Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Polonia Seeps Into Everything

I have just come back to Warsaw on the best plane trip I can yet remember.  The seven-hour flight from Boston to Madrid flew by (pun intended.)  Maybe it was because I was in a good mood to be escaping the heat wave on the East Coast, maybe it was because I had an entire four-seat row to myself.  In any case, the hop from Boston to Madrid, then from Madrid to Warsaw went as smooth as can be.

I was Stateside for a wedding (one of the best I attended.)  Even though it was an American-German wedding (the bride was from Germany), I found little parts of Poland.  For instance, I recently purchased a mug for my mother.  It was traditional Polish pottery, hand-painted, etc.  While we were guests for the wedding, I found a mug in the cabinet that was not only the same type (same shape) of mug that I had gotten my mother, it was from the same set!  It was painted with the same design of flowers and such.  Further inspection, and inspection of the groom's cabinets, showed plenty more of these Polish mugs.
In both Boston and New York, there are statues to some of Poland's national heros: King Wladyslaw Jagiello and Tadeusz Kosciuszko.  It seems that Polonia (the name for the Polish Diaspora) has left its mark all over the place.  At least in the places I visited in ten days.

While in Boston, I met numerous people who all reacted in the same few ways: "I'm of Polish heritage."  "I just spent the last few days with Polish people."  "Warsaw?  Where is that?"  It's nice to be able to connect to people in such a way.

While in New York City, I really thought about the differences between the largest city in the US and the largest city in Poland.  Poles not from Warsaw often complain that Warsaw is fast-paced, dirty, the people unwelcoming, the traffic terrible.  Compared to Manhattan, Warsaw is a green, quaint, sleepy hamlet.  Manhattan is dirty; the roads are shitty; the traffic is unbelievable; the amount of homeless is depressing.  The cramped, traffic-clogged roads of Manhattan are a far cry from the relatively broad, seemingly-empty roads of Warsaw (NOTE: This does not apply to the Old Town.)
Brooklyn is has the neighborhood of Greenpoint (where, the brother of this author lives.)  It's been described as the Polishtown of New York, with the signs being in Polish and everyone speaking in Polish and ignoring those who actually speak in English.  My brother summed it up as: "It's the only place where I've seen a man stumble out of a bar cannot-stand-up-drunk at like three in the afternoon.  On a Wednesday."  (Plans to upload pictures of Greenpoint are presently stalled.  They will be uploaded later.)

Statues to King Wladyslaw and Kosciuszko in Central Park and Boston Commons respectively.

The Polish Consulate in New York City.

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