Fragment from the Fifth Chapter – The Birth of a Century

“At the end of the summer of 2016, when it became clear, that I would spend more time in Poland than I had originally intended, I visited Ania in her new apartment. It was my first time in Wrocław. I had already heard a short history of the city as told by our friend Marcin. After the war all the Germans had to leave. New inhabitants moved in. They came mainly from the East, from the former Ukrainian part of Poland. Many years after the war the city still had not been rebuilt. It was a city of potholes and empty lots, of gaps and abandonments, with planning on paper, but not on the ground. I thought that I could see this, when I looked at the inner courtyard from the kitchen window. It was a massive courtyard, bigger than a football pitch, no trees, hardly some grass. Storage places stood in long lines, all of them with a different coloured door, that would open by lifting the handle and sliding it back under the ceiling. Cars could park on the grid; children played football on an artificial court. Gypsies sat in the shade of their little garage, had a drink or a talk. The men would occasionally walk a couple of meters away and piss against a wall. It was relatively silent, no shouting, no arguing, no fights. I was looking at life in a central European town. The town itself felt very open, as if the sea was near. Time seemed to pass in slow motion, yes, sometimes I thought that it came to a halt. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know anything at all. It was the year 2016, but it easily could have been 1972 as well. And yet, to Ania it seemed all very natural. She was happy that she had found her blender, put the lid on it and filled the kitchen with the grinding noise of the machine. She prepared almond milk.”

The ePub Deep Poland is available at the staaltape shop

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.

 

You can buy the ePub for 3.45€  here

 

 

Excerpt from the fifth chapter, The Birth of a Century

It was my first time in Wrocław. I had already heard a short history of the city as told by our friend Marcin. After the war all the Germans had to leave. New inhabitants moved in. They came mainly from the East, from the former Ukrainian part of Poland. Many years after the war the city still had not been rebuilt. It was a city of potholes and empty lots, of gaps and abandonments, with planning on paper, but not on the ground. I thought that I could see this, when I looked at the inner courtyard from the kitchen window. It was a massive courtyard, bigger than a football pitch, no trees, hardly some grass. Storage places stood in long lines, all of them with a different coloured door, that would open by lifting the handle and sliding it back under the ceiling. Cars could park on the grid; children played football on an artificial court. Gypsies sat in the shade of their little garage, had a drink or a talk. The men would occasionally walk a couple of meters away and piss against a wall. It was relatively silent, no shouting, no arguing, no fights. I was looking at life in a central European town. The town itself felt very open, as if the sea was near. Time seemed to pass in slow motion, yes, sometimes I thought that it came to a halt. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know anything at all. It was the year 2016, but it easily could have been 1972 as well. And yet, to Ania it seemed all very natural. She was happy that she had found her blender, put the lid on it and filled the kitchen with the grinding noise of the machine. She prepared almond milk.

 

You can order the book here.

 

Excerpt from the fifth chapter, The Birth of a Century

Hermann Dernburg lived most of his life in Berlin and that’s where you can find a great deal of the buildings, houses and factories he designed. He never found out how his Sportpalast would earn its reputation. Built at Potsdamer Straße 172, principally as an indoor ice rink for ice hockey and skating events, the Sportpalast was a sensation at the time of its opening in November 1910, and was at the time the largest such enclosed skating facility in the world. In later years, the Sportpalast also hosted non-winter sporting events such as six-day bicycle races and professional boxing matches in which well-known German boxer Max Schmeling fought. Depending on the type of event and seating configuration, the Sportpalast could hold up to 14,000 people. In 1943 Joseph Goebbels delivered his total war speech in the Sportpalast. It is also true that The Mothers of Invention performed there in 1968. Prior to the show, Zappa was approached by students who, presumably still fired up by events the previous summer in Paris where a revolution had almost taken place, asked him to declare his opposition to capitalism from the stage and, by extension, to further the cause of the armed and violent revolution that they believed was necessary to transform society. Zappa refused. The student leaders suggested that, in that case, Frank could lend support for their cause by encouraging them to set fire to public buildings.

 

You can order the book here.

Excerpt from the fourth chapter, ‘Deep Poland’

 

“I had memories of other pictures. They showed roads in winter, in an empty white landscape. There were hundreds of people on those roads. They had left their houses and most of their possessions. They were walking or seated on a cart that was pulled by a horse or a dog. Women walked behind a push cart. The suitcases, then for real, are now relics that you can find in a thrift store, maybe on someone’s attic, until the someone dies. The people arrived in the west with those suitcases. Maybe they carried important documents, or pictures, or the very private things from a woman’s wardrobe, family jewels, a crucifix. There were hundreds of smaller and bigger places in the eastern part of the German Reich. Masses, dark masses left their homes because the Red Army was advancing. We know the stories, but not all the stories. The Soviet Army didn’t come to liberate, it came to conquer. They destroyed for a big part the world that the Germans had left. When it was time for history to pick up the pieces, Polish people moved into the empty cities. Probably they were not given a handful of money, that would help them to restore their lives. Probably the new inhabitants were left to fate and imagination. Probably they couldn’t care too much for the things they found in the houses. Probably they didn’t see the value of an old desk, a roof or a wooden statue. You needed to heat the stove to get hot water. Winters were cold.”

 

You can order the book here.

Excerpt from the fourth chapter, ‘Deep Poland’

“The departure point in Wroclaw for the mini-busses to Klein-Peterwitz was at a short walk from the main bus station. The bus station was a relic of old times. The new one was under construction at the other side of the road, next to the train station. It already looked like a giant silver-metal Samsonite suitcase laying on its side. It would become more of a shopping mall than a station. As for now the busses waited at a parking space with a number of kiosks grouped around it. They sold pastry and bad coffee to the travellers. There was also a big old German building that looked like an ex-school or an ex-hospital. From here you had to walk over a mud path with on the left-hand side a little garden that lacked tombstones and on the right-hand side a fence. It closed off an area where constructions were going on. The walk lead from poverty to more poverty. A long time ago I might have marvelled at the patina of the socialist era. The mini-busses standing in line, and the people waiting with their luggage made it a depressing site. Boarding the small bus felt like an obligation, or a part of a routine. Travelling was reduced to movement, mostly done after sunset. We couldn’t see where we were, let alone where we went. You could feel from the bumpy road and the turns it made, that we entered Deep Poland.”
You can order the book here