29 March 1980

A song for the Polish pope

At 2:30 in the afternoon we meet Jasmina, a friend of some Americans of Polish descent who live in Pascoag, Andrew's home village in the state of Rhode Island. She takes us to the home where she lives with her sister, a bit outside of Warsaw. One room without bathroom, no running water, and a wood-burning stove for heating.

She says she makes 5,000 zloty per month, about the national average these days. Very welcoming, she and her sister deploy a predictable array of drinks and food, though it is not meal time. Of course we must eat and drink all. Very simple people, they give all they can and are excited to meet us.

She then pulls out a cassette player and asks me to translate a couple of Italian songs about pope John Paull II. I translate into English and Ann then from English into Polish. JP II is clearly a superstar here, and his visit last year was, by far, the most memorable event to have taken place in the country in many decades. We made their day!

Stare Miasto, Warsaw
Evening out with Borzena, we walk around looking for a place to have a drink but somehow all bars are full on this Saturday night. Poles can't really splurge but know how to have fun! Dinner at Victoria, good food and a good deal as usual. Pleasant conversation with Borzena, who is open minded and very talkative about her (mostly negative) experience in making ends meet in Warsaw. She seems to have no secrets of any kind, and is eager to share it all, even if I don't ask. Interesting person.

After dinner a policeman tries to give me a fine for illegal parking and threatens to notify the Italian embassy if I don't pay. Maybe he wants a bribe, maybe not, hard to say, but I am not sure what to do. I simply tell him I have no money and he lets us go. That was easier than expected!

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