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Three delectable articles on Poland

One of our own travel forum members wrote 3 great articles about Poland for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The "sign in" prompt after reading 1 article gives you access to one more article; after that, you get an invitation to subscribe to read additional articles. So, switch to another device to read them all (clearing your cache probably also works), or be more noble than I and support Pittsburgh journalism.

Polish Cuisine: https://www.post-gazette.com/life/food/2019/12/04/Polish-food-pieorgi-paczki-zapiekanka-zurek-vodka-szarlotka-Pittsburgh/stories/201912050006

Nowa Huta outside Krakow: https://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/Op-Ed/2019/12/29/Poland-suburb-Nowa-Huta-history-Nathan-Boley-Next-Page/stories/201912290023

A 2-week trip that hits many of Poland's highlights: https://www.post-gazette.com/life/travel/2020/03/23/Poland-travel-Krakow-Warsaw-Gdansk-Wroclaw-Auschwitz-Pittsburgh/stories/201912160102

Posted by
4606 posts

Thanks, Dave. I read the one on Polish cuisine, since that's a topic I know something about. We spent several years in Poland in the early 80s, and loved the food. We were especially impressed with the soups and salads. The salads were so simple, yet so good. And the soups! Like the author of the piece, we love żurek, although I must say we never had it served to us in a bread bowl. Different times or different regions, I suspect. We were there during periods of rationing and martial law, so things were different.

We did, however, find wonderful pizza in Poland, in a tiny shop on the Stary Rynek (Old Square) in Poznań. Creative toppings, tasty crust and cheese. I don't remember zapiekanka, but I may have encountered the dish (but not the name) at student parties.

Thanks for some good memories. It may be time for me to dig out my Polish cookbooks again!

Posted by
2597 posts

Jane,

It would have been fairly fascinating to see Poland in the martial law days. I have a trip planned for Gdansk and Warsaw in September, though I am losing hope that it will actually happen. I read a book about Solidarity/martial law times and watched some videos on YouTube about those times. Thanks for sharing!

Posted by
1268 posts

Dave, one of my cultural memories which has grown fuzzy with the passage of time was watching Saturday Night Live when someone, I'm pretty sure Bill Murray, announced that martial law had been imposed in Poland. Those on the stage continued to chatter Etc and Bill said "this is serious. People will die."

Posted by
4606 posts

doric8, I had never heard that story.

It was frightening at first, because the Polish government never used the term "martial law;" they used "stan wojenny" which means "state of war." We were told of the imposition by a woman who dropped by our apartment that morning to drop something off, and announced when we opened the door: "We're at war!" It was scary and confusing for a while, especially since, if I remember correctly (and I may not) this was a Sunday morning, and the US Consulate in Poznań was closed. And we didn't have a phone to get in touch with anyone who might know what was going on. Once things became clear, it was handleable. In fact, it was a lot like what we're going through here, at least on a day to day level: everything was closed, our jobs disappeared (along with our paychecks,) there was pretty much nowhere to go. We could go for walks... And no social distancing, so we could still visit friends. A number of the Americans who were there at the time left; we chose to stay.

Oh, and no international phone calls, so I knew my parents were frantic. Evidently a few places were allowing calls to go through (from post offices) but I couldn't find one. When I went to the neighborhood post office to try, the clerks were saying "No international calls allowed." I called from the back of the line, with my American-accented Polish "But my mother will be worried," at which point everybody in line ahead of me urged the clerk to let me make my call. No luck, but I was touched.

"May you live in interesting times," indeed.

Posted by
2214 posts

On Martial Law in Poland, it hit different people/regions in varying degrees, a few of my relatives on my Polish side of my family were actually part of the Solidarity movement starting in the early 1980s.

One relative was studying in the Wroclaw University when Martial Law was proclaimed. Much like today, classes were postponed and students were told to go home, but many didn't, a large group of them, including this relative, occupied the university in protest. That night the ZOMOs (military Police) launched an operation to clear the students from the university, they fired warning shots in the area and one professor was killed.

In the region of Silesia, where my Polish family is from, there was more anti-communist unrest than in other regions of Poland, especially in Wroclaw, there were tanks on the streets, food shortages in the shops (especially toilet paper), and close by is where the tragedy at Wujek Coal Mine occurred.

If interested in life and times just before, during, and just after the Martial Law in Poland, I strongly recommend taking a look at the work of this photographer http://chrisniedenthal.com/en

Posted by
17 posts

This is a culinary-travel series on PBS about Poland.

https://www.flavorofpoland.com

This past summer I did a trip to Lithuania and Poland. In Poland my stops included Warsaw, Wolf's Lair, Gdansk, Torun, Wroclaw, Zakopane, Krakow, and Czestochowa.

I had previously visited Poland twice in the 1990's and it is a different country today.

Posted by
2597 posts

doric8... I googled it and found this... https://www.reddit.com/r/netflix/comments/19y6nz/something_odd_on_a_1981_saturday_night_live_with/

Jane... Thanks for sharing more of your experience. It is always fascinating to me to hear someone's first-hand story of experiencing history. I can understand how it would be disturbing to hear "war." The anecdote about trying to make a call to the US was a nice end to the story. Thanks again for sharing.

Carlos... Thanks for the photographer's website. Will work my way through his work.

Traveller99... Welcome to the forum! Wow, that series looks great. I'm looking forward to diving into it. If you come back to this thread, what stands out as the biggest difference between your trips in the 90's and your most recent trip?

Posted by
1268 posts

Dave, thanks for the reddit report, glad to know that I remember some important things from that era. I don't recall the earlier sketch, what I recall was during the ending of the show. It's also possible that I came home from a babysitting gig just for the closing. But something about the way Murray snapped at his cast mates stayed w me all this time.

Posted by
17 posts

Dave....I was in Poland in 1996 and 1998, and there were few, if any tourists. There were no western hotels in Krakow and the two hotels I stayed were the Forum and Hotel Cracovia, two large communist era hotels, that stand abandon today.

When taking local tours at that time, it was typical to have a guide who lived through the German occupation during World War 2 and/or survived Auschwitz. It was a great experience to learn about history from someone who lived it. The guides were around 70 years old. This was also true at Prague in the 1990's.

There was also a huge underworld/russian mafia presence through out Eastern Europe in the 1990's. This was more visible in Warsaw. After crossing the border from Germany, this was before Poland was in the EU, there would be prostitutes everywhere, that were the result of sex trafficking. Car theft was common and there were restrictions on the cars we were able to rent in Germany, to take into Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe.

Posted by
2597 posts

Traveller99... Your 1996 and 1998 trips sound like rich experiences. It would have been very special to have spent time with guides like you described. I'm a big fan of hiring guides!

Edit: Oh yeah... thanks for coming back to share your experience, too!

Posted by
17 posts

Dave....Jack Strong is a docudrama film about a Polish Army colonel who spied for the CIA during the height of the Cold War.

Posted by
2597 posts

Traveller... I watched Jack Strong last night. I had never heard that story. The movie peaked my interest enough to order a biography of Ryszard Kuklinski. It's particularly interesting that President Clinton made his support of Poland's entry into NATO contingent upon Kuklinski being pardoned/exonerated by the Polish government. Thanks so much for pointing me toward this very interesting historical figure.

Posted by
1956 posts

I watched the film Jack Strong this weekend and thought it was a riveting story. What a brave man! Please let us know what you think of his biography.

Posted by
2214 posts

In the same vein as Ryszard Kukliński (jack strong), you guys may be also interested in the incredible story of Witold Pilecki, the heroic Polish army officer turned resistance leader who volunteered to get "captured" and subsequently imprisoned in Auschwitz Concentration Camp in order to secretly report what was going on there.

At the start of the German occupation of Poland, it was unknown what was truly going on at Auschwitz, his report later proved invaluable in documenting the atrocities perpetrated by the Germans, which was forwarded on to the British government and other Allied governments. At first the Allies considered his reports about the Holocaust exaggerated, although they were proved to be accurate after the liberation of the camps.

Unfortunately, he was later considered a traitor by the Polish Communist government, so his story only came to light in the west in recent years after the fall of the Communist regime. I've been meaning to read this new biography of his story (just came out last year) which "presents for the first time in English the life of a nearly forgotten Polish war hero" - https://www.amazon.com/Volunteer-Mission-Underground-Auschwitz-Holocaust-ebook/dp/B07C2CH12H

Posted by
2597 posts

The biography I read is A Secret Life: The Polish Officer, His Covert Mission, and the Price He Paid To Save His Country by Benjamin Weiser. I enjoyed it. It offered great insight into how Cold War spying was accomplished.