December 12, 2012

"I'm switching to Polish now, in stores and elsewhere. But I find that I have that American softness to my speech. The Polish melodic inflection is gone too."

"I hear its absence, but I do nothing to force it back. I'm kind of enjoying the reaction. At several points, people think that I am an American who has learned Polish very very well. Nearly perfectly! The accent isn't perfect, but so what! Which brings me to this question that I come back to again and again: why do so many Poles love America so much? Even as that love is not at all reciprocated. I mean, America let them down. Again and again. Thinking back to the war (and I do, every time that I am here)...."

My colleague Nina, in Warsaw, with lots of photographs, including one of a snow-covered statue of Ronald Reagan.

41 comments:

Paddy O said...

Everybody let Poland down.

Only America gave it hope that life could be different.

Dante said...

It's amazing. Help someone out, as in save Europe's Hiney twice, and it's forgotten.

Don't protect them 80 years ago, and it's remembered forever.

Mitchell the Bat said...

The goods news is that Professor Camic seems to be living an excellent life.

drozz said...

the poles love america because:

1. they don't have to worry about russia stopping by (e.g. katyn massacre).
2. there are millions of poles living here already.
3. availability of food.
4. wars are not local, but carried out somewhere else.

dreams said...

Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II didn't let Poland down for they worked together to consign the Soviet Union to the ash heap of history. Liberals are so ignorant.

Clyde said...

In terms of feeling let down, I'm sure that the people of Darfur, the dissident Iranians from a couple of years back, etc., etc., also feel let down by America. The problem is that in most cases, we are limited in what can practically be done. Our resources and our military forces are limited.

The only way to deny Eastern Europe to Stalin would have been to fight another war that nobody wanted against a nominal ally, at a time when the U.S. was exhausted with war and still slogging toward the atomic denouement in the Pacific. Stalin had the tanks and troops on the ground; only through luck and boldness did we hold onto West Berlin. The Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Bulgarians, Yugoslavians and East Germans had the misfortune to be on the wrong side of the line. It was nothing personal on our part.

EDH said...

You know, I couldn't find on the entire Google images space that famous drawing, "Two Poles Walking Abreast".

Sometimes I just don't want to live in this world.

Seeing Red said...

Patton was right. Chicago used to be the largest Polish city outside of Warsaw.

RonF said...

I just spent 10 days in Poland - got back Saturday. I was in Warsaw, Kracow and a little village that's so far south it's almost in Slovakia called Bialka Tatrzanska.

I was in Warsaw for a week. We took a tour that ended up just my wife and I and a guide. We saw all those sights. We walked through the park (it hadn't snowed then). Beautiful even so. And the people there were wonderful as well. I'd go back in a minute!

Has American let Poland down? I live near Chicago and have a 1/2 Polish wife. America may make you wait in line for a visa, but I'm not aware that we deny them. There's a lot of Poles in America. When I was in Kracow I saw the tomb of Tadeusz Kościuszko, who helped both America and Poland win their freedom.

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

What a wonderful post. Thank you Nina!

edutcher said...

Splendid, but I thought the city was pretty much leveled in the Warsaw Rising.

Live and learn.

Paddy O said...

Everybody let Poland down.

Only America gave it hope that life could be different.


No, we let them down, too, for almost 40 years.

The wrong POTUS got the Peace Prize, should been the Gipper.

Rustling Leaves said...

I recently discovered that some of my ancestors come from Poland. My family had always said these ancestors were German, but as I reasearched the family tree I learned they were from an area that is now part of Poland. This article has really increased my desire to learn more. I really now have a desire to travel there someday.

LordSomber said...

Quite a challenge. For native English speakers, Polish is probably the most difficult language to learn -- moreso than many Asian languages.

FleetUSA said...

Thanks for the photo tour.

ricpic said...

...so many Poles love America...even as that love is not at all reciprocated.

Get real, Poles. All the American love is at present invested in Somalians.

EMD said...

I often think I ever ran into a Cambodian who survived the Killing Fields, I would have to apologize to them.



EMD said...

Also, I'd love to visit Poland some day.

66 said...

It is still clear that Nina's pictures are not up to your standards, but her post was awesome. Indulging in her nostalgia vicariously was surprisingly pleasant. Thank you for linking.

The Drill SGT said...

My Polish story comes from Arnhem, Holland.

in Sep 1944 the allies attempted Operation Market Garden, (a Bridge too Far) to size a route into Germany and 'end the war before Christmas"

it failed.

The british 1st Airborne jumped on Arnhem into the middle of two beat-up SS Panzer Divisions. The results obvious. The (Free) Polish 1st Para Brigade jumped in to support the Brits.

You have all seen the pictures of the US D-Day Cemetery (Saving Private Ryan) with perfect putting green grass and row after row of aligned Crosses and Stars.

Well the Brits do things differently. The Brit cemetery at Arnhem is just like the one found next to any Brit country church, complete with wrought iron picket fence. Each headstone is personalized by the families. still kept up by some fund...

The Polish annex (this was 1977) was sad. These Poles, who had died for Allied victory were orphans in a run down dump. After the war, the Soviets had install "their' Poles (e.g. Lublin) as the government and most all the Western infected vets who returned to Poland were rounded up and sent to camps (of the harsh regime) (e.g. the Gulag)

Anyway, I have always shed a tear for those forgotten Poles, dead, in a foreign land.

ndspinelli said...

Polish food is the best of the Eastern European. I grew up in a town w/ many Polish, Ukranian, Slovak, Lithuanians. I ate all their food in my friends and neighbors homes. Polish is by far the best. I just got back from the nw side of Chicago. You can walk blocks and hear only Polish.

ndspinelli said...

DrillSGT., Great anecdote, thanks.

Sorun said...

"I recently discovered that some of my ancestors come from Poland. My family had always said these ancestors were German, but as I reasearched the family tree I learned they were from an area that is now part of Poland."

Same with me (Poznań in my case). It was confusing at first, but there was a large ethnic German minority in what is now Poland. The ethnic Germans were kicked out after WW2.

mariner said...

In the summer of 2004 I was in a ship chartered to the Military Sealift Command, participating in a periodic Baltic Sea exercise.

After we had done our part we called in Gdynia, PL. I wanted to visit the site of the Gdansk shipyard but didn't have enough time, so I walked to an Internet cafe in downtown Gdynia.

On the Wall Street Journal website that day was a guest editorial by Lech Walesa, paying tribute to Ronald Reagan after his passing.

It was surreal: an American seaman, reading on an American website a Polish tribute to an American President, just a few miles away from the epicenter of the beginning of the end of the Soviet rule of Poland.

The Drill SGT said...

Same with me (Poznań in my case). It was confusing at first, but there was a large ethnic German minority in what is now Poland. The ethnic Germans were kicked out after WW2.

Poland apparently is a concept, not a place. Depending on how a war goes, the borders move. In the last version (1945), poland got a big chunk to the Wets, e.g. Germany, and lost a larger chunk to the East (to USSR)

Poznan, was Polish, before, though fairly far West, and after, though deeper in the revised Poland

Smilin' Jack said...

I mean, America let them down. Again and again. Thinking back to the war (and I do, every time that I am here)...."

Aww....But maybe you shouldn't think too carefully, especially about how the Poles eagerly participated in the rape of Czechoslovakia after Munich....

The Drill SGT said...

RonF said...
There's a lot of Poles in America. When I was in Kracow I saw the tomb of Tadeusz Kościuszko, who helped both America and Poland win their freedom.


Lest we forget Casimir Pulaski, Father of US Cavalry

namesake of "The Pulaski" wildfire tool (half axe, half mattock)

One of 7 "honorary US citizens", only 7. pretty good company

1. Churchill
2. Wallenburg
3. & 4. Mr and Mrs William Penn
5 Mother Theresa
6. General, the Marquis de LaFayette
7. General Pulaski

Rustling Leaves said...

@Sorun- I have been researching this today. Wow. Nobody ever taught me that. Now I understand why it has been difficult to research. My distant cousins were either killed or forced to relocate. Crazy.

lgv said...

I spent 22 days touring Poland in 1974. Yes, 1974. It was eye opening for a teen who had never visited a foreign country (other than crossing the border into Canada) or flew on a plane.

I was struck by the spirit of the people, much akin to the notion of the "American spirit". The Poles have an affinity for the freedom and independence that we Americans have. It did not shock me when Solidarity emerged from the docks of Gdansk. The people are truly our kindred souls.

The still love us even though we treat them like dirt. That's because they understand the difference between political leaders and the actual politician.

One memory seared into my memory was a public ceremony with several speakers. When the Russian dude in uniform went to the podium, the Poles in crowd began heckling him to the point he was completely drowned out.

J Scott said...

"The ethnic Germans were kicked out after WW2." Or sent to labor camps in Russia.

That was pretty much the rule in every state that came under the rule of the Soviet Union after WW2.

Can't say I really blame the Soviets for that though.

nina said...

Super interesting comments. Thank you for them. I do want to clarify that during the Cold War period, no one could possibly think that American military intervention would have helped Poles (or other nations in the Eastern block). I must point out that American silence on the issue of Soviet tactics used during sporadic protests that erupted in the fifties was deeply felt.

But my question drifts back also to the early terrible and long lonely years of the war and then again to the end of it. FDR should have known. Truman may have been naive, but Churchill warned of it -- the Soviets did some mighty cruel things under Stalin...

Anyway, I'm still in Poland, asking many questions here too and it is amazing how many different perspectives there are on this very complicated period in history.

SukieTawdry said...

I reciprocate that Polish love!

One of my father's most poignant memories was being at the '39 World's Fair the night the Poles shuttered their pavilion after Poland fell. He said they played their national anthem as they slowly lowered their flag and then, one by one, turned out the lights. The pavilion stayed dark for the remainder of the fair.

Those were great pictures. Thanks!

The Drill SGT said...

Sorun said...
but there was a large ethnic German minority in what is now Poland. The ethnic Germans were kicked out after WW2.


without determining blame, i would write it:

The majority of the population of the Western addition to Poland (from Germany) after WW2 were native german speakers and citizens. Some fled the advancing Soviet Army, more were driven off their land after ther fighting ended, either by the Soviet army, or by local Poles.

Simon Hawkin said...

Interesting post (Nina's), in more ways than one. Funny what she says about Reagan though: did he need to visit Poland to deserve a bust erected? And whilst the collaborators in WWII were not so numerous as, say, in France or Ukraine, denying there were any underlies certain, how should I put it, beautiful ignorance. It's okay to be ignorant in peaceful times, I guess. As long as she is asking questions.

Rustling Leaves said...

Holy crap. I finally figured out why it has been so difficult for me to understand the history on the branch of my family tree with roots in East Prussia. That tree was pulled up by the roots and sent to the wood chipper.

Eric said...

In terms of feeling let down, I'm sure that the people of Darfur, the dissident Iranians from a couple of years back, etc., etc., also feel let down by America.

We should be friends of freedom everywhere, but guardians only of our own. I'm prepared to cheer on Darfurians and Iranians who want to be free, but there's a limit to how much I'm willing to sacrifice on their behalf. It pretty much boils down to a willingness to sell them guns.

CWJ said...

Nina is too hard on America. I wonder why? Paddy O nailed it in the first post.

As some may know, my wife and I are the host parents of nearly a dozen young men and women around the world. We've traveled extensively, and visited our Polish son and his natural family twice. I love Poland. Let's just leave it at that.

Oh FYI to the commenter who was surprised by Nina's photos because he thought Warsaw had been leveled, it was. Much of historic Warsaw has a distinctly Disneyworld feel to it because it was rebuilt to resemble the original structures a little too perfectly. Seriously, Look at Nina's photos of the palace square. Those buildings no longer existed at the end of WW2.

Inga said...

Much retribution for ethnic Germns at the end of the war, I'm not placing blame. Had my parents, extended family and their entire village not evacuated with the retreating German army in Yugoslavia, they would've ended in Russian labor camps. That's how I came to be born in Austria.

Maryland Conservatarian said...

Poland is a great country for Americans to visit because Poles (esp. those in larger cities) speak excellent English and their feelings toward you aren't influenced by who is president (in case you are one of those morons who in the past felt the need to claim to be Canadian while a Republican was in the White House.)

I frequently walk by the Reagan statue (which is across the street from the US embassy) and I always render it a respectful salute.

The Drill SGT said...

Nina said...(Poland was the rare country on the continent where Hitler could not find collaborators, nor did my country at any point surrender and the camps were run entirely by Germans.)

While there were fewer Polish collaborators and no Quislings that I can think of, it is not quite a clean slate. More than 200,000 Poles served in the German Army during wwII. Now it's true that they were mostly (but not all) ethnic Germans, but they were also Poles.

I have also heard of numerous anecdotes of Poles cooperating with Germans in rounding up Polish Jews... As well as stories about protecting Jews.

PaulV said...

My sister-in-law and nieces are going to Krakow for Christmas. She was born there and went to Canada as a teenager after her father died. My brother worked there for 7 years and they are usingthe last of the FF tickets. He will see me in Richmond to watch football, see friends and save $1000. They were in Wroclaw, formerly Breslau for 3 years, a German city with a Polish name. Poland is on an open plain between Germany and Russia, much like Israel is the path between Europe, Africa and Asia.

PaulV said...

The King of Poland is known for driving the Turks from the walls of Vienna on 9/11 1683.