Tag Archives: Germany

How to get on Polish TV

TVP’s Wiadomości (News) called me yesterday and asked if I could comment on the fact that England is to play Germany in the World Cup. I explained carefully that not all English people know about football or have opinions on it. They replied that time was short and I decided an on-camera interview might be a fun thing to try at least once in my life.

Getting on Polish TV is about as difficult as coming down with flu in December: it gets everybody in the end. If you’re expecting stretched Hummers, behind-the-scenes wining and dining or the proximity of an unusual number of bikini models, you’re in for a disappointment. The set-up call came while I was in the pasta aisle at our local supermarket. The location was to be a rain-soaked Pl. Matejki fifteen minutes later. I turned up hooded in my best rainwear and practising my umbrella work.

The whole thing lasted three minutes, which they wisely cut down to about five seconds for the report. I carefully avoided revealing my ignorance and said something highly profound and amusing about England-Germany matches being shown in black and white and the advisability of having the commentary done by a Churchill impersonator. I also said something about 80 percent of English people being uninterested in football but compelled to watch England-Germany matches and the inability of the average Englishman to behave appropriately in a winning scenario. They cut it all out, which is just as well or I might now be in real danger of assassination.

My wife, who is beloved by the camera and appears in the background of the set-up shot, has so far received three fan emails, what with her being a famous kabaret-type person. I have received the assurance of fellow Polandian Scatts that I “didn’t look like a weirdo” and “held my umbrella well.”

Watch it on the TVP website. The report starts at about 21 minutes (you can click on the bar to skip to that point) and features a lot of far more enthusiastic football people than me.

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September the 1st

On the 1st September 2009, 70 years after the breakout of the Second World War, world leaders will come to Westerplatte in Gdańsk, Poland, where it all began. They will pay tribute to the victims, line the paths of reconcilliation and vow to make sure similar things don’t happen again. But as delegations iron their shirts and pack bags, many people feel let down again.

Germany and Russia, the perpetrators of the 1939 attack on Poland they conducted in agreement and concord with each other, are sending the highest authorities: Angela Merkel, who is engaged in a longstanding genuine effort for German-Polish (and other) reconcilliation, and Vladimir Putin, who isn’t. Among those attending are many heads of states. The EU will be represented by the prime minister of Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt, a country currently holding the presidency. Jerzy Buzek, the newly appointed speaker of the European Parliament, former Polish prime minister, will act as a symbol of a new era in Central Europe.

It is however the absentees, who are most talked about. It is a very important occasion for Polish politicians, and diplomatic world knows it. Absence, therefore, says a lot. French president Nicolas Sarkozy, Gordon Brown the prime minister of the UK and the American president Barack Obama decided they had more important things to do, are sending their representatives of lower rank. These decisions received very cold reception among many Poles. They feel France and Britain have betrayed Poland in 1939, by not providing military help to which they have commited themselves in treaties. And thay say, together with the USA they betrayed Poland once again after the war, leaving her for Soviet occupation. Therefore Poland, an ally that managed to defend longer than France, has become the only ally that didn’t actually win the war. And today, many feel, that these leaders can’t even manage to find three hours to appear on official celebrations. This is noted, and Poles have a good memory – as one of commentators put it on a Polish news channel.

This is a very important day. For many decades we weren’t allowed to talk freely about what happened during the Second World War. Communist dictatorship blanked out half of our war fate from official memory. Some Western countries were able to remember what happened and have moved on. We didn’t, we are remembering it now. It is the last big anniversary when witnesses are still alive. We need this – a Warsaw pedestrian told Polsat News.

Popular feelings are reflected in the press, which comments that relations with Poland have become the last priority for the United States. And that she is not getting anything in return for being America’s faithful ally. Polish effort in Iraq, and Afghanistan turn out not to be “lives and money well spent”. Oil contracts did not happen. Promised investment (off-set in return for aircraft deal) is not coming. USA are pulling off the missile shield. And on top of that Poles still need visas to travel to the US. Opinion polls on Poland’s participation in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are falling flat.

Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy are not coming either. Is it only because standing in Gdansk, they would have to refer to their countries performance as Poland’s allies? Or the opportunities their countries missed, after the war, to talk about Stalin’s atrocities? Or is it just relations with Poland are on the far end of important issues? After all Gordon Brown did bother to visit the shores of Normandy, when Nicolas Sarkozy invited him for remembrance ceremony.

Some point this could mean that the world is going back to making politics over the heads of smaller nations.

What happened 70 years ago changed the world and shaped today’s reality, we should make sure that it is accurately remembered. It involved two wicked ideologies, that co-operated until 1941. One executing a racist plan of cleansing the Europe of Jews, Slavs and other peoples, and their cultures, treasures and sights, to make room in the East for the German ‘race’. The other intended to expand its model of murderous dictatorship and dominane worldwide on the basis of changing the social relations. Hundreds thousands were enslaved and maked forced-labourers, millions of men, women and children were killed in concentration camps and gulags. Shot in łapankas, bombings, killed in battle. It all happed in the cultured Europe, among the statues of great philosophers and musicians.
We failed to remember what happened. Most people until this day are not fully aware of the atocities of Stalin. Being among the “winners” of the war, he and his people never got their Nurenberg Trial. We failed to make sure similar things don’t happen again.

As Mrs. Angela Merkel said in her video address, it is right and it is important to be in Gdansk for the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War. Maybe we can stop failing?

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Poles advance into Germany

Poles trying to get onto the property ladder are flooding across the border into the former East Germany where prices are lower and the living is easy.

It is estimated that around 2000 Polish families have purchased houses in Meklemburg and Brandenburg recently.

In a story from Gazeta Wyborcza, translated into English by our very own Pawel on his blog More Poland: Press Review, we learn that Poles working in the Polish city of Szczecin or it’s environs are finding it much easier to find affordable land and housing just over the border in Germany than in their own country.

One young professional who has just bought a slice of Germany a few kilometers from the Polish border is quoted as saying:

I can’t afford an apartment in Poland. In Szczecin metropolis this money (50,000 zł) would buy me a garage. Besides, my wife and I are having twins and we need more Lebensraum.

Now that Poland is a member of the Shengen Agreement crossing the international border between Poland and Germany on the way to-and-from work, or even to-and-from a night out in Szczecin, is no more complicated than turning left. You can even get a taxi to take you from one country to the other if you’ve had one to many piwos.

I love the idea that Poland and Germany are gently merging into one another at the edges. After so many decades of suspicious border guards, land mines, razor wire, and strict division it seems like a utopian dream come true.

Read the full story (in English)

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Masovia is wealthier than regions of Germany or Italy!

A discussion we’ve been having recently on this blog on whether Poland is poor or not, now has a surprising epilogue.

This year the income of an average resident of theWarsaw region (the Masovian voivodship) will level to 88% of the EU average – says Eurostat.

This is a great achievement: even though EU funding has only begun to reach Poland, Mazovia is already richer than the East German regions of Mecklenburg, Thuringia, Brandenburg or Saxony which for over 20 years have seen a constant influx of cash from West Germany.

What is more, Mazowsze voivodship is wealthier than a growing list of EU regions, which have never even experienced communism. Including: Picardie and Nord-Pas-de Calais, the whole south of Italy including Sicily and Sardinia. Or in Spain: Galicia, Asturia, Castilia-La Mancha, or Extremandura.

This however is just the beginning. The capital region is developing so fast, that it is very likely it will out compete more regions of Western Europe. In 2004 when Poland joined the EU the average income in Masovia was 76% of the EU average. A year later it was 81%.

Mazovia results are mostly thanks to the enormous impact of Warsaw. The largest Polish region with an area comparable to Belgium and population size similar to Denmark comprises of the cosmopolitan, rapidly developing Warsaw, but also many smaller towns with economic problems and villages more grim then in other regions of Poland (especially in the north or south). Warsaw’s strength lifts the whole region in the statistics.

The Polish government is proud of Warsaw’s performance, yet no one is chilling the champagne. There are concerns that the Masovia region has become so rich, it will no longer be eligible for EU funding (only regions with a development level lower than 75% of the EU average are eligible). The 7-year budget until 2013 had been negotiated previously, based on 2001 economical data, so there is no need for immediate alarm. However the government is considering separating Warsaw and making it a 17th region. This would sustain the support for the wider Masovian areas.

The success of Mazowsze exposes the defeat of many other regions of Poland. Four of them: Lublin, Subcarpathian, Podlachian and Holy Cross, all of them comprising the so called “eastern wall” or “Poland B”, are within Europe’s 15 poorest regions. Only Romania and Bulgaria perform less well. In the eastern part of Poland the level of development reaches only 35-38% of the EU average. It is therefore three times lower than in Masovia.

Poland, which used to be more or less homogeneous, is now a country of contrasts.

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Defeats that make Polish people angry

 

So. Your neighbour buys a car. The fastest production car on Earth. “Life begins at 250!” – he says, smirking, trying to get on your wick. He succeeds. You challenge him to a race. Right away! “I’ll beat you barefoot and single-handed!” – you yell – “Ready, steady, go!” – and off you go, indeed, and you run, your teeth gnashed maniacally.

 

The neighbour needs a few seconds to rethink what you’ve just said, then he accepts the challenge but can’t find the key, so needs to rethink whether the car opens with a key, or with a thumb pad, or a voice recognition system, or is there Scottie to beam him inside, and yes, I guess, it’s that hi-tech, so he spends more time looking for some Star Trek uniform, then, being not too slim, he takes even more time to position himself in it, then in the car, which might start chasing you – oh wouldn’t she swirl to 60 mph in 2.5 secs, but you – you slyfox, you – took wicked turns through the bushes and then abrupt jump down some rocky road, so the neighbour’s got to watch out, slow down not to scratch his baby. Then, the way starts looking civilised, almost German – and the man overtakes you – 5 minutes after you set off. You lost your breath, you lost your boots, you lost your teeth – but not your pride. — You won! — For 5 minutes you were faster than the fastest car on Earth! If that’s not a victory, what is?

 

 

In short: your victories are all about how you define your objectives. Is it the final scene that rules the landscape? Well, my guest here suggested some of the Polish victories were: Tannenberg. Moscow. Vienna. Monte Cassino. Saratoga. The Miracle at the Vistula.

And I brag to differ:

 

= Tanneberg (1410) — If the aim’s to pick a fight with Western Europe, that’s some, duh, victory. But if the aim’s to take the enemy’s capital and impose upon him your terms of the peace treaty – then Poland sustained a major defeat.

 

= Moscow (1610) — If the aim’s not to launch a bunch of adventurers into the Kremlin but to start a royal line of Polish monarchs steadfast on the tsar’s throne – then Poland was defeated.

 

= Vienna (1683) — If the aim’s to clear the path towards the forming of Austrian Empire to destroy Poland in return – call that a victory.

 

= Monte Cassino (1944) — If the aim’s to send the soldiers of Poland [betrayed in 1939 and re-betrayed in 1945] to their Mount Doom in Mordor of Italybe my guest, call it a victory.

 

Right?

 

And then, Poles don’t appreciate they scored some real victories. Great Polish victories. Greater Polish victories. Greatest Polish victories. They’ll be dazed and confused. “You mean, eh, we actually did win all of that?”

To end something in a victory – is not too Polish. It’s Polish to win a battle and lose a war. To suffer for suffering’s sake. To have false history classes instead of true middle classes. To sell cheap myths why we don’t buy expensive cars. Come, stranger, cry rivers with us.

 

So, in the other half of this episode I’ll tell you why — instead of crying — you can laugh at the myth of the winged horsepower of Poland. A bonus, some truths about Poland’s top sabre. (I mean, you need to know Wolodyjowski if you want to survive in Poland! Watch out for the shortest guy in the movie:

 

And stay tuned for more.)

 

PS The Battle of Warsaw (1920) was a victory – but that’s why it’s called a miracle. (And it must be added that soon after the battle Poland re-betrayed Ukraine. As if the reaction to the first betrayal should not teach us anything.) And Saratoga (1777) was a battle co-starring one Pole’s fancy to procure engineering work in America.

 

 

 

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