Sunday, December 03, 2006

Poland

Snow. Bleak housing. Blondes. Chainsmoking construction workers. Lots of anti-semitism. Being the 104th European country the Nazis thought they'd holiday in permanently, causing Britain and France to go to war with them. (Americans were preoccupied hiding in barnyards fearing a Martian invasion.)

Poland is the happy home of the above, except most Poles are now in Britain apparently leeching off our benefits system and drunkenly attacking the Queen's Swans, according to the Daily Mail.



Today, Poles are everywhere (particularly Poland). Why, even outside my delightful rented flat in classy London, my nearest bus stop features an advert for a money exchange in Polish. On the road to my left that heads into town, there's about four Polish cafes and delis, a Polish Social Centre, and a fucking huge queue of chainsmoking construction workers lined up like male prostitutes waiting for English construction workers to drive up to them and yell 'Oi, Ivan, wanna make a few quid sawing wood?'

The direct paternal line of my family, the Ebolavitches, emigrated to London from Warsaw around 1874. Apparently, they were firmly asked to leave their country of residence for centuries through the medium of being thrown through their windows.

It's hard to avoid the Polish now. My neighbours are Poles (shorts in December, surly nods, etc), my gym receptionist is a Pole (perpetual grimace, quite attractive, clearly dislikes me), two Self-defence classmates are Poles (One always insists on pairing up with me. He then proceeds to beat me senseless), half my customers at work are Poles, as is my really quite cute buxom hairdresser from Gdansk with the blonde hair and piercing ice blue eyes with the cold detached stare of a serial killer.

In fact, my hairdresser's a bit of an enigma. She went quite red and flustery when I first visited. Normally this is a sign of panic, but there were lots of shy smiles too. When I go back frequently, she's quite bashful but there's definite flirtage going on. I'd act on it if I didn't feel she may be after an English husband. (I like to give myself logical reasons as to why women find me attractive.)

I nearly burnt her a cd last week when she mentioned that she learns a lot of English from music (I thought it best not to include Snoop Doggy Dogg or NWA), but decided against it when I felt odd about the whole enterprise (Hello, no I don't want a haircut today, I'm just coming in to give you this cd apropros of nothing. Oh look, you've gone bright red and fidgety. Bye.)

Ania, my Polish chum, told me they sell a peculiar Polish vaseline for lubricating faces during the severest winters. Apparently it contains zero water as regular vaseline has a tendency to freeze your head shut. Despite this, I'd quite like to visit Poland. I've been a bit of a genealogist for several years and would be keen to track down what I can about my family - so that should be suitably depressing.

Poland ~
Pros: Hard workers. Attractive Blondes. Beetroot.
Cons: Massive Anti-Semitism. Death Camps. Beetroot.

12 comments:

Fussy Bitch said...

I like poles. Usually to dance around.

la fille mariƩe said...

F -- your hairdresser wants to have sex with you. Deal with it. Stop rationalizing. Go get laid. Enigma... god.

Ordinary Girl said...

Hey, what you got against beetroot?!?!? Beetroot rocks!

As you can see I completely avoided all the intelligent and thought provoking issues you raise in your post, including issues of immigration and nationalism.

But don't knock the beetroot!

fwengebola said...

FB - Kindly prove you like to dance around Poles. PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE, Please.

LFM - Sex? Are you sure? Do you think it's that simple? Brilliant!
No, it can't be. Wait, it could be. I don't know.

OG - Hey, I had beetroot as a Pro too.

RaiseYourEyebrows said...

My Grandmother was a Polish Jew. Grand-dad a Russian Jew.

Last year I went to Poland and Russia and Found Them. I found them in food, vodka, culture, death camps, forests and history.

Kracow was our base in Poland and in Russia we toured the Russian waterways from St Petersburg to
Moscow. Stalin's canals, rivers, lakes and seas.

Kracow is a lovely medieval city (Like Bruges without the tarting up) with art galleries, museums, bars, clubs, great food and Auswitch and Birchenau just down the road.

And the salt mines.

My Dad never wanted to visit his roots - so I did it for him.

We sat in the Jewish quarter in Kracow - left as it was in tribute to the thousands of Jews taken to the death camps - and ate a tribute meal to my Nan's cooking. Gefiltre fish, latkes, chicken livers, meatballs,salt beef, strudel, honey cake and Kosher beer.

My Grand-dad was a woodcutter and a cooper. They still cut wood the same way he did as a boy.

I even saw people in both countries that looked as if they could be my relatives.

I am always proud that my grandparents escaped in 1900 to the safety of the UK and I have the freedom that I have now.

Bit serious this comment but hope you don't mind that?

You should follow your heart and go there.

fwengebola said...

Woah. No, that's great - although I did initially take your first couple of paragraphs literally.

I'd like to go, definitely. Perhaps summer 07. I love Brugge so Krakow should be interesting. Although I'd be in two minds about going to Auschwitz Birchenau. A bit like not going to the Taj Mahal when in Agra, except the Taj isn't phenomenally depressing.

A mate of mine went to Auschwitz a couple of years ago. I was in a perfectly ordinary mood one Sunday. Suddenly the phone rings and I get Danny telling me all these details because I'm his one Jewish mate and suddenly I'm profoundly depressed.

So yes. I don't know. Fascinating. Grim. Rather difficult.
I've been to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem a couple of times. That's an interesting one. You walk out thinking 'Give these people their own country!'
Then you hear about dodgy Israeli incursions into the West Bank or somewhere and you think 'Oh bloody hell'.

This is all far too heavy for a Monday morning at work, typing frantically before the boss come....

SHIT.

RaiseYourEyebrows said...

I was fine visiting Auswitch/Birchenau. Others were crying. Until a very old Israeli man draped in white with hs robe bordered with the Israeli flag passed by. He was being aided by two young men. The old man looked like my Dad would have looked if he'd reached the age of ninety.

Everything. His brow. The shape of his head. His stocky Russian stature. That's when I broke down.

When I went to Israel I was more interested in cows grazing in the desert. The yoghurt factories amongst the dunes. The trees. So many Bamitzfas (sp)when all the children donated a tree.

The desalienation (sp again)water pipes crossing the desert with water supples to irrigate the cherry tomato polytunnels.

When we visited we could still go to Jericho and places that are no longer on the visitor itinery.

We ended up for three nights in Eilat. So unreal. Marbella recreated on the Red Sea. Nobody else in our hotel had travelled through Israel. They'd never left the hotel and the beach. Could have been anywhere in Southern Europe or Florida.

I am a bit intense when you write about travel but I love travelling and understanding why, what, how.

fwengebola said...

All I remember about my last visit to Israel were bars. Lots of bars, and lots of extremely stand-offish women who refused to sleep with me.

All I remember about Eilat was a Sikh ice-cream vendor who chatted to me about his family in England, then chatted in Hebrew to half-a-dozen moody punters. But my Israel post is yet to come.

And I think I shall visit Krakow in the summer. Should really do Warsaw though, and suck in my family heritage.

luna said...

Hum, it might not be very Polite but I feel I have to set your Pole s factsheet straight:

--- Poles cannot get any benefits until they've completed two years residence in the UK

--- There are (18 - 30 yrs old) Poles everywhere except in Poland.

--- Few Poles are called Ivan I shouldn't think but a great many go by the name of Agneszka.Try calling your builders that.

--- Your hapless hairdresser was appalled at the sight of the dandruff snowdrift she'd have to deal with, that's why she became a bit flustered, but that's what foreigners are for aren't they?

--- Besides, why would she want an English husband now that she doesn't need a spouse visa to work here legally, or do you flatter yourself to be a trophy hubby???

P.S. Could you please get us the lowdown on the Polish winter vaseline, as it might be handy on the Heath during a cold spell,cheers.

P.P.S. My Polish housemates are very easygoing, I've been using their loo paper for months and they've never even mentioned it.

fwengebola said...

My phrase The Daily Mail would have us believe should have highlighted that 'Poles on benefits' wasn't a particular belief of mine.

Clearly not.

'Ivan' was a name I chose for the average self-employed English labourer to apply to the average unwaged Polish labourer. This distinction, I had hoped...

Oh christ, I can see from my email alerts that you're nit-picking through my entire fucking blog.

Nuts to this!

Farkwar said...

My wife is Polish and even she said 'don't trust a Pole!' I still don't know what she meant!

fwengebola said...

As a Briton, I'd offer similar advice to foreigners about my own countrymen; namely, that if there are Brits abroad and, normally, getting pissed in a bar, leave.
That said, one of them might be me.