Friday 27 March 2015

Dom Zły and Stan

Dzień dobry! (Pron: Jane DOE-brrrih!)

Today is Polski Piątek, Polish Friday, somewhat complicated by my new computer. Polish Pretend Son set up my old computer with Polish letters, and to get Polish letters on this computer, I have to switch to Polish keyboard mode. Y and Z change places, etc. It is a pain in the dupa, a word Polish Pretend Son says ladies are not supposed to use.

Interestingly, the shock value of Polish swear words is totally lost on English-speakers. I can quite cheerfully say words that make great strapping young Polish men blush and cry, "WHERE did you learn THAT?" And I generally say, "It's in the dictionary" or "Rafał said I could say it," Rafał being an astrophysicist from Gdańsk. Of course, what Rafał thinks is okay in English would fry your eyebrows.

Dom Zły

Polish bad words turn up a lot in contemporary Polish films. My university Polish teacher has been lending films to the 3rd+ year students as supplementary homework, and yesterday I watched an extremely depressing film called Dom Zły. Everyone in this film who isn't utterly corrupt is murdered, and some of the utterly corrupt are murdered too. It is a film awash with blood, soup,   vodka, rain and drifts of snow. It is set in 1982, during martial law, and the point of the film seems to be that, thanks to Communism,  everyone in Poland in 1982 was barbaric, hypocritical and drunk.

I was pretty sure my teacher told me that this was a comedy. Of course, the whole concept of comedy changes from country to country. The scene where someone's beloved wife drops dead in a pool of barszczu czerwonego (clear borscht) was probably supposed to be funny, but I was traumatized.

Anyway, Dom Zły is not for the sensitive, and so as to be able to continue with life, I called up Benedict Ambrose, who is not only civilized, consistent and sober, he has very little interest in Polish culture at all. During the Second World War, he would have not been so thrilled by the sudden wave of handsome Polish soldiers washing over Edinburgh, although that is partly because he would have been taken prisoner at Dunkirk and thought it hard cheese that the Poles got to be in Edinburgh when he had to be in a camp.

"Why am I learning this language?" I wailed.

"I don't know, darling. Why are you?"

The answer is much too complicated to explain today, but its roots stretch back, back into the reign of Paul VI, when I met a Polish boy named Paweł. It is a highly romantic tale, and also extremely tragic, despite the protagonists being only six years old. But this is a subject for another blogpost.


I used to keep a Polish blog in which I wrote about Polish class but put off writing in Polish as long as possible. Finally I got the courage to write something, and  it was corrected by a nice young Pole named Piotr. Incidentally he is highly eligible, and it is a mystery to me why such a big, handsome, industrious and church-going chap isn't yet married. Probably it is because he is too busy working to go looking for a wife. But surely some enterprising girl could snaffle him in the supermarket.

Here is my Polish composition about a dream involving Stan, my childhood bus driver, who, given his name, was probably Polish himself. It has  a vocabulary list so you can puzzle it out. Cutting and pasting to Google Translate is cheating. Puzzling it out will be good for your brain. Do it out of love for Saint John Paul II.

Sen ("The Dream")

Dzisiaj rano śniło mi się, że jadę Warszawy autobusem. Kierowcą autobusu był Stan. Stan pewnie ma już ze sto lat, ale kierowcą był Stan moich szkolnych lat. 

Poprosiłam Stana by zatrzymać autobus. A więc go zatrzymał. Więc wysiadłam z autobusu-- nie wiem dlaczego - - i beze mnie autobus kontynuował swoją podróż do Warszawy. Byłam bardzo zaskoczona.

Byłam bez mojej torebki, walizki i paszportu.  Nie wiedziałam gdzie jestem. Ale znaki były w romańskim języku. Zapytałam po angielsku pana gdzie byłam i powiedział "R-ia."

Moja bratowa ma rodzinę w R-ii, więc cieszyłam się. Znalazłam automat telefoniczny i zadzwoniłam do moich rodziców. Przystojny kuzyn [A] niedługo przybył i powiedział, że znajdzie mi inny autobus. To byłoby bardzo drogie.

28 VII 2012

Paragraph 1

Dzisiaj rano--this morning
śniło mi się--I dreamed
że jadę Warszawy autobusem--that I was going to Warsaw by bus
Kierowcą--the driver (instrumental case)
autobusu--of the bus (genitive case)
był Stan--was Stan
pewnie--certainly, for sure
ma już ze sto lat--is a hundred years old by now
moich szkolnych lat--of my school days.

Paragraph 2

Poprosiłam Stana--I asked Stan (accusative case)
by zatrzymać--to stop
A więc go zatrzyma--and so he stopped him (i.e. the bus, which is masculine)
Więc--and so
wysiadłam z- I alighted from, I got off 
nie wiem dlaczego--I don't know why
beze mnie--without me 
kontynuował swoją podróż do--he (i.e. the bus) continued his journey to
Byłam--I was  
zaskoczona--surprised (feminine)

Paragraph 3
bez mojej torebki--without my handbag (genitive case)
walizki i paszportu--suitcase and passport (genitive case) 
Nie wiedziałam--I did not know
gdzie-- where 
jestem--here, I was (literally, am)
były--(they, feminine) were
w romańskim języku--in a Romance language
Zapytałam--I asked
po angielsku--in English
pana--a gentleman (accusative case)
powiedział--he said
R-ia--R-ia (a place name)

Paragraph 4
Moja bratowa--my "brother's wife"
ma rodzinę--has family (accusative case)
cieszyłam się--I rejoiced
Znalazłam--I found
automat telefoniczny--payphone
zadzwoniłam do--I rung up
moich rodziców--my parents (genitive case)
Przystojny kuzyn A.--A's handsome cousin
przybył--(he) arrived
że znajdzie mi--that he was finding me
To byłoby--it would be
drogie--expensive (neuter)

VII -- July

Did you do it without cheating? If so, congratulations!  They say it is more difficult for native anglophones to learn Polish than to learn Russian.  


  1. No way! Russian has Cyrillic! That would kill me dead a million times worse than Polish.

  2. Okay I made my way through it but the last 2 sentences muddled me. A handsome cousin arrived and said he was looking for me on another bus, it was too expensive? The amount of syllables my Polish colleagues get through when having the chatsies makes sense now. I liked this puzzle post Seraphic.


  3. Glad you liked it! I'm afraid I made it a bit more complicated to hide family details.

    In short, "A's handsome cousin soon arrived and said he was finding another bus for me. It would be very expensive." And good for you, by the way!


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