Monday, August 3, 2009

Wroclaw Poland (Part II)

Wroclaw Poland
Sunday, July 26 to Wednesday, July 29 2009

Of all the countries we have visited so far on this trip Poland promised to yield the most overwhelming crop of literary nonsense. Unlike other countries we have visited, where we met one or two scholars, we already had three appointments scheduled in Poland when we crossed the border--and three more introductions on top of that by the time we would leave. Poland would bring us much good stuff.

I’ve always harbored a special reverence and respect for Poland, and a deep regret that the U.S. and other allies in World War II left Poland to the Soviets after the Polish had fought alongside the allies throughout the entire war. My wife’s grandfather, Wladeslaw Iwanowski, was killed at Monte Casino, fighting the Nazis in one of the last battles of World War II. And then his country was given away to the Soviets.

So while I have a soft spot for Poland, and while Poland promised to offer us more nonsense than we could handle I must yet report one mind-numbing incident in Wroclaw. Poland ostensibly left communism, and its inherent inefficiencies, behind twenty years ago. Poland is a modern nation, the most prosperous and advanced of the countries we visited in Eastern Europe. But all this progress seems to have missed one official office--The Post Office. By the time we arrived in Poland we had been collecting nonsense for more than two weeks now. We had simply no more room for the nonsense we were collecting so we decided to mail a box home. When we told Majka that we had to mail a box from the Post Office her brow furrowed, and she murmured, “The line can be long there.”

I should note that in this post office there is only one window (and one person) that handles packages, and every citizen in Wroclaw who has a package to be mailed must go to that one window and see that one lady, whom I shall from here-forward refer to as The Post Office Marm. We got in this line with our two boxes all packed and when we got to the window we were handed two forms, printed helpfully in Polish and French, and we were whisked away. I’ve got some French, so after a while we managed to fill in the forms. By this time the line had grown, and we had no choice but to get in again, at the back. The line moved more slowly now. When we finally got up to the front the Post Office Marm looked at our forms and noticed that we had used return addresses from the United States--because that’s where we live. “Nie Nie Nie,” we were scoffed at. It was made to clear to us then that we must have a Polish address in order to mail the box. “But we don’t live here,” we exclaimed. Then she pointed at the form and said “Hotel.” And she took our original forms and threw those away and gave us new ones and sent us away.

A short while later we had refilled in the forms so that it looked like we lived at our hotel in Wroclaw. We stood up to get back in line and at that moment a woman appeared in line before us, scooting in with her little cart. Fine, she can go first. Well, it turns out this woman had twenty-eight small packages. And then came the real surprise. Much to our horror we watched as the Post Office Marm began to process the first of these twenty-eight small packages... and it is a sad tale. Fifteen minutes later this first of the twenty-eight packages had been processed. And then the Post Office Marm reached up and took the second package and started in on that one. And yes, fifteen minutes later the third... etc.

By the end of this ordeal we had spent about three hours in the Post Office mailing our two boxes. Feeling emotionally numb, and as Michael put it, “flattened,” we removed ourselves to a pub.

Below are a couple pictures of some of the books we mailed back to the States:


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