I spent one week in Poland from May 28th to June 3rd. Listening to the locals gave me an interesting picture of a country that has suffered greatly in the past and is currently witnessing history in the making.
In Belarus, I only stayed in hostels and my language barrier prevented me from having many deep discussion with the locals. After that, it was very refreshing to arrive to Poland and stay with CouchSurfing hosts again.
My host in Warsaw, Marcin, was quite overwhelmed and stressed by his work, so he didn’t have time to show me around the city. We still had lots of interesting discussions at his place, as he bemoaned the communist era (“Was something better back then? No, absolutely nothing.”) and expressed his concerns about the political role of Jarosław Kaczyński. Jarosław is the identical twin brother of former Polish president Lech Kaczyński who died in an airplane crash in 2010. According to Marcin, it seems like the survived brother now tries to be “sanctify” his late brother by any means possible, and this sort of cult of personality doesn’t seem like a good starting point for domestic politics.
Even though Marcin was quite busy, I was very happy with my CouchSurfing experience with him. Now that I don’t have a permanent place to call home anymore, it felt very homely in a sense when he just gave me the key and told me that I could come and go as I wanted. When I wasn’t the center of all attention, it made me feel like a resident and not just a guest for a few days.
A great thing about this whole trip is that I get to meet people I haven’t seen in years. In Warsaw, I met with my Polish friend Ludmila whom I had not met in… maybe six or seven years? We did a long bike trip in Warsaw and Ludmila showed me some less-touristy parts of the city, which was a lot of fun.
To me, Poland seems like a country with sad history and uncertain future. World War II and the communist era caused a lot damage that the country has not completely gotten over with. And now there’s again a lot of political turmoil in the country. The current president and government represent right-wing politics that suppress LGBT right, restrict abortions and emphasize conservative Catholic values. Some even believe they’re turning Poland away from democracy.
Of course, the current government cannot only be blamed for the country’s turbulence, as the previous leaders also got their fair share of criticism. It’s interesting to see where Poland is going right now.
After leaving Warsaw, I had another delightful CouchSurfing experience in Wrocław (also known as the-town-that’s-name-no-tourist-can-pronounce-correctly). I once again felt like home as I played board games and listened to stories about life in Poland from my wonderful hosts Kajetan and Agnieszka. My visit to Wrocław actually felt too short, as I only stayed in the city for two nights. Then it was time for me to pack my backpack once again and head to Prague, Czech Republic.