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November 17, 1957 - Image 5

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Sunday, November 17, 1957


Page Five

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They were too busy rebuilding
to have time for childhood

(Continued from Page 4)
and wastelands came another
name on the map.
Alex and Maria are proud of
} the new face they helped to put
on their country. They report that
even today large-scale building is
in progress. From all outward ap-
pearances, battle-scarred Poland
seems to have recovered well from
the war.
"Yes," Maria muses thought-
fully, "we have built up Poland
materially." She pauses, contin-
ues very seriously: "You know
they say that Germany lost the
war, but it was really Poland. Per-
haps some people even in Poland
never realize the deep effect of a
war. It does not matter that they
destroy 90 per cent of Warsaw,"
Maria leans forward, eyes burn-
ing, face intense. "A house you
can rebuild, the chance to be
young, never!"
SHE relaxes, continues, slowly,
more quietly: "You wonder
why we feel cynical toward life? I
will tell you: It is because we have
never had anything to do with
youth. We are 20 and 30 years old;
we feel like 40 or 50."
With a wistful smile she says:
"Now I am here at this University
where I see people at parties, act-
ing like teenagers, having a good
time. And I feel jealous that I
couldn't have had a normal child-
hood. I wanted to laugh, to play,
to feel no pressure, to feel secure.
But somehow there was never
time. Now I can do these things.
But I don't feel right; I feel too
Maria and her friends matured
too quickly. When they should
have been having fun, they were
hiding out in cellars, fighting
Nazis; when they should have
been exploring the adolescent's
world, they were rebuilding their
country. If they act and feel old-
er than people of their own age,
as Maria says, it's because they
assumed more demanding respon-
sibilities. They had to.
Maria's feelings, she points out,
are peculiar only to her genera-
tion. Today's Polish teenagers are

more normal. They don't remem-
ber war and its aftermath as viv-
idly as Maria, and their attitude,
if less mature than Maria's was at
their age, is certainly brighter.
M ARIA'S generation may be bit-
ter, but it is also realistic. Its
young people know they are the
real leaders of their country, and
as such they are seeking positive
means for its betterment.
Education is their prime tool.
Alex remembers the first year or
so after the war when he was go-
ing to a university in Krakow:
"We had to walk many miles to
get there. The whole country was
in such a mess; there was no
transportation. At the school, no
glass in the windows, no heat in
the winter. Yet many, many
people came to study."
Education is a subject upon
which Maria can talk for hours.
An English teacher - she ma-
jored in English philology at the
University of Warsaw and later
taught it there - she has great
faith in the power of education to
improve communications between
It's easy, she maintains, for one
to get a wrong idea of life in a
country across the globe. "You
Americans speak of an iron cur-
tain. But I would stress a hundred
times"-her voice rises, tone is
emphatic- "that Polish people feel
no iron curtain. If there is any
barrier, it is misunderstanding, not
an iron curtain."
MARIA is a linguist and she
"believes in perfecting com-
munications." It is her firm con-
viction that if we knew more about
life in other countries from the
people there, some of our miscon-
ceptions would be cleared up.
One wrong idea she hastens to
reinterpret is "your assumption of
Polish ideology." Claims she: "Most
Americans think that communism
and its ideology occupies more of
the daily life of the people than
it really does."
If we considered Poles as being
primarily similar to us: students,
husbands and wives, people with
jobs and families to raise, we would
be more realistic.
Maria has given this topic much
thought. What she asserts she does
sincerely and with strong convic-
tion: "When we start wars, we say
that we fight our enemy because
he is bad, cruel, or whatever, but
really because he is different from
us. It is not so. We are exactly the
same as our opponents. We build
racial, social and class prejudices
with our imagination. And it is
this imagination that deceives us,
because we are basically the same.
We feel the same pains and joys
no matter whether we are com-
munists, socialists or capitalists."
WHEN it comes to politics, Maria
shies away from direct com-
ment. But she doesn't hesitate to

declare that "modern politics and
science have become, so to speak,
dehumanized. It is as if we were
dealing with tree trunks, not
Maria's greatest dream "is to or-
ganize a large-scale student ex-
change program among Poland,
West Europe and the United
Some sparse student interchange
has already taken place, mostly in
the last year since the revolt. Here
Maria interjects a word about last
fall. It was not an attempt to over-
throw the existing regime, she
explains and Alex agrees, but to
make it "more honest for the
people. We wanted to make social-
ism really socialism." Although
communism may have a political
connotation for Americans, Maria
points out that when Poles speak
of communism, it's mainly in
terms of a socialist economy-one
with which they would have no
quarrel "if the execution were as
honest as the principles."
Were they successful? Maria an-
swers in her own terms. The post-
revolt period is "a different exist-
ence." There is much more per-
sonal freedom, and also English
books can be freely imported,
Americans and Westerners are
coming to visit, student exchange
is beginning,
EVEN BEFORE the uprising,
Polish students were avid in
their quest for knowledge of their
own and foreign cultures. Maria
and Alex report that the least
stimulating lectures or exhibits on
foreign subjects are always jam-
med to capacity in Polish universi-
She wonders why American stu-
dents are indifferent to their own
and other cultures: "Sometimes a
Pole will know more about America
and American history than the
average American."
In the Polish eye, Americans are
especially lackadaisical when it
comes to discussion groups.
"The other day, recalls Maria,
"I attended a political issues club
you have here on campus. I was
amazed to find only a small group.
See POLISH, page 19

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