In the good old days of 1996 before needy ernest blogs, e-mail clogging spam, Lord Google, when flaming and cross-posting was killing off Usenet, when you used to surf the net to find stuff knowing it was all entirely unreliable gossip, I used to copy the weekly quotes from the web version of the English language paper The Warsaw Voice to mail to my buddy Gary, then in Vancouver.
I lived in Poland in 1991 and would, when on the trains to some end of the country, at stations with unpronouncable names, grab any copy of the tissue paper printed rag I could find. The life of an English as a Second Language teacher in a coastal city in Poland was pretty pleasantly self-defined and small. Having little access to TV or local chit-chat (only 8 people in the City seemed to have any grasp of English, others preferring to curse at us behind our backsNeimieck! which means both German and something like “not human” – to which my retort of being Canadian and therefore an ally against the Nazis often brought great wailings of apology and hugs from stinky drunk pensioners), The Warsaw Voice told us that life in Poland was not all cream cakes, tinned boar or elk and Russian champaign: we lived in a still-subsidized Baltic resort fairly oblivious even of the Balkin wars starting a few hundred kilometres to the south.
The newspaper at least let us in on the very grim Polish humour in relation to news of the day, government officials and Germans, which grimness I suppose is natural when your country has been a playground for other’s generals for centuries. Here are some I saved from then:
“He was very, very handsome.”
A Polish woman at the Polish consulate in Paris, in enlisting help to find the French father of her baby.
“The Germans approach these mementos with a sense of humor and sometimes buy them; for them they are funny souvenirs from Poland.”
A shop assistant in an Old Town store selling original Nazi medals from World War II and photographs from Hitler’s occupation of Warsaw
“My sports results depend mostly on what time my buddies drag me out of the bar.”
-S³awomir Drabik, Poland’s speedway champ, about his career
“We have many regular customers. The record holder was someone we discharged at 7 a.m.-he was back at 3 p.m.”
Doctor at a Warsaw drunk tank, commenting on its recent increase in “visitors”
“Germans pay more, because they are more cultured.”
A mobile restroom agent at the beach in Gi¿ycko, explaining why the price is listed as gr.50 in Polish but zl.1 in German
“His lively movements assured me that everything was all right.”
Henryk Wojciechowski, newly appointed Gdañsk province administrator, telling reporters about the accident when, driving in the heart of the city, his driver ran over a boy who got up off the road and ran away.
“It’s not a sacrifice but a sensible act of civic duty.”
Zinaida Bolieva, a 46-year-old resident of Northern Ossetia, who offered to be a donor if Boris Yeltsin needed a heart transplant.
“Today, not having regained consciousness after a long illness, the secretary general resumed his office.”
A Soviet joke from Brezhnev’s times, recalled by General Aleksandr Lebed in an interview for Stern magazine. Lebed said that with Boris Yeltsin’s illness, the Kremlin situation is reminiscent of the Brezhnev joke.