for 100% perfect weather and a warm sea. These two reasons can spoil holidays on the Polish seaside. And they do ;) During my holidays the temperature was around 15 degrees C, water – maybe a bit more. Because of the rain you can’t lay on the beach (Polish beaches are beautiful and wide!), so people go sightseeing or eat/drink. The first option is very positive but the second one not exactly...

Usually people from Warsaw go to województwo pomorskie (with cities like Gdańsk, Sopot, Władysławowo, Jastrzębia Góra or Łeba – all nice) because it’s closer. I wanted to see new places, so I’d chosen województwo zachodniopomorskie. I went to very small Bobolin near Darłowo.

I prefer to avoid crowds and I hate shops with kitsch souvenirs (these in Poland are really kitsch) so the smaller place the better for me. I only wanted to relax and enjoy the severe beauty of the Baltic Sea...

Because of the constant rain it wasn’t possible to read on the beach. I visited Ustka, Kołobrzeg, Koszalin, Mielno, Darłowo, Słupsk... I wasn't overwhelmed by the beauty of these places. My winner is USTKA with renovated Prussian rustic architecture. In Kołobrzeg you will find some old urban architecture but unfortunately buildings from the PRL period and from the 90’s spoil the view.

Only the last day of my holidays was really sunny and I could get a tan.

The key word on the Polish beach isn’t PARASOL. It’s PARAWAN! Usually it’s windy so you should protect yourself. You can have 1, 2 or 3... BTW I’m always astonished how people really like to be in a crowd.

What can you eat on the Polish seaside? Of course kebab and pizza! Don’t! Try Baltic fish! My favourite and the cheapest is FLĄDRA. DORSZ is also recommendable. Below no flądra – a big mistake!

But on the main square in Darłowo you can find... :)

About the accommodation – next time...

12 lip 2011

Polish Presidency

So many topics to write about! But recently I've been involved (and I am involved) in my political activities and unfortunately I’ve abandoned my blog for a while.

From the 1st of July until the 31st of December Poland is a head of the Council of the European Union. It’s a rotating presidency. I encourage you to read what are the Polish goals for this period:

Pl 2011

There are also several films on youtube about the presidency. Do you like these ideas for gadgets from Poland? For me krzemień pasiasty (stripped flint) seems to be the most interesting. It’s a stone that can be found only in Poland, only near Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski.

Hopefully I will come back here soon my dear readers!

7 cze 2011

Do you know Polska?

The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs introduced a new website promoting the Polish culture. Do you know Polska? is “a visual and interactive dictionary of slang terms that describe Poland as seen by the young generation of Poles”. Firstly, I though “great!”. But is it?

Who is a target of this website? Probably young people who learn Polish and/or speak it quite well. Somebody who is completely uninterested in our language won’t memorize these strange slang words. Now there aren’t many of them but the website is being developed. Everybody can add a word or a photo – please do it:) These slang terms are really used now, the only one I’ve never heard is “ale beka”. I find these quizzes rather controversial because it’s not always clear what the authors had in mind. I didn't get 100%;)

What I really like are the funny photos. They show different aspects of Poland and illustrate explained words. The whole idea is amusing and maybe this website can show Poland as a “cool country”. What do you think about it? I would like to know your opinion. Does it make sense or the ministry is spending our money in vain?

31 maj 2011

Strawberry season!

Going to a market (in Polish targ or bazar) is a real pleasure now. Fruits and vegetables smell wonderfully, the weather is perfect. What I especially recommend you to buy are white and green asparagus (szparagi), young cabbage (kapusta) and of course strawberries (truskawki)! There are so many ways of eating strawberries… I love them with white cheese for breakfast, with pasta or rice for lunch, sauté or in a cake or sorbet for dessert…

Even if you speak no Polish, asking for truskawki should be very easy.
„Proszę kilo / pół kilo / dwa kilo” – that’s it!

Today a very easy recipe for a summer lunch! Great for children and adults. Don’t worry about the exact amounts.

We need:

any kind of pasta or rice you like – makaron albo ryż dowolny

sour or sweet cream you like (can be 10% of fat, can be 36%), milk or yoghurt also fine – śmietana / mleko / jogurt

strawberries – truskawki

sugar, if you need (vanilla sugar – a Northeastern European specialty is also perfect) – cukier (cukier wanilinowy)

Boil pasta and mash strawberries with sugar (or not if you count calories). You can use a blender, a potato masher or just a fork. Once again product placement:

Then mix it and smacznego :))

What are your recipes with strawberries? Would you like to have my perfect fruit cake recipe?

27 maj 2011

Polish certificate exams

Since Poland has opened to the world, more and more people are interested in learning Polish and living here. A need to certify the language skills has occured. In 2004 the Polish certificate exams were introduced for the first time. Now they are organized regularly in Poland and abroad. You can take them in Warszawa and Kraków or any place in the world if there are minimum 20 candidates.

The exams test language skills on the 3 levels: B1, B2 and C2 (the highest possible). These names origin from the EU language standard established by the Council of Europe. They are explained briefly also on the official website of the Polish certificate. I don’t want to copy all the information provided there. What is important – everybody can take them unless you are a Polish citizen (but if you permanently reside abroad, it’s possible). The minimum age is 16 (B1, B2) and 18 (C2). Probably it’s because you need to have a certain knowledge about the world to understand texts on the test but I’m not sure it’s the best idea.

The main question is - do I really need a certificate? Why should I do that? There are of course internal and external reasons. External – if you would like to study and work in Poland, it can help a lot. A certificate can convince an employer in any kind of job. In some professions there is an official requirement – nurses, doctors, civil servants, real estate agents, property managers and appraisers have to speak Polish at certain levels.

Internal reasons are even more important. I’ve passed FCE and CAE – the Cambridge Exams in English so I know this topic quite well. For me these huge and stressful exams were very motivating. I've learnt a lot during preparations and I have very nice memories from that period. The satisfaction with the results is incomparable to anything else:) Even if I hadn’t had any further benefits I would have taken them to feel more self-confident in English. So I recommend taking the Polish exams to everybody. Yes, I know, doing the same exercises can be boring but the effort is worth it!

And this is what my student Lukas thinks about it: "The Polish Language Exam was to me a kind of confirmation of my learning progress. I was sure, that I would continue learning Polish, but it always leaves you better off, I thought, if you have a state's certificate. The exam lasts two days, first you must listen, read and write and fill in the grammar exercises, second you meet the commission and talk to them for 15 minutes. The whole examine, hence, lasts for more than 4 hours. It's hard to equally concentrate during such a long time, however the exercises are compact and you just do one after another. Obviously one has to be well-prepared, but being able to concentrate and to properly understand the questions is even as important. The parts themselves aren't too difficult, but the combination and number of exercises, challenging you from different directions, is really demanding. If you manage, however, it gives you a very good and overall feedback about your level of proficiency in Polish language. And a good feeling too ;-)"

On the website you have sample tests. Fortunately there are more and more books on the market to help you in preparations. The list is available here. The best idea is to learn with a teacher because language nuances get more and more complex on the advanced level. Polish native speakers are in most cases not able to explain them.

The exam statistics are very interesting. What a pity that the names of the countries hasn’t been translated into English;) Try to guess what countries are Włochy and Węgry:) It’s clear that our neighbours are those who take exams most often. It’s also not a surprise that women are more likely to pass it
than men because they generally study more.

What is your experience? Do you have a certificate in Polish? Is it a good idea?

Useful vocabulary:
zdać egzamin – to pass the exam
zdawać egzamin – to take the exam
zdający/zdająca – an examinee

19 maj 2011

Bloggers' meeting

Once again I’m ashamed of not writing for so long. I had 2 professional trainings, I’m also dedicated to my 2 volunteer jobs. And of course I work every day and try to enjoy the springtime in Warsaw. I’m never bored!

I would like to thank Kolin for the invitation to the Warsaw bloggers’ meeting which took place on the 7th of May. I met great people who I’d known only from the internet. Thank you for a warm welcome, I felt really nice.

Meet Brad who writes for Polandian

Meet Damien

Meet Kolin

Meet Michael

Meet Mike

Meet Paddy

Meet Pan Steeva

Meet Scatts

Meet Bartek who is Polish and writes in English

Damien motivated me to write about the Polish certificate exams what I will do soon, I promise/obiecuję!

5 maj 2011

Sailing in Poland

The beautiful season has started, it’s high time to relax outdoor. Poland offers you a lot attractions if you like water and pure nature. The most popular tourist region are of course Mazury (plural, Eng. Masuria) in the north-eastern Poland. There you have approximately 4000 lakes which means you can sail for a month. Landscapes are peaceful and stunning. You can stay in the wilderness and avoid people. I spent 6 weeks in total in the smallest boats in Mazury, I had a bath in cold lakes and ate pasta with ketchup for lunch – unforgettable experience! But of course you can rent a yacht or stay in a luxurious hotel. There is a wide offer of agroturystyka – nice accommodation in the countryside. A good point to start are for example Mikołajki, Ruciane Nida, Węgorzewo or Giżycko.

If you live in Warsaw and don’t have time to go further there’s Zalew Zegrzyński nearby. Great for the weekend relax even in a paddle boat.

If you are more advanced try to sail in the Baltic Sea (Morze Bałtyckie) or in the Gdańsk Bay (Zatoka Gdańska). Zatoka Gdańska and Hel Peninsula (commonly called Hell:) are a great place also for windsurfing or kitesurfing maniacs.

BTW I would like to introduce you a Polish great sailor Natasza Caban. An extraordinary girl who sailed solo around the world and helped people with disabilities during the journey. More about her you can read in Polish for example here.

Don’t waste the opportunity:)

Useful vocabulary:

łódź/łódka – a boat
motorówka – a speed boat
patent żeglarski – a sailing license
rower wodny – a paddle boat
statek – a ship
wynajmować/wynająć – to rent
do wynajęcia - for rent
żagiel – a sail
żaglówka – a sailing boat

22 kwi 2011

Wesołych Świąt! Happy Easter!

14 kwi 2011

Julius Fromm, condoms and the promotion of Konin

Thanks to the great event performed by Stowarzyszenie Akcja Konin many Poles (including me) found out that there was somebody like Julius Fromm. This Jewish entrepreneur was born in Konin (in the middle of today’s Poland) in 1883. His family moved to Berlin in order to look for work. Fromm became a chemist and worked on the rubber. He believed that future belongs to condoms and invented latex. Until that time condoms were very “natural” – pig or sheep guts were used for example. They were expensive and unreliable - didn’t protect from STIs and limited pleasure. So we can say that modern condoms in a way come from Poland:) Julius Fromm created a condom empire, established many manufactures and made a fortune. In Germany condoms were even called fromms.

He was naturalised in 1920 and acquired German citizenship. His life in the times of the rising Nazi’s threat was for sure very challenging. The Nazis didn’t murder him but stole all his property. He spent the WW II in London and died a few days after the liberation. More about him and his empire you can read here.

Surprisingly, in the XXI century condoms remain a taboo in Poland. You can easily buy them in a shop, gas station or pharmacy but adults still would like to protect young people from them. Condom vending machines are considered as evil. When Akcja Konin put a giant condom on the old monument in Konin many were disgusted. I love the idea! The promotion has had a great impact in the media. The grandson of Julius Fromm will come to Poland:)

The subject of sex education is very close to my heart and for sure I will write about it more. It’s not easy to live in a Catholand;)

The best condom ad is 100% not Polish, much too liberal for Poles;) On youtube of course.

7 kwi 2011

“66 - dobre, bo polskie” on tv

I’m not a fan of television but today I would like to introduce you a very funny programme about the Polish culture. “66 - dobre, bo polskie” (“66 - Good Because Polish” or “The Best Made in Poland”) reviews Polish customs, icons and products. 66 topics are commented by Polish celebrities from different fields. Smart and amusing, informative also for Poles. It’s available only in Polish, I think the Polish government should translate it and spread. If you have the Polish channel tvn style you can watch it for example on Wednesday at 18:00 or on Friday 22:15.

You can also watch the first two parts on youtube. Search “The Best Made in Poland” and download immediately because probably it will disappear soon. I also recommend to watch other tvn programmes online on VOD for example “Rozmowy w toku” or “Kuchenne rewolucje”.

1 kwi 2011

Maria Skłodowska-Curie

One of the greatest women in history, her life and achievements were extraordinary by any standards. As you can read in Wiki ”Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and she is the only woman to win the award in two different fields and only person to win the award in multiple sciences”. She was a dedicated scientist and not only created a new branch of knowledge but also made a huge step forward for women.

She was born in 1867 in Warsaw (in that time Russian Empire) and was lucky to have educated parents who educated their daughters. The family wasn’t rich so Maria had to earn money. She worked as a governess and enjoyed this profession very much. It was still time when men forced women to be interested only in marriage, family and children, but Maria and her sister Bronisława wanted to study. It wasn’t possible in Poland so they moved to Paris. Maria was the first woman who took the exams in physics and chemistry at Sorbonne and who was allowed to participate in lectures. She did a PHD and got married to Pierre Curie – also a physicist. They were a lovely couple, worked together and had 2 daughters. In 1903 they both and Henri Becquerel were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for the research of radiation. In 1906 Pierre Curie was killed in an accident. Maria lost not only a husband but also a workmate. She continued to work and became the head of the laboratory at Sorbonne after Pierre. She fell in love with a physicist - Paul Langevin. His wife revealed their affair. It was too much for the public opinion: a foreigner from the East (many people thought she was Jewish), a scientist, an atheist and a temptress! In 1911 she received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering two elements: radium and polonium (named after the Latin name of Poland – Polonia). But she couldn’t pick the award, her “reputation” could cause a scandal. Through all her life she had to bear prejudices against her sex.

From 1912 until her death she was the head of the physiochemical department in the Radium Institute. Thanks to Maria the Radiological Laboratory was opened in Warsaw (today Centrum Onkologii im. Marii Skłodowskiej-Curie). The history of medicine would be completely different without radiology!

We must also remember that Maria’s daughter Irène Joliot-Curie and her husband Frédéric Joliot-Curie were also physicists involved in the study of radioactivity. They were laureates of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935. Maria’s grandchildren continue the great family achievements: Hélène Langevin-Joliot is a professor of nuclear physics and Pierre Joliot is a biochemist.

2011 is the international year of chemistry and in Poland and France – of Maria Skłodowska-Curie. The Polish authorities have created a programme of celebrations but unfortunately concentrated on the academic level. There’s not much for so called normal people. If you compare it to the Chopin’s PR last year, it looks pathetic, Maria doesn’t even have an international website! I really don’t know how to explain it, I’ll give you some hints:

1) romantic Poles prefer to promote art than science
2) it’s ignorance
3) it’s pure sexism.

I’m happy that at least a company AMS organized a competition about Maria. Young artists created posters about women’s and men’s equal rights. There are many with Maria, I really recommend you to see (here)! In Warsaw near BUW there’s a new mural with our famous scientist. It should remind Poles that she was born here.

More about Maria in Polish you can read for example here. You can also listen to a few Polish Radio programs about her here. On youtube you will find many funny films like this in Polish and this in English.

Below an interesting picture from Maria's museum in Warsaw.

20 mar 2011

Polenorientiert – a conference in Warsaw

I write a blog only in English but it doesn’t mean I don’t like the other languages. I also have a heart for Roman languages and German. I’m really interested in the past and future relations of Poland and Germany.

One of my old students and a friend Lukas Becht told me about the conference in Warsaw “Polenorientiert. Why Poland is an interesting country for Germans?". It’s a sociological conference about the contemporary relations between the two countries. Lukas will have a speech about the politics, hopefully I will be able to listen to him. Fingers crossed (in Polish trzymam kciuki!) for him.

It’s a fact that more and more Germans visit Poland and learn Polish. In some areas we are very similar and in other different. I will always claim that the languages are comparable. For sure Germans have a brain for the Polish grammar and learn fast (of course the motivation is crucial:). I find the idea of this conference very interesting.

When? 31.03.-3.04.2011
Where? The University of Warsaw
Entrance is free. More info here.

To prove that I did something for Poland in Germany I enclose a photo from the fair in Stuttgart in 2009. Putting these brochures there was a self-appointed initiative and perhaps not exactly legal. But maybe somebody have become interested in Poland?

13 mar 2011

Polish films in English - even more!

Once again a great initiative in Warsaw! The best Polish films with English subtitles.

Every Monday at 19:00 in Stare Miasto, ul. Jezuicka 4. Kino Alchemia. Tickets: 13 zł.

(theoretically every Monday but there’s no programme for the rest of March)

14.03.2011: ZIEMIA OBIECANA / PROMISED LAND - A. Wajda, 1974, 18:00!!!
04.04.2011: ZEZOWATE SZCZĘSCIE / BAD LUCK – A. Munk, 1960
11.04.2011: MATKA JOANNA OD ANIOŁÓW / MOTHER JOAN OF THE ANGELS – J. Kawalerowicz, 1961
18.04.2011: REWERS / REVERSE – B. Lankosz, 2009
09.05.2011: REJS / THE CRUISE – M. Piwowski, 1970
23.05.2011: POPIÓŁ I DIAMENT / ASHES AND DIAMONDS – A. Wajda, 1958
06.06.2011: SAMI SWOI / OUR FOLKS – A. Mularczyk, 1967
20.06.2011: NÓŻ W WODZIE / KNIFE IN THE WATER – R. Polański, 1962

My tips? Definitely old Wajda “Ziemia obiecana” and “Popiół i diament”. “Rejs” and “Nóż w wodzie” are also perfect. Just see all! More about the films here.

EDIT: Also the second institution in Warsaw organizes the Polish films in English. Filmoteka Narodowa offers the cycle THE BEST OF POLISH MOVIES. I should write “offered” because the last film will have Spanish subtitles. But it makes it even more interesting. On the 23rd of March you can see “Kobieta z prowincji” – “Mujer de provincias”. More info here.

5 mar 2011

Why Poles don't read? Plus Polish Internet Libraries

Recently Biblioteka Narodowa published a report on reading in Poland. Poles are literate but don’t want to read not only the books but also longer texts. In 2010 56% of questioned Poles 15+ didn’t open ANY kind of book (including encyclopedias, cooking books etc.). It was compared to France – 31% and Czech Republic – 17%. In 2008 it was even 62% in Poland – shame (wstyd)!

It’s not easy to explain why it does look like this. Some people will never read no matter what. A family and social environment play a very important role but even educated children of educated parents can avoid reading. In my opinion Polish schools don’t teach reading – now a preparation for the exams the most important on every level. Pupils learn guessing what tests’ authors had on mind. School should create the culture of reading and the ability for the critical thinking.

Poverty is the second factor. It seems that reading doesn’t require spending money on books because there are libraries. In cities you have many, always with computers and free Internet. But in the countryside in the 90’s many libraries were closed. Still in 50% of Polish homes there’s no Internet access. Reading is getting easier and cheaper with e-books. When hopefully the Polish state will guarantee the access for every citizen Poles won’t only watch films or comment others’ activities on the web.

The report showed that poorly educated, 60+, unemployed and pensioners are those who don’t read. In the comment by Biblioteka Narodowa you can also read that Poles work a lot and don’t have time for more sophisticated entertainments. But 25% of those highly educated haven’t read any book in the last year. It’s really worrying that they don’t feel the need to not only relax with the literature but also improve their job qualifications this way.

I’m a reading maniac, my studies were dedicated to reading and I can never stop. I really enjoyed collecting books but last year I decided to give away most of them to libraries. I keep only the most favourite or useful. Why am I writing this? Maybe I could inspire you to share things you don’t need with others? In Warsaw there are places where you can leave used clothing, bedclothes, books, toys etc. If you’re interested, send me an e-mail. Every library takes books also in English (and I read them:).

By the way* I would like to introduce you Polska Biblioteka Internetowa. You will find there many Polish texts or texts in Polish (only these without copyright). There’s also the Polona library with English descriptions. If you would like to read old Polish magazines and newspapers I recommend you to see the website of Biblioteka Uniwersytecka w Warszawie.

* in Poland we say it in the French way: a propos [a propo], originally à propos


analfabeta/analfabetka – illiterate
wtórny analfabeta - secondary illiterate
analfabetyzm – illiteracy
biblioteka – library
bibliotekarz/bibiotekarka – librarian
narodowy/a/e - national
pożyczać komuś (+ Dat.) – to lend
pożyczać od kogoś (+ Gen) – to borrow
wypożyczać – to lend out - biblioteka/wypożyczalnia wypożycza książki na miesiąc.
wypożyczalnia - lending library

2 mar 2011

Placki/racuchy z jabłkami

I promised to write about them and I had to make them to take pictures. A very easy and quick dish, for lunch or dessert.

Placki z jabłkami are very similar to the American pancakes but they have fruits inside. In Poland we traditionally add apples but they can also taste very well with bananas, strawberries etc. You can also make them with vegetables: zucchini or pumpkin (with salt, pepper and herbs).

The dough is the same as for pancakes (naleśniki) but it’s thicker and you add baking powder or whip whites. My last placki were very flat, probably I added too little baking powder. Don’t be confused with the pattern on the sugar, it was the next layer of placki.

200 grams of flour
2 eggs
1,5 cup of milk/kefir/yoghurt/zsiadłe mleko (set milk)
3 apples
1 teaspoon of baking powder
powdered sugar

Also possible: vanilla flavour, cinnamon

Put all dry ingredients into a bowl, add milk, eggs and mix. Peel apples and cut them into thin slices. Put chopped apples in the dough and fry on hot oil. Sprinkle placki with powdered sugar. Warm are delicious so eat right off. Great also with cream and jam. Smacznego!

P.S. "Placki" is a very good example of the pronunciation of "c" in Polish. It's always ts, never k. And when c and k are neighbours, we must read both [platski].

23 lut 2011

Drinking in Poland

According to the stereotype Poles drink a lot, especially vodka. Is it a fact, a reality, a habit? A recent WHO publication has made me thinking.

Firstly – the data. It’s not very up-to-date (2007) but we don’t have any better. In the stats every Pole 15+ drinks 13 litres of pure alcohol a year*. The Polish data shows only recorded amounts – 9,5 l. Since 2001 to 2007 it’s been 2 litres more.

Let’s compare it to the other countries. “The Economist” did it for us, check this image.

I’m not going to defend or accuse. I drink almost nothing so I can’t share my personal experience with you;) It’s not because I’m against, I just don’t like the bitter taste. Most of my friends end with one or two bottles of wine. Fortunately the society is getting richer so drinking wine becomes more popular. For the last 10 years I’ve observed the growing number of wine shops in Warsaw which is positive.

I wanted to know what foreigners think about the Polish drinking style. From this blog I took this two quotations with which I fully agree:

“The vast majority of Poles drink rarely and with considerable restraint but there is a small elite corps of front line spetsnaz drinkers who take the bulk of the strain for the entire nation”. True!

It starts early as probably everywhere. The first drinking experiences have kids around 13 years old. What is more bothering 68% of 15-year-old boys and 54% of girls drank alcohol last month.

“Polish teenagers were immensely proud of what they saw as their nation’s reputation for hard drinking. In the way of teenagers everywhere the ability to acquire and consume alcohol was seen as a mark of extreme coolness”. Unfortunately many young people enjoys boasting about the amount of alcohol they drank or who did what after heavy drinking.

All in all I don’t think Poles drink differently than other nations. The only alarming situation is the number of drunk drivers who cause a lot of accidents and kill many people. So many campaigns, condemnations and explanations and it’s still a big problem.

If you would like to read more, check PARPA website.

I would like to read about your experience with alcohol in Poland. What does it look like here and in your countries?

* It may sound a lot but 1 bottle of beer for 300 days gives 7,5 l of pure alcohol.

9 lut 2011

Preparing for Tłusty Czwartek and what is serek homo

This year Easter is very late (24.04) and proportionally Tłusty Czwartek is on 3.03. So there’s more time to train eating pączki and faworki;) I’ve eaten a lot of pączki recently I must say that price doesn’t reflect the quality and taste. I’ve tried a wide range from the cheap A-petit in the underground passage in Metro Centrum to Delikatesy owned by Bracia Gessler or exclusive Embassy – Magda Gessler’s brand. Pączki for 1,2 zł are not only edible, but also tasty. Those for 5 zł disappointed me, nothing to remember. 2-3 zł is a normal price in Warsaw in local cukiernia (I don’t recommend supermarkets’ production).

Where you can try perfect pączki?

ul. Jarosława Dąbrowskiego 71 – one of the best pączki in Warsaw, with rose MNIAM!

ul. Hoża, close to plac Trzech Krzyży – great pączki with different fillings in the small old cukiernia

ul. Górczewska 15 – these traditional producers sell only pączki! Don’t wait for Tłusty Czwartek, because you will spend 2 hours in a queue

Also in the middle of ul. Chmielna you can smell fresh pączki from 50 metres, they are perfect when warm but after nothing superb.

With faworki it’s even more difficult. Faworki have to be crunchy and not white! But last year in Mokotów I found something which at least was close to my high expectations (because of my grandma's wonderful ones):

al. Niepodległości 119 A

Even though I’m an experienced cook and I never give up in the kitchen pączki and faworki intimidate me. Polish doughnuts are yeast-raised and I haven’t done a lot with this kind of dough. Also deep frying isn’t very pleasurable. BUT pączki are worthy any kind of effort. I didn’t want to throw myself in at the deep end so I decided to try the easier and very quick version firstly. They are called angielskie pączki but I have no idea why. Instead of yeast I used serek homogenizowany* (photo below. I like this producer).

* homogenized cheese. A very popular dairy product in Poland, something between yoghurt and cream. Our neighbours probably also like it. I have no idea how does it look like in the other parts of the world, maybe you could tell me?

The result? More like RACUCHY (I promise to do them soon) than pączki but fine.


1 ½ glass of wheat flour
1 serek homogenizowany vanilla flavour (can be any different)
3 eggs
half teaspoon of baking powder
2 small spoons of spirit vinegar (I used spirit, because I hate vinegar)
2 spoons of powdered sugar
a lot of fat (oil, lard)
powdered sugar

Mix all the ingredients with mixer. Heat fat slowly. When it’s hot put the small amounts of dough into it (with a spoon or a teaspoon). Deep fry until they are golden brown on both sides. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or cover with icing. You can also add marmalade, chocolate etc.

Fast and tasty! Recommendable especially in the winter.

3 lut 2011

"From Poland with Love"

A year ago I wrote about an interesting documentary on the origins of wódka. Fortunately the same crew continued to film Poland. They created the travel series "From Poland with Love" about modern Poland and young artists. It's sponsored by a producer of wódka Wyborowa so you'll see a lot of wódka there;) Films are funny, lively and give a lot of information. You must watch and tell me what impression do you have. Check VBS channel.

28 sty 2011

New political movement

Usually I don’t write here about politics. The everyday live show in the parliament and media makes me feel sick. Media give too much space to mediocre people and their fruitless talks. After the plane crash in Smoleńsk day by day we observe political fights. Many Poles are tired of the constant funeral, confrontations with Russians and right-wing conspiracy theories.

Voting in the presidential and parliamentary elections was always rather an inconvenient duty for me. There was no real power which responded to my expectations. It’s quite popular in Poland to vote against, not in favour. But I really would like to see a change and at least try to trust somebody. So I cheer on the new association created by the former PO* member and a very interesting person Janusz Palikot. He was born in 1964 in small Biłgoraj, studied philosophy in Warsaw, was a very successful businessman and a generous patron. In PO he was always different, daring and brutal for stupidity, hypocrisy and incuriosity. Sometimes his remarks were offhand but in general I tolerate him because he’s very smart. His association is called Ruch Poparcia Palikota (the Palikot’s Support Movement) and he’s planning to establish a party. Now he looks for support and sponsorship all around the country. Formal structures already exist and I joined the association.

The next parliamentary elections will be held in October so the new political party might have chances. If PO doesn’t do any significant reforms, people will be very disappointed. Of course many people hate Palikot for many different reasons but I believe he can convince those who never vote.

Now the main slogan is “Gospodarka jest najważniejsza” (“the economy is the most important”). What exactly does Palikot want to change? He’s programme is very liberal regarding the Polish state: he wants to see secular Poland and cut down privileges of the church (financial and in the process of decision making). For Poles it means a lot: restore the right to have legal abortion, introduce a real sex education at schools, create civil partnerships for every sexual orientation. He’s fought for the reduction of bureaucracy in the parliamentary “Friendly State” Committee and wants to strengthen the citizens. He’s against the Polish military mission in Afghanistan and would like to locate the money for the army in culture.

More about his programme you will find here.

Even if he doesn’t succeed, I want you to know that this kind of movement in Poland exists.

* Platforma Obywatelska, the ruling party

17 sty 2011

Africa in Warsaw

For the last 60 years Poles haven’t been used to see people of colour and to have foreign neighbours. Democratic changes in 1989 opened the borders and since that time more and more people come to Poland. For many foreigners Poland is a transfer country on the way to the Western Europe but also starts to be more attractive. The Polish law is not inviting for foreigners but probably it’s because Poles make it complicated also for themselves. If you feel discouraged by the amount of papers you need to sign, bring and give to the authorities, I assure – we also have got to do this.

In Warsaw we are used to eat in Vietnamese, Chinese, Turkish and Arabic bars or buy on multiethnic bazaars. Still we need to be more welcoming for people from Africa. You won’t see many of them on the streets but they start to come more often. I would like to know more about how they feel in Warsaw. When I spoke to my students from Nigeria, they said they didn’t feel accepted in the public space. Of course it’s easier to describe negative experiences. When people are neutral and treat you normally, you don’t think about it. If you can write me something about it, please comment!

You can eat African food in a few places in Warsaw, I recommend Senegalese Cafe Baobab. Hmmm veal in peanut sauce was perfect... I must also visit Home Africa Bar. There is also a lot of multicultural events promoting African cultures. I was happy to see an interesting book about the lives of Africans in Warsaw “Afryka w Warszawie. Dzieje afrykańskiej diaspory nad Wisłą”. You will find there fascinating stories of unusual people. The whole book is available for free in pdf here and you can also buy a printed version.

Now for the first time we have a member of parliament from Africa. John Godson is a pastor from Nigeria, has been living in Poland since 1993 and was a radny (alderman) in Łódź. People chose him for the second term because he did a lot for his community. Now he is in Sejm! I hope more foreigners will influence the Polish law. I think he won’t be angry if I put his video here. His Polish is great and kids are lovely.

How to describe Africans in Polish?

Afrykańczyk/Afrykanka – African
Murzyn/Murzynka (from Latin "maurus" = black) – black person. Many people find this word offensive, probably because in Polish we have a few sayings with it to describe hard thankless work. I don’t agree. There are other offensive words.
czarny/czarna - black
czarnoskóry/czarnoskóra – of black skin

10 sty 2011

Bieszczady – my first trip this year

For a few days I went to the end of Poland – the part of the Carpathians near the border with Slovakia and Ukraine. Bieszczady is a picturesque land with beautiful views and still wild nature. Only in the forests of Baligród where I stayed there are 30 bears, 90 wolves and 118 bisons (żubr – check the picture on Żubrówka;). They are fully protected and live freely. So good I haven’t met any representative;)

In the winter the landscapes are more severe and it’s more difficult to reach the mountains but you can also ski. Don’t expect the Western style infrastructure but the slopes and chairlifts are ok.

Bieszczady are also considered as a magic land. The population was always mixed – different nationalities and groups lived there for many centuries, had their own religions and beliefs. After the WW II the new Polish part of Bieszczady has been transformed artificially in only Polish.

If you would like to come to Bieszczady, the easiest way is to fly to Rzeszów and rent a car. I wouldn’t count on the buses if you want to venture deeper. You can also concentrate on the cities: Sanok, Krosno and Przemyśl and travel by trains. A few years ago I spent a night in a slow train from Warsaw to Sanok.

Now I’d spent two days skiing and the snow suddenly melted. So we decided to climb Połonina Wetlińska. Check the map here. I had no chance to see the great view because the fog was very dense. But climbing wasn’t meaningless! The schronisko* on the top is for sure the worst in Poland! It was colder inside than outside. The information I found there was amazing:) You have a translation below.

The only thing you can eat there is bigos domowy (home made) – quite expensive in this fancy bar – 15 PLN! You can also sleep there for as much as 18 PLN. But with your own sleeping bag (śpiwór) in the collective room. Opłata klimatyczna (“climate fee” = resort tax) is always obligatory. If you have your own mug and for example tea – 0,5 litre of boiling water (wrzątek) costs only 1 PLN. Wonderful.

“We serve cool drinks from the cellar, approx. 4 degrees Celsius. Schronisko* has no water and electricity. Don’t ask for a refrigerator”. Very nice, don’t you think? To make it more absurd, this place is called “Chatka Puchatka” which is “Winnie the Pooh’s hut”. Believe me – in Poland other schroniska have better conditions. So I drank a tea with honey and lemon, checked the toilet where the snow didn’t melt (see below) and went down.

If you want to drink or eat in a unique atmosphere I also recommend Siekierezada** in Cisna. From outside this place looks very unwelcoming but don’t be afraid. You will find there gloomy local art – many many images of the devil and literature about the life in the village and different paranormal phenomena. In the dark and pagan interior you can eat traditional pierogi or kwaśnica (sour cabbage soup). Even the barman matches perfectly this place.

For more fine art I recommend to visit the Historical Museum in Sanok with the beautiful Orthodox icons, Catholic sacral art and the paintings of Zdzisław Beksiński – a modern painter who was tragically murdered a few years ago. He had come from Sanok and donated his precious works to the museum. I really admire his works and recommend also his website.

This post is getting long but I must write also about Solina – the artificial lake and a dam created in 1968. You can swim, sail or relax in a spa. In the summer looks of course better than in the winter.

It’s not possible to describe Bieszczady in a few words, to be continued in the future...

* translated as a hostel or shelter – is something between, for tourists in the mountains
** the name refers to the title of the novel by Edward Stachura (1971). Siekiera is in Polish an axe, it's a mix with Scheherazade

2 sty 2011

Sylwester - the last party of the year

On the 31st of December in Poland we celebrate the name day of Sylwester. That’s why the New Year’s Eve is called Sylwester. We usually don’t celebrate it with families. Teenagers as soon as possible start to prepare parties on their own. All you need is some alcohol, music and friends (or maybe the other way round;). You can also add fireworks, balloons and have a party outdoor or indoor. Many cities organise concerts, so if you’re not cold you can enjoy Sylwester in the crowd. You can also go to a club or ball, that special night is always a lot more expensive than any other.

The 31st of December is a working day but usually everybody ends earlier and shops are open until 4-5 p.m. The 1st is a day off and you can cure your hangover – in Polish KAC (from German). From 2011 also the 6th of January is a day off so you can have very long holidays.

Mountains is a very popular destination for Sylwester or a period from the 24th of December. In Poland you can ski in many places, so not only Zakopane is recommendable. You should reserve your stay a lot earlier!

There are also unusual ways of spending Sylwester or the 1st of January. Some people like to take a very cold bath. We call such a person mors (walrus). Every year they like to get into the freezing water (sea or lake). Some are even quite good in it. Check this video.

We also think about the New Year’s resolutions – in Polish postanowienia noworoczne. Many people don’t like them - prefer not to plan anything or claim that every moment is good for a change. It’s funny that Poles are rather pessimists and moan on every occasion but they really believe that the next year will be better. At least it can’t be worse than the last one;) I wish you of course the same! I have a great song for you, especially for this period of the year, about our traditional dish BIGOS:)) They aren't serious, just pretend to wear golden chains;)