Another travel day….back on the train again. We spent about three hours rattling down the tracks toward Warsaw, capital of Poland. Along the tracks approaching the city I saw homes barely bigger than a shoebox, looking broken and abandoned. Apparently these are homes where city dwellers come for weekends. They plant vegetable gardens on these wee plots of land. One Polish university student told us, “These vegetables must taste like iron!”
The moment our train pulled into the downtown station, our contact was there to meet us. She flagged a taxi and we headed for the home where we’d stay for the next three nights. It was 5:15 p.m. – rush hour. Ha! Who came up with that expression? It was anything but a rush; we sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic for more than an hour.
Immediately outside the station stood the Palace of Culture – the largest, fanciest structure I’ve ever seen. Our escort told us that it was built by the Russians after WWII, as a “gift” to the people of Poland. Its height and breadth intentionally stood to remind the Polish people of the Russians’ dominance. Even today, it towers over all other buildings in the downtown core. Its presence stirs mixed emotions among the city’s citizens. Some hate it because it reminds them of Communist rule. These folks want to raze it and build something else in its place. Others argue that it’s a piece of their history and needs to remain as a monument to what’s taken place in the past.
I’m realizing more and more that I need to read about the history of this country. There’s so much to learn. If I’m going to truly understand the needs and thinking of these precious people, I have to gain a better understanding of where they’ve come from.