Bill MacKenty

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To understand Poland, you’ve got to understand Russia

Posted in Personal on 02 - April 2008 at 05:37 AM (16 years ago). 249 views.

For those who don’t know, my wife is Polish.  Eastern Europe has always been a bit of an enigma to me; and truth be told, my grandfather and father bought into the “red scare” thing, which impacted my ideas about Russia and Eastern Europe.

So my relationship to Eastern Europe (and specifically Poland)  has been one of misinformation, stereotypes, and simple ignorance.  I have been trying to cure myself of this ignorance, and have been attempting to understand the “slavic heart”. I have visited Poland 5 times now, taken a full year of Polish language classes, interviewed several people from Poland (including a doctor of sociology), and embarked on an ambitious reading campaign, including:


...and more…

It wasn’t until I picked up Natasha’s Dance by Orlando Figes where I had a series of “aha” moments. Moments of clarity and “so THAT’S why they do that in Poland”.

Of course, as my wife is quick to point out, Poland is not Russia. However, I see the influence, and this book was delightful to read - especially for someone who is not well versed in the arts. I heartily recommend this book to anyone with a faint interest in Russian culture and history. The book is so readable, and easy to move around inside my mind; it really is a wonderful book.

I can’t say I now have a commanding understanding of Polish sociology and culture; but I have a much deeper understanding of the nebulous slavic heart, which perhaps can only be described through art, opera, and poetry.