Polish language

‘I’ is for Irena and “idziemy!”

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It’s way too long since I ventured into my A-Z of Poland, so I’m going to introduce to you another of my cousins.  A lady who loves to dance and always has a warm smile for me, Irena works hard for a living.  She and Arkadiusz (Arek for short) run a market garden in their home town, Bełchatów.  Arek grows many of his own plants and seeds to sell in his shop, which specialises in garden products.  Whenever she can, Irena helps out in the shop, which she loves to do. Usually this is in addition to factory work, or whatever she can find, to help with the family finances.

Irena with Dad in her garden, 2008

Irena with Dad in her garden, which provides plants for the shop

Irena is the daughter of my aunt Lusia, one of Dad’s sisters, and her husband Zbigniew, whom I never met.  When first we got together the photos would come out, many of them tiny squares of black and white, but precious memories, every one.  I would try to piece together the story and remember the names of family members who died long before I had the chance to meet them.

Lusia and Zbigniew

This is one of several photos that were emailed to us when Dad first made contact with his family. It’s a touching story, which many of you know.

Irena and Arek have two lovely children, Robert, a quiet young man, 22 this month, and his vivacious and beautiful younger sister, Weronika. (remember, the ‘w’ sounds like our’v’)

Arek in the foreground, with Irena behind him and Weronika, with golden red hair at the back

Arek in the foreground, with Irena behind him and Weronika, with golden red hair, at the back

IMG_0554I should maybe explain what’s going on here.  Arek likes a bit of fun.  Several years ago the family were in Zakopane for a Silver Wedding celebration.  Lynne, my stepsister, and husband George, had joined us from Canada, and Lynne was practising with a new camcorder.  Her handbag, containing the camcorder, weighed rather a lot, so Arek was “helping” her to pick it up.

If you aren’t familiar with my Polish story, you could have a look at my Personal A-Z page.

Idziemy!  We go!

And so to grammar!  A silly saying that’s often used in our home, “I’ve already told you more than I know myself” completely applies to my knowledge of Polish grammar.  So, let’s start with a simple verb conjugation:

Iść- to go (on foot)

idę  - I go                                                   idziemy  - we go

idziesz  - you go (familiar form)      idziecie  - you go (polite form)

idzie  - he/she/it goes                          idą  - they go

Well, I got the hang of that.  But did you notice the (on foot)?  It transpires that there are numerous ways of saying you are going somewhere in Polish, and there is a separate verb for each of them! Thus ‘to go (by transport)’ uses the verb jechać.  Sometimes I can remember that verb (and it’s irregular conjugation), sometimes not!  Imagine my consternation when I later discovered that if I wanted ‘to go, by plane’ I needed another verb.  And so it goes on ….

I am a very bad student.  I used to love language at school but these days I have neither the patience nor the memory.  I recently discovered another ‘i’- Italki.  It offers the potential to converse in Polish (and many other languages), at any level, and I have been trying to convince myself to enrol.  I return to Poland on 29th April, for a family wedding, and this time I will be staying in a hotel with my husband, who will rely on my immaculate translation.  You’re right- there will be much nodding of heads and smiling.

Many thanks to Julie Dawn Fox for inspiring the personal A-Z Challenge, and to lovely Frizz, who prompts me to return to it whenever I see his A-Z (but never often enough).  Do visit these challenges if you can find time.  You will be richly rewarded.

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N is for “Nie rozumiem”

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I’m having great fun trying to keep pace with both of my A-Z challenges, at Frizz’s weekly pace!  On Tuesdays the new letter comes out, so yet again I find myself leaping from Portugal to Poland.  It’s quite a stretch!

Can you guess what “nie rozumiem” means?  “I don’t understand”.

It’s probably the expression I have used the most in my visits to Poland.  Despite the best of intentions I struggle to get my ear attuned to Polish, and you can’t really say “please will you write it down so I can understand”.  It doesn’t seem polite somehow, and rather impedes the flow of conversation!

The mine at Belchatow

Another thing I’m not great at understanding is feats of engineering, but even I could see the type of industry that was going on when the family took me to inspect the nearby mine at Bełchatów.  This is Europe’s largest coal-fuelled thermal power station.  There are huge viewing platforms from which you can observe most of the process.  It’s the chief employer in the area and many of my family have worked there.  The technology looks impressive.

Seldom have I been photographed at an opencast mine

Seldom have I been photographed at an opencast mine

It's a monster!

It’s a monster!

Imagine having a lovely home like this right next door!

Imagine having a lovely home like this right next door!

I rather like the Polish style of fencing (but not the view!)

I rather like the Polish style of fencing (but not the view!)

We drove all around the enormous site to a lakeside location with sports facilities, and, you’ve guessed it, a cracking view of the power station!  Apparently it’s very popular in Summer.  Bełchatów is far from the seaside.

Lakeside chalets

Lakeside chalets

The view!

The view across the lake

But the family were happy and smiling!

But the family were happy and smiling!

Left to right they are- Uncle Jakub, cousins Adam and Bożena,  Kuba in the background (Bożena’s younger son), cousin Marta, who is also married to Adam, and Czesława, Jakub’s wife.  I hope you are paying close attention.  There may be a test!

It was a warm day and afterwards Adam took us all for icecream.  There was one more treat in store.  Back at Jakub’s, Czescia cooked “ziemniaki z smażony tłuszcz”- potatoes with fried pork scratchings.  It was explained that the dish was very popular in the days when people had nothing in Poland.  Potatoes were an important staple and I have tasted some of the best potatoes ever, homegrown from Aunt Lusia’s garden.  I have to say that today’s dish was not much to my taste, but Dad and the family made short work of it.

Enjoying "old style" Polish cuisine

Enjoying “old style” Polish cuisine

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little venture into Polish culture today.  I have to thank Julie Dawn Fox for starting the Personal A-Z Challenge, a long time ago, and Frizz at Flickr Comments for helping me to catch up.  The links and logos give more information.

I can breathe a sigh of relief now because I have already posted the letter “O” for both Poland and Portugal.  You can read them from my A-Z pages.

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H is for Hotel

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You may remember, when I started my personal A-Z challenge on Poland, I gave you the briefest of introductions to the Polish Alphabet?  Well, “h” is one of those letters that is very little used, at the beginning of a word, in Polish.  More often you will see “ch”, which is pronounced as in the Scottish word “loch”.  Thus “chleb” (bread- very delicious in Poland!) sounds a little like “Hleb”.

Are you following me so far?  When it came to choosing a word to represent “H” in my A-Z, I had few choices.  My first thought was “Historia”, but it would take a far better woman than me to tackle Polish history in a single blog post!  So, I had “Hiszpania” or “Holandia”- not very appropriate in a blog about Poland?  Or “huśtawka”- a lovely word that means “swing”; “hokej”- a game I was rubbish at in my schooldays, or “humor”- couldn’t we all use a little of that!

Dad with cousin Irena, on the swingseat (hustawka) on her patio

Dad with cousin Irena, on the swingseat (hustawka) on her patio

It was when I thought back to my first ever Polish lesson that the solution became clear.  I pounced with delight on the word “hotel”, leaping out of the text to embrace me.  Pronounced, of course, in the Polish way, but a familiar and welcome sight, never-the-less.  It is one of a dozen or so words that have been adopted into the Polish language.

To date, I have stayed in three Polish hotels.  I mentioned one of them in my post B is for Belchatow.  Because I am visiting family when I go to Poland, and am made very welcome in all of their homes, I seldom have need of an hotel.  When my husband, Michael, accompanied me, on the occasion of Krzysztof and Marzena’s wedding, we needed a little privacy, and opted to stay for a few nights in the Sport Hotel.  Large and central to Bełchatów, it made a great base for exploring the town.  But then, as now, my Polish was a little shaky, and on a sweltering hot day we were served piping hot soup with our breakfast.  Michael’s faith in my ability to negotiate the Polish language was severely dented.

Water features in the park at the centre of Belchatow

Water features in the park at the centre of Belchatow

Visiting family in Wrocław with my Dad, I again stayed in a local hotel, though Dad managed to squeeze in with the family.  Living in a 3-bedroomed flat, with 3 children, dog, cat and terrapin, private space is a luxury for my cousin, Wojtek and his lovely wife, Agnieszka.  Despite this, I have seldom met a happier, more close-knit family.  I could not have been made more welcome in sharing meals and family time with them.  Both work, but were at great pains to show me their beautiful city, and once I’d got my bearings, set me loose to wander, returning when I was hungry.  I’m not known for my sense of direction, so this sometimes took longer than planned.  I haphazardly changed trams and buses half a dozen times, and walked and walked till I found them again!  But a smile, a hug and a plate of food always awaited, before I returned to the hotel for the evening.  I never ate breakfast at the hotel- goodness knows what I might have ordered!

Wroclaw's colourful tram junction

Wroclaw’s colourful tram junction

You might know I'd squeeze in a boat or two

You might know I’d squeeze in a boat or two

Qubus Hotel, Wroclaw

Qubus Hotel, Wroclaw

The foyer in Hotel Jan Pawel on Ostrow Tumski

The foyer in Hotel Jan Pawel on Ostrow Tumski, Wroclaw

Super stylish Hotel Monopol

Super stylish Hotel Monopol

Agnieszka and youngest daughter, Kasia, on Hotel Monopol's rooftop terrace

Agnieszka and youngest daughter, Kasia, on Hotel Monopol’s rooftop terrace

Rooftop view from the Hotel Monopol

Rooftop view from the Hotel Monopol

My third hotel experience occurred in the small village of Poronin, in the Tatry Mountains area, and was the most joyous of occasions.  Not unlike a large Swiss chalet, the Hotel Weronika (don’t forget to pronounce the “w” as “v”) provided food and shelter for a huge gathering of us on the occasion of Adam and Marta’s Silver Wedding.  The setting was beautiful, and the hotel grounds provided lots of space for the youngsters to use up energy. (theirs, and ours!)  And then, in good old Polish fashion, we ate, danced and drank till we could do it no more.  Adam’s oldest daughter, funnily enough called Weronika, is getting married in May 2014.  What a celebration that will be!

View from our hotel gardens of the church in Poronin

View from our hotel gardens of the church in Poronin

I think that’s enough to tell you about my hotel experiences in Poland, for now. You can find more of the ups and downs of my reunification with my Polish family on my personal A-Z of Poland page.  Meantime, if you’d like to join in with Julie Dawn Fox’s A-Z challenge, the banner below will take you to the main site, where you can have a good look around.

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D is for Dobry (good)

The village of Poronin, on the way to Zakopane, Tatry Mountains

Dzień dobry  (good day or good morning) must have been the first piece of Polish I ever learned.  At the time I didn’t think about it too literally, being more concerned with how to say it. (dz is pronounced like the ds in odds, according to my text book)

It wasn’t until I came to say “good evening”- dobry wieczór- that I realised the significance of dobry, meaning “good”.   You have also dobranoc- “goodnight”.  Noc is night (pronounce the c as ts) and dobra is the feminine form of dobry.

Język polski, the Polish language, is Latin based and I knew I was starting to struggle when I came to do widzenia- “goodbye”.

From the text book:   dobry = masculine, dobra = feminine and dobre = neuter

So : dobry hotel (m), dobra książka (f) and dobre mieszkanie (n)

Good hotel, good book and good flat

In conversation, I kept hearing dobrze and dobra, appearing to mean “good” as in “ok” or “alright” but hadn’t a clue when to use which.  You’ve realised by now that I do a lot of head nodding and smiling, with a bemused expression, when in Poland.

Just to prove that I have applied myself a little, I thought it would be fun to do a Polish question and answer exercise, using photographs.

Co to jest? (What is this?)  To jest moja rodzina (This is my family)

Only a small portion of them, you understand!  Lynne and George, who live in Canada, were visiting the Tatry Mountains with us for the occasion of Adam and Marta’s Silver Wedding.  Arek is having a little fun with Lynne’s heavy handbag, containing the camcorder (out of shot).

Co to jest? (What is this?)  To jest Balon Widokowy (This is a hot air balloon- literally a “balloon with a view”

On the same holiday, Adam was keen for us all to take a ride in the Balon, soaring over Kraków from the banks of the River Vistula.

Co to jest?  To jest kościół (This is a church)

Older churches are very beautiful in Poland.  This one is similar in style to the one in Poronin where Adam and Marta reaffirmed their wedding vows.

Kto to jest? (Who is this?- spot the change?)  To jest Irena, moja kuzynka (This is Irena, my cousin)

I’m not going to get grammatical here.  Irena is my lovely cousin and the wife of Arek, who was clowning around in the group photo earlier.  They have two great youngsters, Robert and Weronika, and this is taken on their patio in Bełchatów.  Arek runs a market garden and they have a shop to sell the produce and seeds in the town market.  The handsome stranger is, of course, my Dad.  Click here to read his wonderful story.

Kto to jest?  To jest Jadwiga, moja kuzynka (Jadzia)

Me, Dad and Jadzia in her garden in Zawady.  I really am spoilt for lovely cousins.  Jadwiga and husband Andrzej have a daughter Ania and son Krzysztof.  Ania and her husband Hubert have a lively toddler Kinga, and their own self-contained flat in Jadzia’s home.  Krzysztof works in Reading with his wife Marzena.  We attended both of their weddings.

I guess it’s appropriate that Dad is heading back to Poland today and will see all of these and more.

I can’t complete this post without referring to my cousin, Dominik.  When I was considering the options for “D” he was heavily on my mind.  He died recently in tragic circumstances, still a young man, and his loss is heavily felt by the family.  Dad will be going to the cemetery to pay his respects, to Dominik and to all of the family who have gone before.

To end on a lighter note, has anyone told you about Polish cake, ciastko?  I need to say only that it is bardzo dobry- very good.  Bardzo dobry indeed.  Dad will be eating lots!

Polish cake. This is shop bought. The homemade variety is even more delicious.

Googling “dobry” (as you do?) I came across an artificially intelligent “chatbot” of the same name.  I could download him and just natter away, or even teach him simple foreign phrases.  I ask you- does that seem probable?  He’d be sure to prove more intelligent than me.

This post forms part of my personal A-Z of Poland, inspired by Julie Dawn Fox.  Follow the link, or click on the banner below, to read some very interesting posts from all around the world.  I may be late with my responses to any of you who are kind enough to read this, as I’m out of circulation for a week or so, but I will assuredly be back.  I just had to post it now because it was churning inside me.

A is for Alphabet, and also for Aunts

The Polish alphabet (alfabet polski) has 32 letters:

 a  ą  b  c  ć  d  e  ę  f  g  h  i  j  k  l  ł  m 

n  ń  o  ó  p  r  s  ś  t  u  w  y  z  ź  ż

plus these sounds represented by 2 letters

ch  cz  dz  dź  dż  rz sz   

A bit tricky looking, isn’t it?  It has most of the letters of the English alphabet and a few extras with tails, dots or slashes.  Q ,V and X are not used in Polish except in foreign words or as symbols.  And don’t be fooled- even the letters that look like our good old English ones don’t necessarily sound the same, i.e ‘c’ has a ‘ts’ sound and ‘w’ is pronounced ‘v’.

And then the fun begins- speaking the language.  The pronunciation is half the battle, and I’m still in heavily armed combat.  The BBC has an excellent website if you fancy having a play around. http://www.bbc.co.uk/languages/polish/soap/alphabet.shtml

My story starts with an Aunt

Aunt Anna

When I first looked at her photograph, 5 years ago this month, I felt a jolt of recognition.  It was not unlike looking at myself in the mirror, but maybe a few years down the line.  I was already 57 but had never met her- had not even known that she was still alive.  But it was due to her persistence, and refusal to believe that my Dad was dead, that we finally came together as a family.

Aunt Anna- I was named for her.  I have a huge lump in my throat writing this as she died on 25.11.09.  All those years of waiting and then so little time together- but we made it count.  My lasting memories of her: regally enthroned at the table at the Hotel Wierzynek, looking every inch the Polish Royalty for which this hotel was designed; more simply pottering about at home, setting the table for food and chattering, chattering.  Her hands were often painful but she used them expressively.  I was so new in the language that it was all I could do to nod dumbly and smile.

Dad, Anna and me

Dad, Anna and her son Adam, at home

Dad, Aunt Anna and grandson Lukasz, Hotel Wierzynek

Ciotka Anna (Aunt Anna) was bound to steal the show, but I have another surviving aunt.  Ciotka Lusia (given name Otylia but always known to me as Lusia) lives in a beautifully modernised bungalow on part of the farm land originally owned by my grandfather.  He and my grandmother had terribly hard lives and thinking about them makes my Dad sad.  I never met them as he was taken from the farm by Germans at just 15 and never saw them again.

Ciotka Lusia is a joy.  Always close to the land, she has a huge plot which until quite recently she managed to cultivate, growing all her own vegetables.  Ciotka Lusia’s potatoes are legendary!  Her daughter Teresa and granddaughter Edyta live with her and help to share the work.  Edyta is a beautiful teenager now but when we first met she was a shy child, cuddling her rabbits.

Dad and Aunt Lusia in her garden

Aunt Lusia, Teresa and Edyta

Edyta with one of the many rabbits

Some of the original farm is intact but much of the land has been divided between the children and lovely family homes built on it.  No doubt they will be the subject of a later post- it’s a big story.  For now I need to conclude with the fact of my other aunts, Urszula, Krysia and Sabina, all of whom died before Dad could be reunited with them.  So many family photos I have looked at.

The whole of Dad’s story (in brief) is told here:  http://restlessjo.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/exploring-the-polish-connection/

My personal A -Z of Poland

My personal A-Z of Poland

There are folks out there who’ll think I’m greedy, or just a glutton for punishment- I’m not sure which?  Couldn’t help myself, I just had to raise a hand in the air and shout “me, me!” when the prospect of a personal A-Z of Poland came along, even though I had already committed to a Portuguese A-Z.

You see, the Polish journey for me is a relatively new and very special one.  It’s just 5 years ago this month that I discovered that I had any Polish family at all, apart from my Dad, but I’ve since acquired loads!  I have already written about this in http://restlessjo.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/exploring-the-polish-connection/ and it is for me a very emotional subject.  It would be a privilege to share a little of what I have learned about Poland, and my wonderful Polish family, here in these pages.

I wasn’t encouraged to learn the Polish language as a child- Dad was busy integrating into the English community.  I have sincerely regretted my own lack of application since then, and have struggled mightily to be able to communicate with older family members.  The youth are great, and go out of their way to speak English to me.  So, a few Polish phrases may slip in now and then, but I will be writing in English, sadly.

I’m itching to get started, but first must give credit to Julie Dawn Fox, who developed the original idea of “A personal A-Z of…” with her post on Portugal  http://juliedawnfox.com/2012/01/10/a-personal-a-z-of-portugal/

In the spirit of this challenge I’d be more than happy for bloggers out there to write their own A-Z, in English, Polish or whatever your native language is.

Can’t wait to post this then I can move on to “A is for…”  See you soon!