Thursday, September 29, 2016

Poland as Close to Utopia as I can Imagine!

Why say that? It gives great comfort to one's soul to be among what can be called - one's own. In that, there is a peace and security that can be found no where else; except in the body of Christ.

At this time of year, perhaps because it was during the Fall that I first went to live in Poland, that I am most melancholy as in home sick for Poland. The long shadows I see here in the fields and parks remind me of those encountered in the streets or parks of Warsaw or the woods of Kabaty or the fields of the eastern stepps. Mushroom picking, leaf collecting, crisp air and hot beer or cold even... the smells in the woods and the sculptures of newly naked trees tell of winter, long nights and warm friends.

Its also the time of new ideas, university seminars, meetings with colleagues and students that I miss the most. Its a time to prepare for the holidays, its a time to remember.

What makes Poland nearly a Utopia? The people, the places and the traditions that define, shape and hold together a people in a place!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Poland is for Poles... and I like it!

"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands" ~ Acts 17: 24-26.

Yes, God made all the nations and he marked out their appointed times and boundaries. Poland is for Poles, by His Divine Order. At least that is how I feel about it and like it very much. Why? Because, it such an atmosphere offers a true sense of belonging, a true sense of identity that is deeper than a social contract.  Yet, the Lord did send Abraham to a 'promised land'. Did he integrate? For those times and place, he did.

 "In the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre (Hebron), in the land of Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field from Ephron the Hittite for a burial site. " There they buried Abraham and his wife Sarah, there they buried Isaac and his wife Rebekah ..." Genesis 49: 31.

So, Can anyone become a Pole? Why not. You can become Polish by language acquisition and cultural practices and labels, traditions, customs and or religion.

People have migrated from here to there, as in from place to place, either by will, appointment or seeking refugee and or new life. Once there, in that 'promised land' they became of that land, place and culture. Call it a melting pot but don't call it multiculturalism or pluralism. Such isms belong outside of the real pot, or parallel. Because, if you want real assimilation, if you want to be part of the group, then you have to join in, take up the same yoke, ideas, desires, goals, and all past burdens, histories tragic and victorious as yours.

That is what it means to integrate!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Poland, a place where you can only be Polish!

...and that is a good thing...

It does not mean that Poles don't share or are inhospitable. It means if you plan to stay, you will be Polish. You will live, breathe, eat and speak Polish. That is how a group sustains itself, how it retains identity and does not become a mish mash, a 57 Heinz, a mut. There is something to being and remaining what you are or become. We can only know and appreciate diversity because there are different people in the world that are who they were, are and plan to continue being.

Sto Lat Polska!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Has Poland has Peeked and The Curtain Pulled Down?

Poland has come under criticism lately as retreating from democracy. But, let us try to understand their perspective. A homogeneous country that has its own language, its own culture, its own view on the world, and its own way of doing and celebrating life. Has Poland peeked out from under the curtain of Polishness and now decided to pull it back down? Yes, to European liberals it appears so.

Norman Davis a renown world historian and expert on Poland and or Polish history wrote a book called "Poland: God's Playground." This work by Davis has been long praised as the most comprehensive survey of Polish history. Critics declare that Davis in his research and insight reveals Poland´s importance in European history from medieval times to the present. Davis stresses the country´s rich multinational heritage and places the development of the Jewish German, Ukrainian, and Lithuanian communities in that all of which have been firmly held together in a Polish context which is a passion for life imbued with unrequited love and through heroic death so often revealed in detailed textural and layered political and religious nuisances appearing in poetical literary works.

What is meant in this illustration of Poland peeking under the curtain and then pulling it down is that Poland has its context... its stage for living and prefers that to any other which seeks to dilute the passion, the love and the heroic Polish death; a kind of sacrifice for being Polish and through death enabling Poland and Polishness to remain intact. Some like to make the assumption that Poland is retreating from what we call post modern reality, returning to tradition, and a return to old times having a lack for or no appreciation of new views/ways of/for Poland or the post modern world that Poland should/must embrace. Maybe... but what is the value in destroying what was rich, what had its own context if it can still be effective quality of life and one that can still be enjoyed as such. Isn't that what makes for diversity in the world?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Poland is for Poles!

We built our secret leantu in the woods of Kabaty and played there many an afternoon!

The situation in Poland appears as a looping political quarrel to most of the West that I am sure Brzezinski understands. Poland as 'God's Playground' according to Norman Davis, is once again under scrutiny by the West. The post modern west no longer understands what it means to be one culture, one kind of people with a history, language and way of seeing the world. 
Most of the post modern west is a mish-mash of people and world views. I would have to say that Garton Ash was mistaken in his book "Free World..." concluding that in a free world of the future you are free at home, a European at home in Europe. He was saying that he could be at home in Warsaw comfortable being a European as much as a Pole would be in Warsaw or elsewhere. He took great liberty in that statement and gave much insult to Poles who live in Poland and elsewhere. As if their way of seeing the world was like everyone and anyone else's. 
He was wrong. Today, he and others who were wrong 10 years ago about the future, have their defense in criticism. Yes, a free world is where one is comfortable at home as long as home is theirs to call home. That's what Poles want and what any indigenous culture wants and deserves. And, Poles are open to other people and they will show them around their house.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Christmas in Poland!

In times past and today, for Poles, Christmas Eve was/is a time of family gathering and reconciliation. More so in the past, it was also a night of magic: Animals are said to talk in a human voice and people have the power to tell the future. The belief was born with our ancestors who claimed that Dec. 24 was a day to mark the beginning of a new era. It was bolstered by sayings such as, "As goes Christmas Eve, goes the year." Hoping for a good 12 months, everyone was polite and generous to one another and forgave past grievances.

Today, few treat the old traditions seriously, but some survive as family fun. "Maidens" interested in their marital future and older people, who try to predict next year's weather based on the sky's aura between Christmas Eve and Twelfth Night (Jan. 6), sometimes cling to past 'pagan in nature' superstitions. Some Scandinavian cultures have a similar pagan past.


Today, Wigilia (vee-GEEL-yah), which literally means "vigil," or waiting for the birth of Baby Jesus, is considered more important than Christmas Day itself. When I lived in Poland, I celebrated with my family who live in Silesia. Which has a somewhat different tradition that other regions in Poland. Yet, in all Poland, the custom of gifts given to children happens on St. Nicholas Day Dec. 6.  

Are there presents given on Christmas Eve? Yes, but not on Christmas Day, there is no Santa Claus coming in through the chimney. So, who is responsible for the gifts received on Christmas Eve? In Silesia, the lesser region, where I celebrated Wigilia, it was/is the baby Jesus or his messenger, a small angel, that brings the presents and, since they are invisible, their presence is signaled by the ringing of a bell. The children are supposed to remain silent during Christmas Eve dinner so that the gift givers would not be afraid to enter the house.

Now, in greater Poland, where my grandmother's family was/is from the tradition is a bit different.  In the region of Greater Poland ( Wielkopolska, PoznaƄ ) the Starman (a man with a gwiazdor (star) gives the gifts to the children. The Starman is not as jovial and kind as St. Nicholas -- he first threatens the children with a beating with a wooden birch, but then relents and opens a sack of presents to be passed around. The tradition of the Starman is very old indeed. It is speculated it came to Poland from Germany through the so-called Weihnachtsmann.


In Silesia, the Christmas Eve dinner is splendid.  Poles enjoy more than a few courses. Beginning with two kinds of soup.  First, was chicken soup called Rosol or a mushroom soup with small square pasta, and then followed by beet root soup with small pierogi filled with mushrooms. This was followed by two kinds of pierogi: Russian (potato/onion) and mushroom. Once that course finished, we were served fried fish (Carp) with fried mushrooms (dried and reconstituted). Also, on the table was a sweet bread to go with fish 'meatballs',  and there was fish in gelatin, and even herring in olive oil with fresh lemon slices and black pepper corns. Besides the fish meatballs, what I also found to be very good was a hot succotash of cabbage with chick peas/lima beans. The Christmas Eve beverage was a smoked fruit compote (warm punch/juice). For desert there was fruit and nut cheesecake and a poppy seed porridge with nuts and raisins.

Believe me, this was very strange to me the first time I experienced Wigilia - Christmas Eve dinner in Poland. However, the beauty of it soon came into my heart and has stayed in my heart ever since. It is the anticipation of the Christ, the Holy Spirit the Son of God's arrival on earth that is truly profound and found in the Polish Christmas celebration. 

Most Poles go to Midnight Mass called Pasterka, "the Mass of the Shepherds" to commemorate the shepherds who were the first to greet the newborn baby Jesus.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Show Around the House!

When I was in Poland, I was very welcomed. It was amazing to me to be surrounded by all like minded people, all celebrating the same traditions, all sharing the same history, food, language. It is language that is the key to understanding the Polish heart, mind and soul. That is why, Poles encourage all newbies to learn their language. It is their way of 'showing around their house'. In language, is the history, the traditions, the religion, the food like good bread all of which provide a Polish view of the world. There is nothing wrong with that. It is their view and that makes them who they are and are not.

Why should they be what and who they are not? Is it the idea of someone outside of their reality who thinks better than they do. Yes, believe it or not. This is what most people west of the Oder River think. It is the politically correct high minded liberal from the west who comfortably resides and proclaims his/her view of the world to be the right view as if mixing people up is a way to preserve diversity. Such people not only criticize anyone on the other side of that river but anyone who does not agree with them and their world view for today and tomorrow; and, especially their view of world history.

In order to build a more perfect world according to such people, everyone must be like them. Everyone must appreciate their ideas and that means the same ideas of how the world began and where it is going - idea of one world, with one kind of people... the kind that sacrifice their distinct identity for a larger one. Poland was liberated from that years ago when the Soviet Union collapsed. Poles now just want to be who they are, not conform to who they are not which does not suggest intolerance; just integration to be as Polish as possible.

It doesn't sound so bad, after all a world order demands integration which is thought can resolve all conflict in the world. Poles are not out to conform to the world, nor are they out to invade and conquer, nor to control others in order to make others like them. But, if you visit, they will invite you in and show you around their house. And, if you decide to stay or not, you will love their bread.