Though it should be.
Poland. What comes to mind? I don’t know, I’m from here but I’m guessing it’s chickens in backyards and grannies in horse-drawn carts if you’re American, and cleaning ladies and builders if you’re English. And of course, the Holocaust. I am in Poland, which for me has gone from being a home, to being a sanitorium. Thanks to the economy going tits up in over-developed England, I’ve ended up here to recuperate.
Let me rewind to a very specific moment this past July. It was midnight and I was walking barefoot through suburban south London, – beautiful neighbourhood, nice cars, clean pavement – despairing at my situation as a call centre employee selling TV channels to old men. I was coming home from another soul-destroying day work and had felt the need to remove my uncomfortable shoes as a gesture of defiance against all things capitalist, sexist and urbanjunglist. It felt nice. Anyway, at that particular moment the idea of leaving busy, exciting London for the comforts of my mother’s sofa seemed very, very inviting. So I did it.
Now, despite what I might have said before, Warsaw is a very uninspiring city, compared to most cities. I have tried my utmost best to induce inspiration by walking around town, looking for interesting people doing interesting things, but everything I saw appeared to be a watered down version if itself. I won’t get into it though, and yes, I know I’m being oh so pessimistic, don’t hate me, I have tried to see the upside but I think I have been leaving and coming back and leaving and coming back and it’s just become so terribly dull. Part of the reason is that I have been waiting a long, long time for my beloved Warsaw to become the cultural capital it deserves to be, and it hasn’t quite happened yet. But perhaps my expectations are too high. I’ve been places; I’ve seen things, and somewhere in my subconscious I must have built up this image of a Warsaw that’s in league with Paris, Prague, Berlin.
I think, as a nation, Poland is jaded. We’re stuck in this rut between all the horrible shit that happened in the past, and the promise of glittering Westernization, and the reality is that we have been given a mediocre facelift. What’s going to happen next? For a while it seemed like foreign investment was going to be a catalyst for greater things and somehow put Poland on the map for things other than the Holocaust, but no. The EU has done great things for everyone, myself included, so well done to everyone who’s made the most of it. But now that budget flights are no more and all the emigrants have returned, what’s next? Things aren’t too bad, but going abroad is still seen as a better option than staying at home (though I knew several who would contest this). One thing that is practically non-existant in Poland is the concept of customer service. This is because no one gives a shit. I’m still trying to figure out where this attitude comes from. A recent encounter with a certain utilities provider proved that Soviet-minded imbeciles are still on the loose. It must be the fact that there is simply no wider incetive. After all this time it’s still everyone for themselves. We are half-reliant on a government that’s too busy being tied up in petty scandals, and trying to satisfy a population divided between progressive liberals and conservative Catholics.
This is not to say that Poland hasn’t made enormous socio-economic progress in the past two decades, but I think despite all the improvements visiable to the naked eye (i.e. new shopping centres, cleaner public transport, private healthcare), there are some deep-seated fundamental issues that have been put on the back burner. For starts, people still seem miserable! Walk into any shop and you’re greeted by grumpy faces and a general attitude that says, “What are you doing in my shop? Have you come to steal something? Get out.” Recently, our electricity provider cut off our electricity, then accused us of removing our own fuses so we could sell them! There’s no logic…just some weird paranoia.
So we’re stuck, with one foot in Russia’s snarling jealousy, and the other in some sort of half-arsed Western vision.
Just wanted to pay a little tribute to late Boyzone member, Stephen Gately, and put some laughter in everybody’s hearts in this sad time.
1. Public transport has become nicer and more user-friendly (there are now buttons you can press if you want to get off on your stop!)
2. Advertising billboards have been erected to cover up drab communist architecture
3. Fancy shopping malls have been built where the nouveau-riche can buy foreign designer stuff (and the not-so-riche can shop at H&M)
4. EU funding and the Euro 2012
OK I’m stuck
There once was a suburb of Warsaw called Konstancin where loads of rich people lived in spectacular mansions on muddy roads. One day the mayor said, “Hey guys! Let’s build lots of new apartment buildings in Konstancin so that not-so-rich-people can live here too. Yeah! But hey, let’s not bother with the infrastructure to support the massive influx of people who will travel to and from work by automobile.”