Monday 25 May 2015

The Polish Vote

We did not have Polski Piątek last week, so today shall be Polski Poniedziałek. That way I can tell you all about going to the Polish Consulate to visit a new friend and see Polish Pretend Son vote.

For, lo, Polish Pretend Son is back in Edinburgh for the long weekend (today is Whitmonday aka May Bank Holiday), visiting old friends, going to dances and buying B.A. and me a fancy and truly delicious bottle of gin.

After Mass, the Cup of Tea of Peace and the Gin and Tonic of Excess, Polish Pretend Son displayed a special letter he has that lets him vote from abroad, and we ambled off towards the Polish Consulate, accompanied by an ex-postie (postman) who knows Edinburgh like the back of his hand and Google maps.

The Polish consulate, a handsome old white house facing a playing field, is all the way north, past even the Royal Botanical Gardens. As I toddled along beside Polish Pretend Son in my high-heeled shoes, I began to think that it was rather inconveniently placed for the Edinburgh Poles, let alone me. However, it was a fine day,  the route passed chic streets, elegant avenues and pretty parks, and it was amusing to see Poles walking to and from the Consulate. I even bumped into a Polish-as-a-Second-Language classmate escorting his Polish wife or girlfriend home from voting.

The consulate itself has a front hall leading to two front rooms, one on either side. On the right side was an elegant, airy room with a big tables pushed end to end, with volunteers or consular staff sitting behind them with computer print-outs of names. On the left side was another room, slightly less elegant, with a closed counter-window in the wall, and booths set up for private voting. The boxes for the ballots were back in the right-hand room.

Sadly, my new friend wasn't there, so we asked after her, and it turned out she was at the Polish polling station in the New Town. So we went to the New Town and, to my great excitement, for I have written a story featuring the house, the polling station was in the Polish ex-servicemen's club.  So in we went and, surveying its Georgian charms,  decided it was more elegant than the Polish Consulate. It is also where the Polish children's Saturday Polish school classes are held, which I have long heard about, so it is agreeable to know where they are now. To my chagrin, though, the ex-servicemen's club did not look the way I imagined, so I shall have to edit my story a bit.

There were two polling stations there, but my friend was in the one on the ground floor, so we saw only that one. Amusingly--and as left-wing Polish acquaintances had complained--there was a portrait of John Paul II on the wall. Someone had done their best to cover him up with curtains, but his face still smiled over them. However, I don't see what was so terrible and conflict-of-interest about that. Sometimes Catholic schools are polling stations, and nobody bothers to cover up the crucifixes. At least, I certainly hope not!

The New Town polling station, with its tables of patriotic volunteers, was much quieter than the Polish Consulate, but big crowds were expected after  the afternoon Polish mass(es) let out. I had an interesting conversation with one gentleman about Polish houses in Edinburgh; the Ex-servicemen's club was founded after the war, in 1948. He said that during the war the Free Poles had a house on Royal Terrace.

And that is all Polish news I can think of except that in my last class, our teacher gave us all children's maps of Poland and asked if anything surprised us.

"There's no Lwów," I said.

"Lwów is no longer in Poland," said the teacher, smiling indulgently, and I decided not to mention that I was pretty sure I had seen it marked in on other maps, albeit behind the Ukrainian border. Either that, or I have been utterly brainwashed by highly nostalgic Polish friends.

Meanwhile, where Lwów used to be, the map-makers have stuck an illustration of Poland and its borders. Over it march cartoon figures of Zbiegniew Herbert (who was born in Lwów) and Czesław Miłosz, whose birthplace is also no longer in Poland, so I wonder if the map-makers were having a little joke.

Lwów is now known as Lviv.  Lwów-Lemberg-Lviv is politically like Jerusalem: three or four different peoples believe it really belongs to them. But now I could get into serious trouble by writing on this topic, so I will shut up. Apparently Leopolis, to give the town its Latin name, is even more beautiful than Kraków, so I would very much like to see it one day.

There were two (according to the "non-partisan" [ha, ha, ha] BBC) "right-wing" candidates for the post of Polish president, and Mr Duda won. My left-wing Facebook friends seem to have held their noses and voted for Mr Komorowski, and my right-wing Facebook friends seem to have held their noses and voted for Mr Duda. So I guess nobody is ecstatic (except Mr and Mrs Duda, presumably), and all my Polish friends can enjoy a good grumble for the next few years.

Update: I will have an article in Niedziela soon. I was quoted in Niedziela once. Here that is.

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