Author Archives: Pawel

Polandian on Sunday #7

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1. Monnari announces bankruptcy

We’ve worked so hard for 11 years, this tsunami came, and now we’re left with nothing. I can’t eat or sleep since last month. – Marek Banasiak, company’s president told the media.

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Monnari Trade is a Polish clothing retailer, which has been steadily building a brand for urban women after 30, from the middle and upper classes. Today it operates several labels including: Monnari, Molton, Pabia, Tamaris shoe stores and Monnini (in Russia). A year ago their business seemed stable and they were looking into a future of development and success. However when the crisis came, it quickly turned out their foreign expansion to Russia and Germany was a big mistake. Mistake that drained cash, and did not bring profits the company anticipated. Now the Monnari are being refused credit, and cannot order autumn collections.

2006 was company’s best moment. To celebrate its launch on the Warsaw Stock Exchange, Monnari employed world famous models for their fashion show – including Claudia Schiffer.

The only hope is to quicky find an investor – said Mr. Banasiak.

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2. Google invades Polish streets

Google, the internet empire, announced that since Wednesday they will have been photographing Polish cities. Obviously this is to include Poland in the controversial StreetView service. It allows users of the map feature to virtually walk around actual places. The service has been criticised in the USA and United Kingdom where it previously launched, for invading privacy. Although faces of photographed people and car number plates are to be pixelated. In several instances internet users were able to see insides of people’s homes. Some have had problems with their relatives who saw them in StreetView in places they shouldn’t be. Or with someone they shouldn’t be with. Will we hear about some exciting stories from Poland?

3. Good times for the Poland’s gay elephant

Not so long ago the media were entertained by Law and Justice politician Michał Grześ’s remarks at Poznań City council meeting. He criticised the local zoo for acquiring a gay elephant:
‘We didn’t pay 37 million zł for the largest elephant house in Europe to have a gay elephant live there’.

But just think, if he’s a gay elehant how nice he’s going to do the interior!

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Anyhow, this week the gay elephant, Ninio, was celebrated with a whole festival dedicated to him! Local gay community are the organisers. The line-up includes drag performances, exhibitions, literature readings and discussions. Full line up us available here. Mind you, you still have a chance to participate, festival ends next Sunday.


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GOING UP

Kylie Minogue – The pop goddess will perform with other artists in Gdańsk on 4th of June. The concert is a celebration to the 20th anniversary of first democratic elections in Poland. The round table talks and subsequent elections opened the way for political opposition in Poland and ended the authoritarian communist party rule. This inspired peoples in other countries and soon the whole Warsaw Pact collapsed. Tickets for Kylie performance cost 10 zł (2.30 Euro!!).

GOING DOWN

Surprise, suprise… Banks! – 80% of Polish banks are owned by foreign companies. This week the worries increased that banks are transferring money from Poland to the countries of their mother-companies. Polish Confederation of Employers, concerned about cuts in crediting businesses, demands information on foreign transfers. Experts call for more financial supervision. Some of them propose to take advantage of the regulations allowing to refuse some rights to bank share owners.

Secret Services – who were unaware for two weeks that their key employee was missing. Stefan Zielonka ciphered messages to agents around the world, and knows the most secret secrets of our country. He went out on the second day of Easter and hasn’t returned by this day. No one knows what happened to him.
Warsaw traffic management – Scored some points by borrowing/buying a temporary bridge from the UK to re-open the “flyover” running from Mickiewicza into Andersa. Then immediately lost three times as many points by closing Plac Bankowy for 6 weeks from May 11th. Still, it should all be finished by the time everyone evacuates the city to go on holiday!! Grrr.
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Polandian on Sunday #6

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Welcome to Polandian on Sunday (with a slight delay due to author’s weekend break in Sopot). Here is a brief summary of what happened this week in Poland.

1. Warsaw’s future architecture

When you’re having a walk down the Warsaw’s Powiśle neighborhood why not pop into the Warsaw University Library. Since this week it is hosting an exhibition Plans for the future presenting what is going to be built in Warsaw. Organisers collected visualisations and models for various building and new developments. A sneak peek into what is coming.

Most praised

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This apartment house, planned to be built in Traugutta street, respects the architecture of its area, being modern and light at the same time.

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The new wing of the ASP Beaux-Arts Academy at the Vistula bank. Those huge windows will give sculpture and film set students some great views.

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This Muslim Cultural Institute with minaret-like tower will be an original addition to Ochota district. There is something for the mind (lecture hall) and for the spirit (prayer room).

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In times when walled districts become the fashion – this open complex at the former Norblin factory is like a breathe of fresh air. There is place for appartments, shops, offices and various facilities – like theater. Pedestrianised streets and markets make this a human-friendly development.

Most criticised

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IPN – The Historical Institute is going to construct a new digitising centre in the Służewiec district. Architects complain that the design is similar to communist offices and follows boring patterns.

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This boxy kindergarten is to be constructed in the intensively developing Wilanów district. It is being criticised as too tiny for the huge developments nearby and for its container-like form.

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The offices of WOSiR – administrator of Warsaw’s sports and recreation facilities, near the Polonia stadium, doesn’t fit its neighbourhood with its disturbing, irregular shape.

2. Poland lifts (some) restrictions on foreigner real estate ownership

When Poland joined the European Union five years ago many people feared foreigners will come and buy out farms and houses. For this reasons some temporary restrictions were enforced.

EU citizens had to apply for a special permission, each time they wanted to buy land, house or apartment. Since May the 1st 2009 EU nationals from other countries are allowed to purchase houses and apartments on free market. However some restrictions still apply to land – especially farms and forests.

3. Long live comrade president!

This Saturday Poland saw an unusual happening. Janusz Palikot, an eccentric millionaire MP from the ruling Civic Platform party organised an open reading of president’s LLD thesis in the Museum of Social-Realism in Kozłówka. President Lech Kaczyński and his twin brother’s Law and Justice party are famous for their uncompromising policy towards Poland’s communist past. Some people however point to the fact that their politicians demand people manifested courage in communist time – while they, the Law and Justice party officials, had been conformist themselves. Mr Palikot’s happening was to prove just that.

President Lech Kaczyński, law professor, hasn’t exactly boasted about his LLD thesis. It was revealed that this work is written from a communist party point of view, in the style of communist newspeak. Lech Kaczyński was not a communism-refusenik, who would consider a decrease in standard of living for his ideals.

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Mr Palikot in white.

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What’s hot what’s not this week in Poland

GOING UP

Safer sex – Yes. Despite the Catholics shouldn’t use that devilish invention! Poles have stopped reproducing. Statistical office predicts the number of inhabitants in Poland will decline rapidly. It is said in 2060 for every three people in working age, there will be two people in retirement.
Poland has changed, more people are now into having comfortable lives and only as many children as they could afford to educate. The government is not doing anything effective to help people balance family and work, nor to assure an equal, good start for all children. Without proper social policies or immigrants we are destined to shrink as a nation. But there is a good news: it will be easier to find a parking spot.

GOING DOWN

Conflicts between the president and prime minister – Which seriously start to work on everyone’s nerves. Can we get anything done please for a change? In Kenya they’ve come up with an original way to end rows between their president and prime minister. Their wives said there will be no sex, until they start to get along with each other.
We’ve tested everything in Poland, maybe it’s time for unusual methods already?

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Polandian on Sunday #5

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Welcome to Polandian on Sunday with a brief summary of what happened this week in Poland.

1. Poland to launch a Mars base

This week plans for a Polish Martian base were announced. The originality of the idea is to actually build the base on Earth rather than on Mars, and save some money in times of crisis.

Just kidding – this is a serious business: The facility was designed at the Gdańsk University of Technology and project managed by the Mars Society Polska. It will allow not only scientific research, but will also include an education and hotel module. It will be open to tourists and visitors and will provide education programme for youth and astronomy enthusiasts. The facility, which will be bult in the city of Toruń, is to be completed by the year 2011. Similar bases already function in the US state of Utah and in Canada, however these are closed for the public.

The project has the backing of Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), European Space Agency and NASA.

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There are already quite a few interesting things to see in Toruń. The beautiful and atmospheric Old Town is filled with spectacular medieval sights all there to admire while you lazily sip coffee or beer in one of many open-air cafes and restaurants. Toruń, since the middle ages, is also the place where the most delicious ginger-bread cookies are made. Apart from buying the legendary delicacies, visitors often choose to have a go themselves at baking. Local Gingerbread Museum offers cooking classes in medieval style.

However, the city which calls itself “cosmopolis”, also has a more cosmic dimension. Nicolaus Copernicus, the first to discover Earth revolves around the Sun, and not the other way around, is probably the city’s most famous inhabitant. Today Toruń is a home to an important astronomy research centre where visitors can listen to the radio signals from outer-space, cuddle one of the largest radio telescopes in Europe and visit a planetarium. Soon they will be able to check out how it feels to be on Mars or try on a space suit. Cool, huh?

2. Controversial police adverts

The police have begun a new awareness campaign on motorcycle accidents. According to police data, most of the accidents in which motorcycles take part end with serious injuries that leave people permanently disabled.

To make their message perfectly clear, the police and their advertising agency BBDO, have come up with a following poster

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The slogan reads “Spring is coming. Time for vegetables”. And a smaller print underneath: “Use your imagination – slow down”.

Motorcyclists felt upset and filed a complaint to the Ombudsman.

3. Crisis food

The crisis has a wonderful media coverage and so far, thankfully, it is present mostly in the media in Poland, rather than in the “real world”. Who could expect the crisis would become a source of inspiration for this entrepreneurial nation? The media in Poznań region, where inhabitants are known for their lack of enthusiasm for spending money (to say it mildly) report on new “crisis” foods.

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Local butchers have come up with a new kiełbasa kryzysowa (crisis sausage). It is cheap: 9 zł/kg while for instance the traditional kiełbasa śląska costs twice as much. Poznań-person’s dream come true. There’s a similar idea at local Fabryka kanapek, a sandwich retailer. The assistant proudly presents their recession sandwich (“kanapka recesyjna”), with gherkin and pork crackling. Local white collars reportedly praise this as an alternative to chicken breast and cherry tomatoes.

Zofia Golusińska, a Poznań restaurateur complains that bank executives who used to be her regular customers, now pretend to be hit by the crisis and have stopped eating lunches at her restaurant. She’s luring them back with a special “crisis menu” hoping lower prices will discourage her customers from bringing their own food to work.

In Warsaw, on the other hand, moods are quite different. Compared with modest Poznań, Varsavians continue to indulge in sensual pleasures: they have just voted for the city’s new cake.

The wuzetka cake, Warsaw’s old sweet symbol was simple, square, dark and heavy. It originated in the communist era, and became the favourite served in cafes. Black and white layers were to resemble the tarmac – as the cake was named after an inner-city motorway. The new zygmuntówka is a light pastry with delicate creamy filling, exotic cranberries, topped with meringue.  It resembles the new playful and naughty spirit of Warsaw, and the local tendency to show-off.

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GOING UP

Swine flu panic
– Don’t panic people, read WHO factsheet. This is not a deadly virus. This swine flu behaves more or like ordinary flu. 1-4% of those infected have died – but the exact number of sick is unknown, as they only discovered this illness by accident – which means mild cases who have recovered themselves probably weren’t probably ever found out, so the “mortality rate” could be way of proportions. Or not, and then you may panic.

GOING DOWN

Condom sales for the underage –  Seriously – this is a bizarre story. Rossmann, the retailer of cosmetics and chocolate bars was asking every young condom-buyer for an ID. They refused to sell it to those who weren’t eighteen yet. This policy has come to light this week. Apparently Rossman was sent a letter by the Ombudsman for children, the same person who suspected one of the teletubbies was “promoting” homosexuality. Such letter had no executive power whatsoever. Moreover it is a public offence to refuse a sale of publicly available products.

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Polandian on Sunday #3

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Welcome to Polandian on Sunday with a brief summary of what happened this week in Poland.

1. Eurovote? Poles couldn’t care less

This spring over 500 million Europeans will vote for 736 Members of the European Parliament. European Parliament is a legislative body which has a say (together with EU Council comprising heads of governments) on the EU legislation, which is then binding for the member states.

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Eurostat asked European Union citizens in all 27 member states whether they will take part in the upcoming elections. Results of the study show Poland, which is assigned 54 seats in the chamber, as one of the countries where people are least interested in casting a vote. 19% of the Polish respondents say they will not vote, which is the second highest score after the UK (30%). As little as 13% say they will vote  – the lowest of all EU countries.

Jarosław Zbieranek, director of The Institute of Public Affairs, told Gazeta Wyborcza daily that he thinks there are 3 main reasons for this desinterresement:
– the public doesn’t have enough information about the election and about the EU parliament;
– EU elections are treated by the media and parties rather as a barometer for the national politics, than an event with broader europan dimention;
– parties choose candidates for their popularity rather, than their competence: opera singer, several Big Brother participants, cosmonauts, sports-people, tv presenters.

Number of people who declare will take part in the PE election
Belgium: 70%
Luxembourg: 62%
Malta: 56%
Denmark: 56%
EU Average: 34%
Slovakia: 25%
Portugal: 24%
United Kingdom: 22%
Austria: 21%
Poland: 13%

2. President most insulted figure on social websites

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Social networking website Nasza-klasa.pl, helping to get back in touch with former classmates, is the most popular service of its kind in Poland. 25% of all Poles have an account there. As the Dziennik daily reports, Lech Kaczyński – the President of Poland, has over 60 fake accounts registered on his name on nasza-klasa.

All of the 60 accounts are full of vulgar insults and threats. Dziennik contacted some of authors of offensive comments. 18-year-old Adrian, who called the president a “prick”, explains that he thinks the state of Poland deteriorates because of Lech Kaczyński. He blaims the president for creating conflicts and sees him as corrupted by power. 21-year-old Mateusz wrote under one of Lech Kaczynski’s photos that if he had a gun he would kill “a duck like this one”.

Offending the head of state is a crime in Poland. A crime for which one could be sentenced to up to three years of imprisonment. However, in this case, the police and the public prossecutor are helpless. As the spokesperson for the Wrocław Police told the daily: the police have no possibility to access nasza-klasa.pl. This, and similar websites are blocked on their computers, so that officers wouldn’t spend their time chatting to friends on-line at work.

3. Should the Polish government pay compensations to former Auschwitz homeowners?

When Poland lost the September 1939 campaign, and the attacking Germany and Soviet Union divided Polish territory between themselves – the town of Oświęcim was annexed by Germany and renamed Auschwitz. And by this name it is known around the world – as the place where Germans conducted most unimaginable crimes against humanity in the history of Europe.

To build the concentration camp, Germans expelled many residents from the town suburbs. Those, who owned properties, call for compensation now – 64 years after the end of the war. Members of Sejm, the lower house of the Polish parliament, prepared an act to satisfy those demands from the Polish Treasury. This motion gained support from all political powers.

Half of the former property owners have already received part compensations in 2001 from the Polish-German Reconcilliation Foundation powered by the money from the German government. However, as the President of the Association Of The Victims Of The Third German Reich In Relation to Expulsion From Oświęcim says, 250 families did not manage to produce a valid claim at that time. The victims – he explains – are elderly and sick people, while the foundation gave them a four-month deadline.

It is not possible to demand any more compensations from Germany now, as Poland, signing a treaty establishing the reconcilliation foundation, agreed not to file any more claims in the future. The governemt also rejects the proposal of Polish-funded compensation. Jan Borkowski, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs told journalists: ‘Germany is a perpetrator, Poland is a victim. We cannot take responsibility – this would send a wrong message’.

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GOING UP

New regulations in outdoor advertising – Advertising got out of control in many Polish cities in recent years. Huge ads cover many buildings in city centres. Billboards are being installed wherever a free space is spotted. Public complaints foreced the government to work on this matter. Expecting state regulations to arrive soon, the Chamber of Outdoor Advertising has come up with their own regulations of the market, hoping to set a standard. This is the first step in the right way.

GOING DOWN

TVP Polish public television – which terminates its subscription of the most popuar Polish broadsheet, the liberal-leftish Gazeta Wyborcza. Many governments wanted to rule the TVP in hope to rule the hearts. A strategy that never succeded. This time, the neo-fascists with which the formerly ruling Law and Justice party was in coalition – got into the top management of the firm. Wyborcza daily is campaigning against the new managment. TVP continues to deteriorate.

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Polandian on Sunday #2

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Welcome to Polandian on Sunday with a brief summary of what happened this week in Poland.

1. The Polish-Polish pierogi war.

Pierogi, dumplings with many varieties of filling, are a Polish specialty. They have also become the subject of a major row.

As businesses serving pizza are called pizzerias, those serving pierogi are called pierogarnias. At least they were – until this week.

Pierogi places around Poland have received letters from the lawyers of the “Polskie Pierogarnie” company, demanding the word “pierogarnnia” be removed from their street signs, menus, business cards and ads. Apparently the company has registered the name “pierogarnia” at the patent office.

Many pierogi establishments argue “pierogarnia” is a generic name. Lawyers are already jumping with joy at the prospect of a long and difficult trial. So are Polish philologists, who as court language experts will finally be able to find a job connected with their studies.


2. A new biography of Lech Wałęsa’s draws an unflattering image

Previously there were the accusations of Wałęsa’s co-operation with communist secret services. This week is all about the new book claiming that Wałęsa, inter alia:
– peed into a font when he was 9;
– attacked peasant parties with an axe;
– had an illegitimate child, which he never officially acknowledged;
– and repeating the old claim that he was an agent of communist secret services.

The book, which is actually a master’s thesis, by 24-year-old Paweł Zyzak, caused a massive outcry this week. Controversial claims remain unverified, and in many cased unverifiable. Stories from Wałęsa’s youth are based on anonymous accounts from villages where Wałęsa used to live. Journalists soon followed the paths taken by Mr Zyzak – and heard the same things from the local peasant folk.

Established historians have criticised the work as not being compliant with proper methodology.

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Wałęsa is outraged. His first reaction was to say that he did not fight for a Poland such as this, and that he considered returning the Nobel Prize and other awards, and leaving the country. Mr Zyzak has been condemned by Poland’s top-people. The government is outraged too, and wants to control how the Jagiellonian University, founded 1364, protects scientific standards while granting degrees in its History Department—a proposal that some see as a breach of the universities’ independence and of freedom of speech.

Mr Zyzak is also the author of other original thoughts. As a Kaczynski brothers’ Law and Justice party politician he demanded that Gazeta Wyborcza, the most popular Polish broadsheet, be removed from schools because it “promotes hatred of the Polish state, and it spits on national and local authorities”. He also said that gay people are “animals and descendants of the devil”. In one article he wrote: “Fags, using individual physical and verbal attacks against them, cunningly gather people’s compassion”.

Since he might be stripped of his masters – he should be hoping for some compassion himself these days.

3. Barack Obama – a descendant of Polish monarchs?

In the desserts of the Sahara, in the jungles of Manhattan, on the beaches of the Seychelles: Polish people are everywhere in the world. As it turns out, the current occupant of the White House might be Polish too. At least a bit.

Previous studies proved Barack Obama’s connection to the English house of Plantagenet and Edward I.  A Czech expert explores the connection between the Plantagenets, the Polish house of Piast and the Bohemian house of Przemyślid (cz. Přemyslid).

Descent Table of Barack Obama, King Edward I of England and Mieszko I, Duke of Poland.

Mieszko I, Duke of Poland  ? – 992
Bolesław Chrobry (Boleslas the Brave), King of Poland 967 – 1025
Mieszko II, King of Poland 990 – 1034
Kazimierz Odnowiciel (Casimir the Restorer), Duke of Poland 1016 – 1058
Władysław Herman (Ladislas Herman), Duke of Poland 1043 – 1102
Bolesław Krzywousty (Boleslas III Wrymouth Piast), Duke of Poland 1085-1138
Władysław II, (Ladislas II Piast), Duke of Krakow and Silesia 1105-1159
Rychilda (Richilde Piast), 1135-1198
Sancha of Castille 1154-1208
Alphonse II, Count of Provence ca 1180-1209
Raimond-Bérenger V, Count of Provence & Forcalquier ca 1205-1245
Eléonore of Provence 1223-1291
Edward I Longshanks Plantagenêt, King of England 1239-1307
Elizabeth Plantagenêt 1282-1316
William de Bohun, Earl of Northampton ca 1311-1360
Elisabeth de Bohun ca 1350-1385
Elizabeth Fitzalan 1366-1425
Joan Goushill
Catherine Stanley
Dulcia Savage
Maud Bold
Jennet Gerard
William Eltonhead
Richard Eltonhead
Martha Eltonhead
Eltonhead Conway
Martha Thacker
Edwin Hickman
James Hickman 1723-1816
Susannah Hickman
Annie Browning
George Washington Overall 1820-1871
Susan C Overall 1849
Gabriella Clark 1877
Ruth Lucille Armour 1900-1926
Stanley Armour Dunham 1918-1992
Ann Dunham 1942-1995
Barack Obama 1961-

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Mieszko I Piast - probably Barack Obama's forefather.

4. The last etude at Okęcie

An étude is an instrumental musical composition, most commonly of considerable difficulty, usually designed to provide practice material for perfecting a particular technical skill. It was also the name of a terminal at Warsaw’s Okęcie Chopin Airport. First opened in 1976 it served as the arrivals hall until 1992, when Terminal 1 was extended and refurbished. The number of passengers continued to grow, and very soon exceeded its capacity. In 2004 Etiuda was reopened to accommodate the rapidly growing low cost airlines. It was thought of only as a temporary solution since Terminal 2 was in the last phases of construction. There were also advanced plans to open a new airport further away from Warsaw.

Things didn’t go according to plan: Terminal 2’s launch was repeatedly postponed and the plans for a new airport plans were abandoned. The tiny space of Etiuda was getting more and more crowded – from 474,000 passengers in 2004 – to 948,000 in 2008. Overcrowding, together with greatly insufficient number of places to sit, lack of bars, restaurants or shops, tiny toilets, no air conditioning and delayed flights – meant that each visit to Etiuda was an horrific experience, that stayed with each visitor for a long time. We’ve mentioned this at Polandian before as well.

This week Etiuda was finally closed (ignoring protests from Ryanair, Easyjet and WizzAir) – which was celebrated with a grande fete outside the terminal in the Polish 70s style. Telebims displayed scenes from cult Polish comedy films in which the terminal was featured. The public got hot tea with vodka from thermos flasks and egg sandwiches wrapped in breakfast paper. Old style ‘crew’ with odd haircuts and vile make-up presented a happening: a very rude and disrespectful ‘check-in’ service. A reminder of how it was during the communist days – now a laughing matter. A huge “Closed” sign was lit up to finish off the night. Etude is over.

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GOING UP

Nudists – who might be getting a brand new beach on Warsaw’s Vistula bank. The Warsaw’s City Council motion aims to recreate the once popular nudist spot near Wał Miedzeszyński. The project needs the support of the mayoress of Warsaw Hanna Gronkiewicz-Walz, whom you can contact with petitions at ajaworska@warszawa.um.gov.pl.

The Polish economy – according to The Economist Poland will be the only country in Europe, excluding Slovakia and Slovenia, with a GDP growth in 2009 (0.7% to be precise). Other countries will experience a negative GDP growth rate due to the current crisis. Poland’s prognosis for 2010 is a more optimistic 2.2% GDP growth rate.

Firefox web browser – which, for the first time had a larger market share (45.3%) in Poland, than Internet Explorer (45.0%)

GOING DOWN

Radek Sikorski – the current Minister for Foreign Affairs lost his bid to become NATO Secretary General. Reportedly the Americans wanted the Danish guy (Anders Fogh-Rasmussen). Mr Sikorski should have thought twice, before he supported McCain against Obama the Piast.

The Centre of Contemporary Art in Toruń – which has hidden from view a part of its own exhibition on Saturday. The exposition entitled “Lucim lives on” presents peasant inspirations in modern art. One of the elements of the exhibition was a film, which the CoCA director, politically appointed figure, perceives as ‘obscene’ or ‘pornographic’. Conservatism and censorship is hardly a surprise when you think that instead of a speech from the curator presenting the CoCA’s programme during its launch ceremony, there was a priest offering prayer for the CoCA to “make benefit the glorious people of Toruń”.

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