Friday, October 19, 2007

Teskni za Polska!

I've been home for about 2 months and am missing Poland a lot. I really wish I could hope on a train and be at Babcia's in 7 hours, or Gdansk in 4 hours or Krakow in 3. Because not only would this mean I'd be able to have a sweet adventure, but also that my school schedule would be significantly less chaotic. Collegium in Warsaw was essentially a semester off, and while my summer language program was gruelling, it was all for fun. What is not fun is the hectic work schedule I signed myself up for this year. I can't complain too much, because a lot of it has to do with my honors thesis which is a) the most awesome topic ever and b) the reason I was able to stay in Poland for so long.

The grueling class schedule does mean, unforch, that I don't really have time to update about my recent fall break trip to Nashville, TN, the country music capital of the world. I also want to do a "best of Poland" post-it's in the works, honest. All I can do right now, however is direct you to the NYTimes, trusted bastion of information, for an article about recent Polish immigration trends. For the last several years, young Poles have been flocking to Great Britian for work opportunities. The numbers are really, really high, but it seems like that might be changing. The photo for the article is pretty great:NY Times article

Also, today is election day in Poland! Little known fact about Polska is that the president and prime minister are identical twin brothers. Which just really doesn't seem like a good idea, regardless of their politics, which are alarmingly conservative. Most young people really can't stand the Kaczynski brothers, and today, the prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski declared defeat!

I just started a new blog! It's a blog for the Urban Debate League of Atlanta, that I've worked with for the last 4 years and that I love madly. So, please check it out to see what we do and how awesome are kids are. It's still in the works, so if anyone has feedback, that'd be great!

UPDATE: Here's a Times article about the Polish Election.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

america. whoa.

reverse culture shock is starting to hit:

i'm constantly surprised that cashiers accept my debit card and do not press me for exact change. i get anxious and possessive when the grocery store bagger bags my groceries-i'm supposed to do it myself! nobody carries plastic bags around, and nobody is selling shoe laces on the sidewalk. i find these things strange. i read about solidarity, and remember the time i lived in gdansk. and warsaw. i miss the tram ride from my apartment to school, and i miss my ugly apartment itself. i miss getting lost on the trams, and even the stink of centralny train station. i miss wayne's coffee, and krakow, and gdansk with hil. i miss it being cold and i miss the adventures!

i also love america. happy belated constitution day.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Not Cakes and Babies

I'm home and it's great. A little bizarre, because Emory has put up 3 or 4 buildings since I've been gone and torn down a few more (including Gilbert Hall, my favorite campus housing). Added with the number of people who graduated while I was abroad and the new freshman I don't know, it's going to take me a while to re-settle in. I truly can't believe that this time last week I was at my Babcia's house, and I imagine that in a few weeks I'll have a long sappy good-bye post.

Until then, here's a little bit of Polish happiness that needs to be shared. Shoshi really likes babies, and I think nuns are great. Which makes it my obligation to post this:

Siostra Maria and Axel's coreczka were SO into each other.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Pani Henryka

I'm gonna be really pretentious for a second and pretend that I can become best buds with extremely important people, which would allow me to have an enormous friend crush on Pani Henryka Krzywonos. Pani Krzywonos worked in Gdansk as a tram conductor in 1980 when the August Strikes began, and she stopped her tram in the middle of an intersection to start a public transportation strike. Today, thanks to my super contacts at the archiwum, I got the chance to meet her, which was an utterly humbling and inspiring experience. In one beautiful long narrative she told me of her experience in Solidarity and under Martial Law. She escaped being imprisoned by going into hiding, was found and beaten by the police more than once, and went so far as marrying a good friend to change her name from the one well known by the police. Her heroism continues today, as she and her husband have opened up their home as a family orphanage, and she is now the mother of 14 (or maybe 40? I get really confused with numbers in Polish) children. I love my thesis topic. Though right now I have no idea how I'm going to incorporate all the different material I've gathered. All I can imagine writing is the already long "thank you" page.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Week 2 in the Archives

My time in Gdansk, and Poland for that matter, is drawing to a close. I've spent the majority of this week back at the archive, continuing to search the Bibula (underground newspapers) for any references to women. Unfortunately,y my ability to search for gendered language is severely hampered by my lack of fluency in this language...that would certainly be exciting! But I've got a whole stack of articles that I will probably spent the next year translating. I will resist the huge urge that I have to hand it over to my mom to sift through, because this work will be good for me.

I just need to take a nerdy moment out to talk about HOW MUCH I like working in the archive. The staff here is super and encouraging and that helps a lot. But really, everyday I get to hold, in my own hands, CLANDESTINE DOCUMENTS. People literally risked their lives to conduct interviews, write articles, print copies in their homes/rented rooms etc, and distribute these papers. During Martial Law, when the leaders of Solidarity where imprisoned, papers like Tygodnik Mazowsze were the voice and image of Soldiarity and gave people hope. And I've (tried) to read the original articles!

Besides meeting Pani Walentynowicz I've also met Alina Pienkowska's best friend. Alina Pienkowska was a young nurse who worked in the shipyards and was hugely important for the 1980 strikes. She telephoned the international press with news of the August strikes-the telephone lines in her office were the only ones who were not cut. On the 3rd day of the strikes, the strike committee agreed to a 1500 zloty pay raise and the reemployment of Walentynowicz and Walesa-which is 500 zloty more than the intial strike demands. But Pienkowska, Walentynowicz, and a few other women realized that there were other smaller factories striking across Gdansk and the country who were counting on a big victory in the shipyards to help them get their own issues accross. And they decided to continue the strike for Solidarity-closing the gates and telling the departing workers to come back and strike for Solidarity. She wrote the 17th of the 21 Demands and was a Senator before she died in 2002. Her friend was awesome, awesome, awesome-was already thinking of Pienkowska's role in terms of gender, had a great apartment and cool jewelry.

And tomorrow I have an interview with Pani Henryka Krzywanos, a tram driver in Gdansk who led the transportation strikes in August of 1980. Basically, thanks to the amazingly kind director at the Solidarity archive, I've been put in contact with 3 of the most important women in Solidarity. Whether or not I use this material for my Thesis, it's incredibly exciting to meet such legendary, strong women.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Week 1 of Archive Work

I've been in Gdansk for a week now, staying with my awesome cousin and spending my days at the archive in the Solidarity main office building. I've learned that archival research is slow work but exciting. I'm looking through the Bibula, or underground press, to find articles about women. I'm also doing some interviews-I have a list of contacts so long that it's unbelievable, because word has spread that there is an American girl looking for information about women in Solidarity, and everyday somebody from the building will wander down to the basement to share some stories and give me a couple of contacts. This is cool, but probably not the most helpful information for my Thesis. I'm doing a few more interviews so as not to offend my kind archive benefactors. Plus, it's a pretty great experience to meet people involved in the movement I'm writing about-not many historians get that experience.

Today I am going to the Solidarity museum, to see the Roads to Freedom exhibit which was closed last time I was here.

And in 1.5 weeks I will be home!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Pani Ania!

One week ago I was in despair because it looked like every archive I contacted about doing research was closed, either for vacation or remodeling. But my mom contacted a wonderfully helpful archive in Gdansk that is open, and the director put me in touch with none other than Pani Anna Walentynowicz. Pani Ania was critical to the 1980 shipyard strikes in Gdansk-it was, in fact, her firing just months before scheduled retirement that sparked the strikes, and she and Pani Ania Pienkowska motivated the shipyard workers to strike for Solidarity. She's a hugely tough lady, and on Wednesday, I got to meet her. We talked for about 3 hours (and by talked, I mean she shared amazing stories about Solidarity and I tried to inarticulately communicate understanding, empathy, and questions in my unfortunately poor Polish). Sadly, I didn't get any pictures with her because of camera battery issues, but I sat at this same table with her! (photos are courtesy of anna I'm returning to Gdansk over the weekend and have an invitation to come for a photo op if she's still in town.

And here's a photo of Anna Walentynowicz from back in the day-during the August 1980 strikes. I think ti's fair to make some comparisons between her and Rosa Parks-they were both iconic, strong, intelligent women who worked hard for civil rights and freedom. They're usually both remembered for simple acts of resistance but were true fighters. I'm still in disbelief that I got to meet her.