When I moved to the US I met many new people so I was introducing myself a lot these days, d’uh. Anyways, I was making tons of new friends, everything was going great until they started asking me my family name. Gulp. “Kraszewska.” What? Kraszewska. “Wait, how do you spell that…?” Ha! I was prepared. I had learned the damn Nato alphabet to be able to spell my name for them. K as in Kilo, R as in Romeo, A as in Alpha, S as in Sierra, Z as in Zulu… “Wohohohoh, you lost me there. Once again.” “Ok, so K R A S ….. you know what, forget it.” “So what, you’re Polish?” – I’m Polish. “Oh… ok.”
Oh? Ok? Why the disappointment? What do you want to hear? – “Yes, I’m Polish, it is awful. It is a poor, uneducated country. How did I end up in beautiful US of A? Listen to this – and try to count the clichés.
After I escaped from the Russians I bribed a police man who gave me his Fiat 126 p. I drove as fast as I could (60 km/h) to return to Warsaw where I would be able to find a guy who would transport me to America in a suitcase. Imagine me driving on Polish roads.
Every time I drove over a hole I had the impression an earthquake just occurred and I would continue the ride with only two wheels – which eventually happened. The car fell into pieces after the fiftieth hole. Fortunately a farmer on his horse drawn carriage whom I just had doubled with my Fiat, almost crashing into the truck which was driving on the opposite lane, was kind enough to give me a ride. He didn’t have anything to do for the next couple of days because of the Siberian like snowstorms we have in Poland. My traditional Cracovian dress that I had used to wear every day before discovering Macy’s, started to smell. It didn’t bother me though, I didn’t know that running hot water existed and was unaware that there was such a thing called “washing machine” to clean my gown! …. A shower? Spell me this word in Nato alphabet, I only know barrels. I prayed to Jesus and John Paul II to help me through this ice-cold hell. Arrived in Warsaw I started looking for a job, but my alcohol abuse problem and the jokes I made in presence of my potential Jewish employer weren’t very helpful. Maybe also the fact that I haven’t finished high-school, lost all my teeth and replaced them with gold ones.
I am going to stop myself here. It is highly frustrating to be regarded as a Vodka drinking, car stealing, not very bright Polak – this word alone makes me want to slap people with a kiełbasa in their faces. It’s “Pole” – no matter how funny it sounds and how much like you would like to think of an exotic dancer. I don’t say na zdrowie and kurwa all the time and Poland is NOT near Chechoslovakia, not since 1993.
But then, when I finally made it to America, in a real economy class seat of course, I saw Greenpoint, and could understand where certain preconceived ideas about Polish people come from. And that is an immigration integration problem, so let’s leave it for next time.