30 June 2008

Dzien dobry ( Hallo)

Warsaw took me by surprise. In a very positive sense. I went there expecting grey houses and a lingering atmosphere of former communist state and found a busy and booming city full of energy and potentialities. The city took me with storm! Since my sister worked while I was there I had the whole days to myself exploring the city. I walked and walked and walked almost wearing down the soles of my new trainers. I strolled through the old town with its small alley ways, visited art museums, historical sites, and old Cemetery’s and enjoyed the large and beautiful parks. I even managed to cram in a jumble sale! On the whole the city was much greener than I expected my prejudice thinking it would be only grey and that all buildings would look like Stalinist hotels housing only western business men with a visa or the East German women’s team of discus-throwers on training camp. Of course there are a lot of bunker like Stalinist structures and equally dull buildings of a later era but with the arrival of a market economy in 1989 the face of Warsaw started changing rapidly. Newly constructed steel-and-glass towers and commercial posters of gigantic proportions have made Warsaw very much a town between old and new. And that is very fascinating!

On the evenings my sister and I did some serious catching up involving a lot of wine, good food and talking to the wee hours of the morning!

Old meets new! The Palace of Culture and Science surrounded by glass and steal buildings and commercial posters. The Palace was a "gift of friendship" from the Soviet union 1952. Poles often jokes that the viewing terrace is the best view of the city because it`s the only one that doesn`t inclued the Palace of Culture & Science itself.

The polish people live very close to their dramatic and tragic history in a way that is difficult for a Swede to understand. Sweden not being in a war since 1815 and with a population that largely tend taking freedom of speech and human rights for granted. Everywhere you go in Warsaw you are reminded of WW II and the five year long Nazi occupation. No other Polish city suffered such immense loss of life or such devastation in the war. The occupation triggered two acts of heroic armed resistance, both cruelly crushed. The first was the Ghetto uprising in 1943 when heavily outnumbered and largely unarmed Jewish civilians fought fiercely for over a month against overwhelming Nazi forces. The second was the Warsaw uprising of 1944 that hoped to liberate the capital and set up independent government before the arrival of the red army (which was already camped on the eastern bank of the Vistula river). The street fighting went on for 63 days but then the insurgents were forced to capitulate. For the next three months the Nazis methodically razed the city to ground. Only on the 17 of January did the Soviet forces cross the river to “liberate” Warsaw! About 85 % of the Warsaw buildings were destroyed and 800 000 people – more than half of the prewar population – perished.

The most valuable historic monuments, most notably the old town has been restored to their previous appearance based on original drawings and photographs.

The Royal Castle in 1945

The Royal Castle rebuilt

I also visited the Pawiak Prison Museum once used for incarcerating the enemies of the Russian tsar but during the WW II the Gestapo’s main prison facility. Around 100 000 prisoners passed through its gates of whom around 37 000 people were executed on site and 60 000 transported to the gas chambers. The visit left me deeply touched and very sad. During WW II and at the age of 14 my father spent two years in a prison camp in Siberia. When I visited the Prison Museum I was overwhelmed by the sudden knowledge of how much my father must have suffered and how little I know about those two years. Through my father, WW II have always been an important part of my history and has in parts made me the one I am when it comes to my views on politics and human rights. The visit made me want to dig out my old history books collecting dust on the attic and reread them. I also decided then and there that I am going to sit down for long talks with my father and “write down” some of our family history. Not only for me but for my daughters as well.
The Pawiak Prison Museum

I left Warsaw with a firm resolution to fly back real soon!

Da widzenia ( Good bye)

The language ? Nie razumiem – I don’t understand!. I studied Russian for a year in high school but I can’t say that it did me much good. Poprosze o dodatkowe lozko w pokoju - pronounce that if you can! It means can you put an extra bed in my room :-) So glad I stayed with my sister and not in a hotel!


Anonymous said...

This is the royal castle and not a town hall ;)


LiLi M. said...

So good to have you back safe and sound and to read your adventures. Really impressive! Yeah write down that family history, for your daughters and yourself and all your other relatives. I have asked my mother to do that a dozen times but she died unexpectedly 12 years ago. Especially my father had traumatic experiences during the War. They were so hungry that afterwards no slice, what do I say? No crumble of bread should be thrown away. Everything had to be eaten, like it or not. As a child I was always affraid that there would come another war here. War is crazy, so many people that have no choice are involved and in the end the solution is always made at a meeting table, so why fight and destroy lives and buildings in the first place?
Mmm your post carried me away a little, hope you don't mind. Just happy that you are back! hugs LiLi

Jeanette said...

Thanks Anonymous! The mistake is corrected! A beautiful house anyway don`t you think?
/ Jeanette

Cattis said...

Vilket intressant inlägg!
Skulle vilja göra en turné världen runt för att gräva djupare i allt historia som finns omkring oss.

Egentligen behöver vi ju bara gå utanför dörren för att finna intressanta saker...

Tack för den lilla inblicken i Warsawa och att intervjua äldre släktingar är väl något vi alla borde göra.
Även om man tror att man minns så glömmer man en hel del om man inte skriver ner det.

Ha det gott!

Anna Stilla said...

Poprosze o dodatkowe lozko w pokoju... det är väl inte så svårt att uttala :)

Däremot att korrekt säga hus och jul verkar vara omöjligt för mig. Barnen skrattar jämt åt mig.

Det är faktiskt otroligt hur polacker hade byggt upp sin Warszawa från ruiner och damm. Så som Det Kungliga Slottet så har större delar av staden sett ut när kriget tog slut.

Jag är så glad att du trivdes där.
Tack för ditt intressanta inlägg.


Anna said...

Å, vilken spännande resa du har gjort, i din egen historia också. Jag gjorde en liten resa runt i norra Polen för ungefär 8 år sen, fascinerande med alla vackra badhotell som inte riktigt hängt med i svängarna.
Grattis till ett bra Myrorna-fynd! Tänk om vi var där samtidigt!?

Homeleightigger said...

I found your Blog very interesting Jeanette, and very touching. You really must write down what your Dad has to tell you - you will be really glad you did in future years. So glad you had such a wonderful visit. Val

Anna Stilla said...

Jeanette, jag älskar dina kommentarer!

Maria said...

Har aldrig besökt Polen,men skulle gärna vilja! Verkar finnas många vackra städer där...

Clara said...

Ahhhh....du är redan tillbaka! Och du hade en trevlig och intressant resa, förstår jag av ditt inlägg. Fantastiska byggnader....och den bilden på flygplansvingen...jösses, vad häftigt! Jag som aldrig har flugit , tycker ju natutrligtvis att den är hisnande:)
Nu jobbar jag denna helgen med och sedan har jag semester...fy f-n, vad skönt, får man säga så?
I villervallan som är här hemma just nu så har jag glömt bort att skicka dig ett mail med lämpliga övernattningsställe men jag ska sätta mig och kolla upp det nu.
Vi har inte planerat någonting inför semestern utan tar dagen som den kommer...blir det fint väder så tar vi båten och sticker iväg....men jag hopas att jag är hemma när ni dyker upp.
Mailar dig under dagen med mobilnr och så ....för då kan du ju ringa och kolla var jag håller hus när du kommer :)
Kram kram och tack för att du berättade om din fina resa!

Annica said...

Jättekul att läsa om din resa! Jag var i Krakow för 10-11 år sedan. Tyckte att det var fascinerande att det är så annorlunda fast det är så nära geografiskt.