In Switzerland, Italy, and Austria, Rita and I were typical tourists, traveling from city to city and staying in hotels and bed and breakfasts. But in Poland we visited, and stayed with, friends - Edward & Dana Stosur, Staszek & Ania Stosur, and Roman & Morisha Kolatz.
I first met Roman and Staszek when they visited me at my home in New Hampshire in 1986 and again in 1988. I met Edward when Roman and Edward visited John Pratt a few years later, and then I visited Roman, Staszek, and Edward in Poland in 1992. This European trip, 10 years after my first Polish visit, was Rita's first visit to Poland.
One thing that stands out in Poland are the storks! There are stork nests on power poles and chimneys all over the country.
During my 1992 visit, someone asked me what I liked most and least about Poland. I replied that I liked the feeling of community I felt almost everywhere. Most people walked, bicycled, or took the frequent trains and buses; the streets were not full of one-occupant cars. On a Sunday morning 10 years ago we had passed what seemed like most of a village walking together to the church in the next town. What did I like least? The erratic telephone service and the toilet paper.
Things have changed dramatically in 10 years; The roads are better, there are many new gas stations, and there are lots of cars, many with one occupant. I don't know about the buses, but the trains seem to have gone down hill a little. I'm told telephone service is much better, and I know the toilet paper has improved dramatically.
In 1990 the Polish communist party was dissolved and a president was elected. Price controls were removed, subsidies abolished, and currency devalued. By the time I visited in 1992 food shortages were gone, but prices had risen sharply, and the average income had decreased dramatically as many jobs were abolished. There was also a major unemployment problem.
During the rest of the 1990's, I understand, things continued to improve and Poland had some prosperous years. But recently the economic situation has worsened.
In 2002, one of the major concerns for Staszek (who has one son) and Roman (who has three), is that there is currently an unemployment rate approaching 20%, and new college graduates are having trouble finding jobs, and the jobs they can find usually pay so little that it is difficult for young people to buy, or even to rent, their own home. Because of this situation, many new graduates are moving out of Poland to get work - the "brain drain".
Our visit to Poland started with Edward & Dana in Katowice (cat o vee say, then we visited with Staszek & Ania in Tarnow (Tar nov), and finally with Roman & Morisha in Wroclaw (rets laf).
Page last updated May 02, 2004