The Guardian does Poland

For the past four weeks, Britian’s The Guardian newspaper has run a series it has called New Europe. It has spent one week each analysing Germany, France, Spain and finally in the past week, Poland. The introduction to the series says “Who are our neighbours? Too often Europe is discussed and reported through its common institutions or purely in terms of its relations with Britain. Starting today, the Guardian’s Europe season looks in depth at four European countries – with a week exploring every aspect of their cultures, economies and day-to-day lives.”

As a further part of the lead-in, a survey was also completed in each of the four countries and in the United Kingdom and an overview of the results was presented. And finally, an interactive guide is shown giving information on all EU countries and how they compare in the areas of population, life expectancy, education levels, personal technology ownerships levels, and financial indicators such as cost of living and savings levels.

During the past week of Monday April 4th to Saturday April 9th, there have been many articles related to Poland specifically and they can all be found in the Poland sub-section of the New Europe featured area 0n the Guardian website. The majority of the articles also appeared in the print versions of the newspaper during the week. Below is a quick summary of some of the main articles and highlights from the week covering Poland.

Current Affairs, Politics and History

This section covers some of the articles covering topics such as:

A Jewish renaissance – which highlights efforts by Krakows Jewish Centre in particular in raising awareness.

The giant Swiebodzin Jesus – which of course raises a debate on religion and the Church’s influence in Poland.

Poland gets to grips with being normal – which of course raises a debate on religion and the Church’s influence in Poland.

Feminism in Poland – where the author gives some interesting examples of experiences with industry colleagues being condescending bordering on sexist.

Culture, Sport, the Arts & Entertainment

This section looks at how Poland is developing in terms of culture and other such areas.

Guardian Readers Tips – these include suggestions for cultural options and other highlights, including parts of Poland to visit outside of the urban areas.

How football hooliganism still haunts Poland – While this article does present the spectre of hooligans arranging ‘ustawki’ fights, there are also some other articles highlighting positives that Euro 2012 will bring such as stadium building, infrastructure redevelopment and a podcast from Jonathan Wilson with interviews with Grzegorz Lato and Lech Wałęsa where the hope is that hosting Euro 2012 will help to increase Polands self-confidence as a country.

Seamus Heaney on Czesław Miłosz – with the poem ‘The World’ written in 1943 being a personal favourite of his

Travel & Tourism

This section highlights some of the features presenting Poland cities and other locations and what is worth seeing, including

Top ten Warsaw hotels to consider – these range from Le Meridien Bristol and the Rialto, to a hotel not even yet open – the Old Embassy – which is based in the former Soviet Embassy and not scheduled to open until September.

The locals guide to Kraków and Warsaw – with tips on places that you won’t necessarily find in the regular guide books

Kraków vs. Warsaw – a few more shots are fired in the never-ending debate of which of Polands two main cities can claim to be the best. With a notable appearance from our own Jamie Stokes (also representing the Krakow Post), as he battles with Dana Dramowicz of the Warsaw Life publication. They verbally spar to win the hearts and minds of those not yet decided on the subject.

Top trips in Poland – including Lancut castle, walking in the Karkonosze mountains and taking a steam train in Wolsztyn.

Food and Drink

This culinary section aims to present a taste of Poland, notably:

Guardian Readers Tips – these include suggestions for cafés, restaurants and bars in the main cities in Poland

How to cook perfect borscht (barszcz) – which also includes some free geo-political comments as a discussion builds over who has the best claim to ‘own’ the recipe

A pierogi recipe – or Polish ravioli as it is described on the webpage.

A recipe for roast duck with apples – with a suggestion to try with a dry red wine.

A gołąbki recipe – Suggested as being similar to the recipe of the babcia of the author


To summarise, the series overall is aimed at increasing knowledge of other European powers for British readers. The series (and articles on Poland) work fairly well in that regard as many pieces of information are presented that would not be known without regular exposure to Poland or Polish culture. However a disappointing recurrence was how the majority of articles were not written by Poles. This lead to some inaccuracies in information presented (often quickly pointed out) and also lead to a ‘parachute’ feeling – where it felt like the author was dropped into Poland for a few days – the article on the Polish family even mentioned how the author just landed with them for a few days, as opposed to presenting the views directly from the family.

Another feature seemed to be some articles being presented (perhaps deliberately) in a way to induce as many comments as possible on the web version of the article. The pieces on ‘Debunking Myths’ in particular seemed to rouse those commenters who shout loudest to say “Poles go home”, “Poles are lazy” and “Dey tuk ar jabs”. Ironically it seemed that bringing out these elements went against the Guardian’s message of getting to know the other countries and cultures.

Overall, it was a good series, but a suggestion for improvement would have been to have less articles (perhaps 20 or 25 instead of the 67 Poland-related ones) which could go into more detail and ensure accuracy of information and present more real views. Some articles felt too short to provide anything more than a discussion starting device which tended to decend into extremer viewpoints being aired.

All images are from the Guardian interactive guide to the EU countries with the original source data coming from the Economist.

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9 thoughts on “The Guardian does Poland

  1. odrzut says:

    The article about “How Poles are really lazy in Poland, and only work hard in UK” had like on paragraph, and seemed like it was written in 15 minutes, on the lap :)

  2. PMK says:

    Pretty interesting stuff. But why are these bubble graphs all the rage these days? Surely there are better ways to display data.

  3. Paddy says:

    Thanks Decoy, i agree that in principle it was a good idea but it did feel very UK journalist-centric. I don’t think we really needed Polly Toynbee to tell us there are inequalities in Polish scociety.

    Still overall I was pleased to see Poland featured as one of the four European countries in this series. I doubt that would have happened 15 years ago.

  4. When Paula and I were in Ireland a month ago we couldn’t get over how many Poles were there. If the UK and London in particular is the same then this series of articles makes perfect sense – it’s all about getting to know your new neighbors.

  5. guest says:

    Island likes Zakopane and Polish “mountains” ? and the underground museum ?

    Can’t be him ;)

  6. Norman says:

    Irelanball can’t decide where to go:
    – UKball?
    – All other balls?

  7. Martin says:

    Did anyone else find the article with the Polish family particularly bad? To me, it characterised all Polish families like this one, seeming to suggest that there isn’t any variation. It would have been nice to see a longer piece there, where the author had spent a similar time with four or five families in different parts of the country, or at least by an author with some prior experience of Poland.

  8. Dawid says:

    It was bad indeed. And I was stunned by this bit in particular:

    “Healthcare is technically free in Poland. “But it’s not true,” says Marcin. There are long waiting lists, even for urgent consultations. Sylwia had a severe earache recently, but was told she would have to wait a month. Fortunately, a friend who works at a hospital arranged for them to see a state doctor out of hours, but they had been on the verge of shelling out for private treatment.”

    Has Marcin ever had a serious surgery in Poland? I had – and I didn’t pay a penny. Earache – a month long waiting list? What kind of doctor were they trying to see? A Nobel prize winner in medicine? Any GP would see them the very same day in a local clinic, and if they wanted to go to an ENT specialist, there’s more than one ENT clinic in every city. Some of them require registering in advance, some don’t. I myself used to visit an ENT clinic in my town (it’s not Warsaw, not even a provincial capital) which had a no-registering system – you basically show up with a referral from a GP and you are admitted on the same day. The parents in the article are either completely inept (which seems weird considering what they do) or just wanted to complain in the typical Polish style, which was totally lost on the author.

    And the bit on history begins like this:

    “It would be fair to say that history has not treated Poland kindly. Occupying the flat space between Germany and Russia, Poland is near-impossible to defend. The Commonwealth, as it calls itself, was swallowed up entirely in 1795 by the Russians, Prussians and Austrians and did not resurface until 1918”

    So it seems that from the times immemorial – that is, since the 18th century – Poland was occupied. There was some kind of “Commonwealth” before, but what it was and what it had to do with Poland, nobody cares to explain. If the authors looked it up in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, they might have added that actually for centuries this “flat space” was defended quite well, and even expanded fairly far – to quote from Britannica, “”In the mid-1500s, united Poland was the largest state in Europe and perhaps the continent’s most powerful nation”. But – no.

    “However a disappointing recurrence was how the majority of articles were not written by Poles.”

    From my point of view, it’s actually good – I’m always interested in what the foreigners have to say about Poland and if the articles were written by Poles, it would be quite useless to me. That said, they could have used some good consultation to clear up some things.

  9. Cashlack says:

    White Eagle was born late, 990. Its true its near-impossible to defend, against Mongols, Germany, Russia, Sweden, we were being killed from every side of the map in the WW2 (Slovaks, Latvians, Ukrainians, Russians, Germans).

    Yet Poland lives, as long as we live.

    Here is a recomended video about polish history (990-2008)

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