Les gens qui ne rient jamais ne sont pas des gens sérieux

Be who you are and say what you mean, those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

An increase in Polish intolerance?

A guy in a fitted pink t-shirt was sitting half-way down the bus, looking up every so often from his article to check the route, ears plugged by the telltale white earphones of his ipod.

A group at the back of the bus was being loud, two guys with their girlfriends, showing off to each other and vying for attention.

I turned my attention back to the pink t-shirt guy. He was cute, in a very un-Polish Brit-pop kind of way; skinny with Buddy Holly glasses and messy hair. He looked arty.

The boys from the noisy group had shorn heads and were burly, no overweight. They had noticed the guy further down the bus and after pointing and sniggering, started speaking in high pitched voices and making limp wristed gestures.

I tried to ignore them, but shot them a sideways look anyway. One of the girls' met my look and had the decency to look embarassed. She frowned at the boys and their attention moved to other topics.

I was a bit confused. The guy didn't even have a gay vibe; he'd just had the audacity to wear a pink t-shirt.

All this commotion about the EP resolution saying Poland is increasingly intolerant has been dismissed by most politicians, and I know that having been here just a year, my ability to compare is pretty limited.

I do know what I've seen though and what I've heard from individuals involved in various situations: There have been racist attacks on refugees, including one time when the KFC in which the attack occurred offered free chicken to the victim as compensation... When I walked through the streets of Warsaw with a black girl she was stared at. When we marched for equality we were whistled at by skin heads.

I can't say whether intolerance has increased, but I don't see how its presence can be denied.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

and another thing...

Remember how this

turned to this?

Well it's now got this far

Hot, hot, hot.

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A bit of this and a bit of that

It seem I may have alienated all my commenters as I haven't heard so much as a peep since the fart picture, which indicates rather too much about the readership of this blog... The World Cup has taken over and people are spending their days glued to that screen instead of this one.

I've had all these little stories building up, but DEAR LORD things have been a little too much recently.

First there was the manic flat-hunting business which had us running around the whole of Warsaw, seeing places that were a little too small, or a little too noisy, or a little too expensive, or not laid out quite right, or blahdy-blahdy-blah. Then there was the shock and exhilaration of finding our dream flat. The one that ticks all the boxes, the one with high ceilings and a big balcony and spacey rooms and great floors and the one that had me going 'oooooh, I really really really want to live here Marek, let's buy it!' after about two minutes. We spent four hours over the weekend talking to the sellers and sorting things out and now we're in this excruciating period of having to find a notariusz to get some kind of contract signed and a deposit down so that the current owners don't run off and sell it to someone else. It just doesn't bear thinking about.

I would cry.

A lot.

Then there was the additional business of attending another Polish wedding. Damn, it was a good one. Actually, it was an American-Polish wedding, which was even handier because there were translations all over the place. We danced and drank and sang, then did a bit more dancing and made it into bed by 7am.

Finally, after a weekend of far too much excitement and far too little sleep, I was at work on Monday from 09.00 until 21.40. I thought my time had come.

Still, it seems I made it, which is just as well because I HAVE to live in that flat.

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

Must sleep

found flat to buy. beauty. amazingly high ceilings and everything we wanted. just got to sort paperwork.i love it.

supposed to prepare some work for tomorrow as will be mountain to get through, but no time. been looking after dogs in nice big house.

why no full sentences? no caps and no real structure? went to polish wedding number two last night. home at 7am. sleep now.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Sunday excesses

We crawled out of bed and wiping the sleep from our eyes put the coffee on. I cracked countryside yellow yolked eggs fresh from a Polish aunt to make french toast. The plump slices were sweetened with maple syrup flown all the way from Toronto, which dripped down our chins and stuck our fingers together.

Throughout the morning we snacked on rosy cherries, picked from the tree in the garden just the day before, during breaks from cutting roses and packing them to be sold on the market.

Lunch was steak and chips, a personal favourite; the steak browned on the outside and bright red under the surface. The juices from the meat mingled with the garlicky buttery sauce and gathered in pools around the crispy chips, golden and crunchy saltiness on the outside and soft inside. Token vitamins were provided by the cucumber salad, smothered in a creamy dressing to disguise any healthy properties that may have been present.

Pudding was fresh market rhubarb, cooked in a cobbler, sweetened with sugar and cinammon and surrounded with flaky pastry. The hot rhubarb melted the vanilla icecream; sweet and sour, hot and cold filling our mouths with contrasts.

By evening, we were unable to manage more than a couple of slices of dark bread with slices of cold meat and a couple of overgrown radishes, swallowed down with a swig or two of cold beer straight from the bottle.

I think of Sunday and I think of food.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

World Refugee Day 2006

What do you mean you didn't know? It's today!

I would write more on this but this work thing? It really cuts down on blogging time, especially when you combine it with looking for a flat to buy AND all the extras like eating and sleeping. So, I'll pass on words of wisdom from the UNHCR...

The purpose of World Refugee Day is to draw attention to the plight of refugees, celebrate their courage and resilience, and renew commitment to solving refugee problems. It is also an opportunity to recognise the contribution which refugees make to the countries which host them.

The theme for World Refugee Day in 2006 is "keeping the flame of hope alive" - a salute to the indomitable spirit and courage of the world's refugees.

Shame ABSOLUTELY NOTHING is happening in Warsaw to support this event. What we need is some bright spark to get EU funds to create a big fuss of WRD next year... hint, hint.

In other news, Poland won a football match finally, (shame it was TOO LATE) and it even looked like England might win. Twice. But they drew. Oh well. At least they didn't score any own goals, unlike my personal favourites T&T. Oops.

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

I need to grow up...

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Some thoughts from today...

1. Picture a nun in full nun-outfit (I think I mean habit, but I could be wrong) you know, long black dress, big cross, wimple (where are these words coming from?), black socks and shoes. Now put sunglasses on her and a samsonite backpack. Yeah, looks weird right?

2. Icecream cones are one of the cleverest inventions ever. I mean, keeping all that melty, goey, drippy stuff in one place so you can walk around in the sun, enjoying your icecream without worrying about getting it all over you (well, that's the idea anyway...)

3. Someone is going to hell.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Omigod that was soooo disappointing!

You know when you're really hoping for something to happen, it's totally unlikely, you don't allow yourself to go with the possibility that it might actually happen but you hold your breath and cross your fingers and hope hope hope? Yeah, that's how we felt about Poland winning last night's game against Germany.


The Poles had seriously improved since that Godawful game against Ecuador, and the Germans kept missing the goal for some reason. As someone remarked, maybe all that praying had got through (they have to get some reward for all that religious devotion right?)

It was tense, very tense and then despite all those yellow cards handed out to the fouling Germans, somehow a Pole got two and was sent off. We were digging finger nails into palms by that point and I was watching the game as if it were a horror film (through the holes in my sweater, I can't stand those films). The thread of good fortune seemed to hold and hold - German kicks bounced the ball of goal post after goal post. Then. They scored. 91 minutes! I thought football games lasted 90. That's. Not. Fair.

So then we were all bleurgh and they showed all the crestfallen Polish fans in the stadium and I got gloating text messages from German 'friends' and unsmiley faces from fellow Poland supporters.

Now I have to decide whether who to support during tonight's match... Trinidad and Tobago or England?

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Equality March 2006

Much to my shame I haven't been on a protest march since my Mum dragged us along to one through woods that were to be demolished by a new motorway in the UK when I was about 8... yesterday was great.

After a slightly rough start (police in full riot gear lining the streets, approaching the parade's start by going past the skinheads' counter-demonstration and breaking my banner which was swiftly repaired with duct tape - all hail the magic of duct tape) we quickly got into the swing of things.

It was huge and colourful and friendly. The police were on hand in enormous numbers and created a barrier between us and the rather straggly group of counter-protestors, who incidentally seemed to be protesting against paedophilia, which didn't counter any demonstration I was trying to make (nobody's told them homosexuality isn't the same thing as paedophilia you see, poor ignorant bunch).

People waved from their windows, there were trumpets and whistles, banners and flags. People had come from Sweden, Germany and the UK. There were families, gays and straights; young and old (although mainly young); groups and individuals.

The only violence I saw happened at the end. The square in front of the opera was full of marchers, music blaring out and speeches at the front. I noticed a few anti-EU protestors sneaking round the back, then suddenly swarms of black-clad people, faces covered and some carrying black flags were walking swiftly through the crowd. A roar erupted from the anti-us lot and there were sticks and beatings. The police, to their credit, moved in quickly and effectively. The people in balaclavas streaked back through the crowd to melt into the marchers, apart from one guy I saw tackled to the ground and taken away, much to the delight of the swarm of cameras which quickly surrounded the captured troublemaker.

After giving away our banners, we went for a well deserved pint, and watched the rest of the England game. Perfect end to the day.

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Word of the week: MECZ

Make that word of the month... Remember when I had this brainwave, and then promptly failed to follow up on my self-imposed obligations to 2006: Year of the Polish Language? Yeah well, sorry bout that but I was having difficulty finding a suitable follow-up to the magnificant 'Skarbonka'. That word still makes me snort my drink out of my nose with giggles.

Anyway, I have a new kind of word. The sort that fits with Dżem (Jam) Menadżer (Manager) and biznes (come on, you can see that one right?) and a perfect one for today; Poland's first World Cup game which is about to kick off.

MECZ. Say it out loud. Remember in Polish cz is pronounced tch... Now say 'match' with a South African accent. He hee. I'm off to watch a football mecz.

Half time: Not looking good

Full time: Dear, oh dear.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

So yesterday I was at a poetry reading with the British Ambassador, the Iraqi Ambassador, and, oh, maybe 25 others seated in the British Residence round the corner from my flat, free drinks, free food... Indeed. Lah-di-dah.

I also spent a couple of hours gathering banner-making-material for Saturday.

Then I agreed to stay on in my job that I was preparing to leave last week.

It was a very strange day.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Plans for Saturday?

I suppose I could watch the first England WC game or go to my friend's wedding in Poznan, but to be honest, this is where I'll be:

JOIN THE MARCH OF EQUALITY IN WARSAW (text below courtesy of Antoni Lazarkiewicz)

The March of Equality will take place on the 10th of June in Warsaw.

The March of Equality is a political manifestation against any discrimination of minorities in our society. It is not only about gay people, but also about the disabled, national and racial minorities and the rights of women.

The rights of citizens of the European Union are being trampled by the Polish authorities.

We are fighting for ideas and liberties which are obvious to the majority of European societies, yet in Poland are still considered extremist, libertine, perverted etc.

The organizers of the March of Equality have serious reasons to expect that this year's demonstration will not be properly protected by the authorities. Year after year,
groups of violent youngsters from right-wing organizations have been trying to attack the peaceful rallies by throwing eggs, and even stones or bricks at the protesters. Over the
last two years the mayor of Warsaw, Lech Kaczynski, tried to use his authority to block the March of Equality. Courts overruled his decisions. This year, Mr. Kaczynski is no longer the mayor of Warsaw; he's been elected the president of Poland.

The process of modernization of our society will take many years and it is probably impossible to accelerate it. But no change will ever happen if the public debate fells victim to political, religious and ideological censorship.

We will execute our civil rights. We will march on the 10th of June, despite our fear that we will fall victim to physical violence. The presence of foreign observers will diminish the threat. It will also have a positive impact on our society. Poles will realize that the European Union is
not only a sphere of economic liberty but also a Commonwealth of values. If a society wants to be member of this Commonwealth, it has to obey its rules. Your presence at the rally will also demonstrate that the other members of the EU care about the state of our democracy; that they are not indifferent towards our problems.

We already know that some MEPs - mostly from the Green Parties - have openly expressed their support for our demonstration. Many of them will come to the March.

We hope that this protest will not be treated by the authorities and public opinion in Poland as an event organized by the "leftist extremists" as they are being refered to by the official propaganda. It is very important to us to underline that our agenda is the mainstream of
European politics, and not extremism. We hope that we will have a chance to meet and discuss the ways of social development in our country. We are counting on you!


Poland has a new ruling coalition. Six months after last year's parliamentary and presidential election, three parties have signed an agreement to rule together. While the main political power remains in the hands of the Law and Justice party (PiS), two smaller partners have joined the
government. Both of them received the posts of deputy prime ministers for their leaders.

The ideology of PiS is right wing, conservative and nationalist. It won the election thanks to the support of Radio Maryja, an orthodox-catholic broadcast with strong influence over frustrated and ill-educated people of rural Poland. Radio Maryja can be found in annual reports of the
Human Rights Watch as an example of xenophobic and anti-semitic rhetoric. Aggressive propaganda of RM has led to public condemnation by the Pope Benedict XVI, but despite
this and many other protests it is still protected by the political establishment.

PiS would be considered a relic of old-style politics in any Western-European country, but it is relatively liberal compared to its two smaller partners.

The League of Polish Families (LPR) is a neo-fascist movement. Its leaders have often expressed hatred of other nationalities. Photos have been leaked to the press of their
rallies, where members of the party were using the fascist salute. Their MEP, Wojciech Wierzejski, is well known for his violent homophobia. Three days ago, when asked about
next month's March of Equality, he said: "if they [gay people] decide to come and demonstrate, then they should be hammered into the ground with baseball bats".

Well, Wierzejski's friend, and leader of LPR, Roman Giertych, has just been nominated as vice-PM and minister of education of our country. During a press conference on the 16th of May, he said that he would put an end to the "promotion of deviation" in Polish schools. Any meetings between students and activists of the gay movement will be strictly forbidden.

After Giertych's nomination, a wave of protests swept through all major Polish cities. Thousands of young people: high school and university students, parents, alongside with teachers and intellectuals, took to the streets to show their opposition to the nomination. Within two days, over 60 000 people signed a letter posted on the Internet demanding his resignation. In response, Giertych commented that the protests were organized by left-wing extremists, communists and the "homosexual lobby". Mr. Wierzejski, again, sent an official letter to the Minister of Interior, asking him to investigate the ties between homosexuals, pedophiles and the
drug mafia.

The Self-defense party (Samoobrona) is a political movement of frustrated farmers. Twelve years ago they started refusing to pay back their bank loans and their protests became violent. The charismatic leader of Samoobrona, Andrzej Lepper, is a cynical political gamester. He is also
a criminal with multiple jail sentences for organizing and taking part in violent and often bloody riots. Very recently he was sentenced for one and a half years of probation for throwing public insults at another politician.

He announced that hed appeal to the European Court of Justice against the Polish state for this sentence. That means that he will be appealing against himself, since he just became our deputy PM and head of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Let's face the facts: Poland is ruled by a coalition of nationalists, criminals and neo-fascists, unparalleled in the European Union.

If You have any further questions or remarks, please feel free to e-mail me at The Democratic Party of Poland is not directly involved in organizing the March, but we are trying our best to support it.

The internet site of the March (with english and german versions) Please, pass this message on to anybody who might be interested.

Antoni Lazarkiewicz,
Partia Demokratyczna (The Democratic Party of Poland)

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006


The fear of the number 666 is called hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia.

Don't tell me you never learn anything here.

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Monday, June 05, 2006

What I'm doing today...

Taking time out of my current crisis to add my voice to the relaunch of P3 - go see!

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

I'm having another crisis people

When I was 15 or so, I thought life went school, university degree, job. Oh, I knew about the parties and fun stuff too, but in terms of professional life I thought the pattern was a given.

Ten years on I see that so far it's gone school, university degree, masters degree, internship, internship, voluntary service, plenty of 'thanks but you're too young and inexperienced' answers to jobs I want and only insultingly low-paid offers for jobs that I'm over qualified for.

This week I'm back in my house-sitting role in the beautiful house in Wilanow. I'm getting paid to be here. Paid the equivalent of two weeks non-stop copy editing to sit around for a week and make the odd meal with food I haven't paid for. That's the kind of job I like and also the kind of job that frustrates me. I have a brain, I can think, I can work hard, I can be an asset to a team.

So why am I dreaming about setting up a house-sitting company for rich ex-pats? Why am I thinking I could be wealthy fairly quickly and buy a big Warsaw flat if only I could tap into that market and sit around letting money come to me. That's not me! I want to work for people who need me on a more fundamental level. I want to work with human rights issues, meet people who are discriminated against and do something to change inequalities. I'm giving up before I've even started!

This time next week I am probably going to have left my current job, and the house-sitting will be over. I will be back in the position of needing something to keep me going over the summer, before I am hopefully given an EU grant to organise a World Refugee Day event and I'm afraid it's going to be English teaching. Not the charitable English teaching I was doing before either, but the money-grabbing kind. Just as well I'm little-miss-be-prepared and have nearly completed a TEFL qualification.


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