April 24, 2005


Not far from Lund is a city called Trelleborg, on the east coast of Sweden. That's where you go to take a ferry to Poland. They say you can save a lot of money on just about anything if you buy it in Poland. For example, you could go to Ikea in Malmö and pick out a new kitchen for your house and then buy it from Ikea in Poland, saving about 40 % for an identical Swedish Ikea kitchen.

The author of the blog flightless parrots (see link in column to right) asked me about Poland, and its relations to Sweden and to the world. Its likely there are some Poles in my family tree-- some years back on my mother's side are the Trochinskys, Catholic Germans from the Baltic coast, a region of shifting borders.

Here's a quick history from a Swedish classic, the Compact Lexicon. The history of feudal Europe is so convoluted and can seem pointless, but it can help explain the current state of affairs. Poland was a grand empire from ca. 1300 to 1500 and at its peak reached from the Baltic to the Black sea. Then came a period of decline, including wars with Russia and Sweden, like the 30-year war (1618 - 48), which mainly involved Catholic Germany verses Northern Protestants. At the end of this war many German towns are in ruins and Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands are world powers-- and Sweden reached its apex geographically. The north German/Polish coast was Swedish for a few generations. At the end of the 1700s Poland was divided between Russia, Preussia and Austria (in 1772, 1793 and 1795) and ceased to exist as a free state. After the first world war Poland is reconstituted as a free state. Pifsudski becomes dictator in 1926. German attack in 1939 starts the second world war. Soviet occupation of eastern Poland. German terror, persecution of the Jews, riot in Warsaw's ghetto in 1943. After the war the borders of Poland are moved a little to the west and it becomes a communist state. Revolts in Poznan in 1956 and Gdansk 1970. The Catholic church supports strikes and the reform movement. The free union Solidarity is formed in Gdansk in 1980 by Lech Walesa and the union is banned from 1981 to 1989. Military law declared by Jarezewski 1981 to 1983. An economic crisis forces political reform and Solidarity forms a government in 1989.

Last week the Stockholm newspaper Dagens Nyheter (The Day's News) had a series of articles on Poland. They said that in the 1990s there was a common goal: membership in NATO and the european union and the development of a 'Western' economic system including the legal system. The DN analyst wrote that after succeeding at both of these goals the country is adrift, unsure of what to do next. I know that Poland was disappointed that they stuck their necks out (going against the wishes of France, Germany, Russia) in sending troops to Iraq, and then felt that they were not given any special treatment by the Bush administration, for example in getting contracts or travel visas.

As to F'resca's question as to the current state of relations between Poland and Sweden-- I posted a translation of a newspaper column a few weeks ago about a Swedish guy who went to Poland for heart surgery. (My auto mechanic, the guy who installed the new clutch, emigrated from Poland 20 years ago, via Australia.) Part of the relationship has to do with the price of labor-- Swedish unions are afraid of Polish workers who are now free to move within the EU. This has been the case for about a year, but so far there have not been any catastrophes.


At April 28, 2005 5:16 PM , Blogger fresca said...

Thanks! Yeah--I had enjoyed the article about bring your own fork. Is the relationship kinda maybe a little like how the U.S. views Mexico? A poor neighbor, with a working underclass?

At April 29, 2005 3:27 PM , Blogger Matt_J said...

Yeah, that's kind of how it is. The Swedish labor unions are hypersensitive about Polish workers. Right now they have a blockade of 14 construction sites around in Sweden that emply Poles. Starting a year ago labor can move freely between the EU member states, and the Poles won't join Swedish unions (and why should they?).
There was an article in the paper today about how great it is to take the ferry from Sweden to Poland to go shopping. Prices are 30 to 60 % lower there.

At April 29, 2005 3:28 PM , Blogger Matt_J said...

Francesca, I read somewhere that there was a Polish priest accused of spying on John Paul for the Polish government in the 1980s!? Have you heard about that?

At May 01, 2005 10:43 PM , Blogger fresca said...

No, I hadn't heard about a priest spying on JP2...but I'd sure be surprised if there WASN'T one. I did read that the pope was secretly funding Solidarnosc.
What a combo, the Vatican and the Eastern Bloc... If you're looking for material to fuel a novel or seomthing about conspiracies one could do no better than to look to these guys.


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