Deep Poland – Extract

My impression of Poland changed. I was no longer a complete foreigner. I was now a bystander, someone who needed a bit of encouragement, an invitation perhaps, or a simple question of a more personal nature. I was at a few steps from a Polish reality. In the first months we spent a lot of time in a Polski Bus. We travelled between Warsaw, Wroclaw and Kraków. (It took me almost a year to realise that the colours red and white of the bus were the colours of the Polish flag. I always thought that choosing colours was a matter of taste. Nationalism of this order was new to me.) I like to watch out of the window when I’m on the road. This pleasure diminished in Poland. I saw the same fields everywhere; a kind of Monsanto’s dream come true. The houses along the road were of a simple middle class nature, most of them white with a classic red roof. They would look good in advertisement leaflets for a company that sold garden tools. The only thing new for me were the extreme dimensions of the billboards. People couldn’t be bothered less with having them in their garden or on their acres. It was a matter of taste. Maybe it was also a matter of nationalism. It showed that Poland was a country of free enterprise. A billboard, many times the size of a Polish flag, showed that a company had paid money for the use of a piece of land, a private piece of land.

From way up above my movements must have looked absurd, always drawing the same lines on the maps. Poland was the strangest country I had ever lived in. It looked like a giant stretch of land, without any notion of a border, a country acting out a sur place, inhabited by accidental people. Speaking to them was like trying to catch fairies. They all escaped. They returned to their language. It was the only thing that had kept the population alive all through the previous centuries, when the country was forever lost in history.


But then we arrived in Deep Poland.


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