Academic journal article Chicago Review

Kronika: A Warsaw Journal

Academic journal article Chicago Review

Kronika: A Warsaw Journal

Article excerpt

20 September 1981 Warsaw

The Russian came to our house this morning complaining that his telephone was out of order and asking to use ours. He called someone, speaking in Russian, then, presumably, the Polish telephone people. The first time he's been in our flat. Was he checking us out?

Aunt Sophie, sick in bed again with an upset stomach, asked Joanna to lunch in the Stare Miasto with Henryk Stazewski, her companion, so that he wouldn't be alone. Stazewski is the grand old man of Polish painting--a Constructivist born 1894 and a friend, from the 1920s, of Mondrian. Joanna is constantly running backwards and forwards between here and her aunt's flat.

It is rumoured the dollar is now worth three hundred zloty on the black market. The new Czech diplomat who lives next door has permission to park his green Fiat in Kanonia and is the only one who does so. He is often out washing and polishing it, and this clearly annoys the other residents of the little cathedral close, as I saw a piece of paper someone had left on his windscreen saying "Troche kultury." ["Some manners."] Here is a list of Polish names for the Amanita muscaria: muchomor prawdziwy, muchar czerwony, muchorowka, muchotrutka, muchoraj, muchajer, muchota, marymuch.

21 September 1981

Joanna bought eggs at a private shop this morning for thirteen zloty each. There was no queue, as the government shops sell them for four zloty each when they are available. People in the queues complain a lot. "Look what they've done to us." "Thirty-five years after the war and where are we?" Radio Moscow quoted a Vietnamese newspaper calling the political situation in Poland "dangerous."

Lying in bed with a full belly this afternoon, Joanna said, "Sex is for hungry people." Going to the grocery shop in Piwna Street, we met the poet Piotr Sommer in a queue for grapes. It was a beautiful, warm day, so we spent a couple of hours with him drinking tea outside of a nearby cafe. Later discovered that Krzysztof Penderecki's Te Deum was being performed in the cathedral next door, so we sneaked in and enjoyed it in parts.

Seeing everyone queuing to buy whatever they could in the food lines, I thought how odd we were, or I was, buying piles of typing paper and laying in stocks of notebooks like this one, and files. Sommer said that the British Council had stopped getting the literary magazines like The Times Literary Supplement (as have the Writers' Union), London Magazine, etc., so that translators have no notion of what new books are coming out in England. Joanna bought a pound of silver and a kilo of amber yesterday for jewellery work, so we might have the means of making a living as my income is so sporadic.

22 September 1981

Solidarity says if the government can't improve the supply of meat it won't be able to prevent its members from blocking the export of food from Gdansk docks.

Joanna is presenting me with a fait accompli and has arranged an appointment with a belly doctor for Thursday. I telephoned the bank in London trying to get an overdraft, and the manager refused, saying, "People think that we are made of money." Then I called David Gothard at Riverside Studios to see if there were any chance of a gig in London, but nothing. Joanna came in exhausted and weak after running around the shops this afternoon and told me that many small regional theatres have gone through dozens of directors since the actors, through Solidarity, had won the right to elect their own bosses. One theatre has gone through fifteen directors in a month.

My guts are giving me stick again, which could be caused by the apples I ate yesterday, as fruit is scarce these days. Joanna's bowels are behaving oddly, and it's probably for the same reason. How intimate this journal is becoming. Actually, when fruit suddenly becomes available and people eat as much of it as they can get, they inevitably get a fucked-up stomach and need to use a lot of toilet paper, of which there is an acute shortage. …

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