Monday, March 17, 2008

Winnie the Pooh in Warsaw

Remember how last time I was in Warsaw I poked fun at Stalin's monstrosity in the middle of town? Well, it turns out that even Stalin had his uses. As I was walking by the structure today, it suddenly started pouring. Along with some other pedestrians, I dashed into one of the colonnades at the entrance to the building, and was thus saved. Apparently it wasn't a coincidence that Stalin was referred to at the Sun of the Nations.

One side of his structure is on Swietrzyskfyty st. although it's spelled differently in the original. Lots of consonants, most of them swzr. On the corner facing Stalin's place is a 40-story glass and steel office building owned by an Austrian bank (Creditanstalt). As you walk north (I think it's north) you see various imposing structures, one of the larger and more imposing one being the Ministry of Finance. Across fro the ministry and perpendicular to it is Winnie the Pooh st. In case you don't believe me, there is a stone plaque with a picture of Winnie holding hands with Piglet.

Someone must have a sense of humor. I asked my local colleague if that had been the name of the quite central street even under the Communists, but he was too young to remember. It's been that way for quite a while, was all he'd say.

Around the corner there's a plaza with a statue of Copernicus, who was Polish in case you've forgotten. And further down the street, the Warsaw University. I walked around campus, and just about all the buildings had obviously recently been renovated. Only the the school of medicine still looked vaguely as it would have under the Communists - grimy, old window panes, creaky window frames, that sort of thing.

Maybe the Poles don't appreciate their doctors.

Quite a number of the buildings had life-size (i.e. very large) black and white photos of the same buildings in March 1968, when the Warsaw students were at the vanguard of the rioting students of the world. The difference, of course, between them and their fellow rioters in West Germany, France, and the USA, was that the ones here in Warsaw were facing a real enemy, the kind that put rioting students away, in unpleasant places.

The same buildings that today are spanking clean looked like you'd expect, in the photos. Grimy, derelict, grim.

1 comment:

Lydia McGrew said...

If they get a lot of Muslim immigrants in Poland, they'll have to take down that statue. Not allowed to have statues and pictures of pigs up around Muslims, y'know. Don't believe me? In England, workers for the government have been ordered to take Piglet off their desk for fear of offending Muslim co-workers. In Europe (I forget if it's Holland or Sweden) they've replaced little pigs in fairy tales with different animals, for the same reason. And in one European country (I'd have to look up that one, but I'm pretty sure it was Sweden) Muslim school children of about fourth grade age began running around trashing the school room when the teacher was doing a unit on farmers and got to talking about caring for pigs. This is all true, bizarre and hard to believe as it may seem. Oh, and in Minneapolis, right here in the U.S.A., Muslim checkout clerks refuse to scan pepperoni pizza, even when it is shrink-wrapped, lest they somehow come into contact with pork. They insist on calling another clerk to ring up the pizza.

Considering that Jews also may not eat pork, it is particularly striking that you never get this sort of childishness, not to say insanity, from Jews about innocent portrayals and discussion of pigs, and about other people buying and eating pork products.