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Carveth Culture Club to study Poland this January
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Carveth Culture Club to study Poland this January Featured

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by Krystyna Sikora, Activity Aide

Carveth Culture Club is studying Poland this January which is a country near and dear to my heart.

I lived in Poland for 26 years and left in the summer of 1986. After living in Italy at a refugee camp for 18 months, we arrived in Canada in February 1988. People from Poland left the country for different reasons, but mostly because life was hard under communist regime.

There is a lot I loved about Poland. It has beautiful landscapes, lakes, mountains, and 800 km of sandy coastline. Deciding to live in a foreign country is a big step and sometimes you must sacrifice some things. I miss my two brothers and their families, my friends and some food that I can't buy or make here such as a kind of bread.

I also miss Polish culture and traditions such as Name Day (Imieniny). Poles celebrate their name day commemorating the Saint they were named after. The names associated with each day are listed in all calendars in Poland, so the name day is often more important than birthday because everyone remembers it. Mine is on March 13th and on that day, I receive cards, phone calls, emails from my family and friends in Poland. The same goes on my birthday from family and friends in Canada.

One of the biggest differences between Poland and Canada is size. Canada is 32 times bigger than Poland. Meanwhile, the population of Poland is 38.2 million people, about half a million less people live in Canada. Ontario is 3.5 times bigger than Poland. Wow!


Another big difference between Poland and Canada is the weather. Canada does not have four seasons as diverse as Poland. Here, I find it we have two seasons:  summer and winter, with two weeks of spring and two weeks of fall. Winters are not that long or cold and there is not much snow. Summers are dry, not humid.

Poland's history begins in 966 and is long and complicated. The country was divided between Russia, Prussia and Austria through three separate phases, so it didn't exist as a free nation until the end of WWI, that's 123 years.

Polish language is very difficult and is listed as one of the most difficult languages to learn. It's the third most difficult language to learn for English speaking people. Polish alphabet consists of 32 letters, English has 26.

Food is a big part of the Polish culture. When people find out that I'm Polish, pierogis are often mentioned, but there is so much more to Polish cuisine. Polish dishes take hours to prepare. I always cook from scratch, simply because that's the way I was brought up. When I lived in Poland, there was no frozen food, canned food, etc. I taught my sons to cook the same way. They appreciate that, but I remember my oldest son was in second year of university and he called me one night asking: Mom, why did you never teach us how to make Kraft Dinner? I was puzzled and he explained that his roommates were done eating dinner and he was still cooking.

One of my favorite Polish traditions is the first day of spring when we would make an adult-size straw doll with colorful ribbons, then set it on fire and drop it into a local river as a way of saying goodbye to winter. When I was going to school, teenagers used this tradition to skip school that day. Oddly, we were never reprimanded for it.

Another interesting point is that picking wild mushrooms at the end of summer is a popular family activity in Poland. Even kids are taught how to distinguish an edible mushroom from poisonous one. I did not like “mushrooming”, but I loved to eat them.

Greetings in Poland are just hi and good morning. There is no polite, "How are you?" That's why I don't usually ask people in the morning, "How are you?" I just say hi, which doesn't mean I'm not polite or I am mad at you. The response will be honest if you ask a Polish person, "How are you?” We are not likely to answer politely: fine, good, or ok. If I’m having a good day, then I'll let you know. Otherwise, be ready to hear me out when I talk about the weather, bad traffic, annoying politics, or issues at work. It's not that we complain, we just like to tell you like it is.

Polish people are friendly, family-oriented, honest, traditional and the men are very chivalrous. I’m looking forward to sharing my love of Poland with the Carveth Culture Club this month.

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