Poland’s Uncivil Society

During the 1980s, Poland had perhaps the strongest civil society in the world. The Solidarity trade union movement, created in August 1980, eventually counted 10 million members, a quarter of Poland’s population. And when the government cracked down on Solidarity, declaring Martial Law in December 1981, the opposition was strong enough to survive underground under considerably adverse...
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Poland on the Economic Periphery

Poland is in the center of Europe. Poles often stress that their country is in Central Europe, not Eastern Europe. The title of Norman Davies’ immense study of Poland is The Heart of Europe. Indeed, throughout history Poland has been central to the European experience, from the medieval curriculum at Jagiellonian University in Krakow and the scientific theories of Copernicus to the agonies of...
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The Energy of Delusion

The literary scholar Viktor Shklovsky once attributed Tolstoy’s success as a novelist to the “energy of delusion.” The Russian writer was committed to constant trials and experimentation. He had a seemingly endless capacity to put himself in the position of what the Russians like to call a “holy fool” and look at the world as if through a child’s eyes. Journalists also frequently...
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Returning Poland to Europe

Central Europe had been kidnapped, the Czech writer Milan Kundera once wrote in a celebrated essay from 1984. It had been dragged eastward by the Soviet Union after World War II. And like a displaced person yearning to return home, the region couldn’t wait until it could rejoin Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The economist Jeffrey Sachs first visited Poland in spring 1989, before the...
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Pig Farming in Poland

I know a bit about dairy farming since I spent my summers growing up in the dairy country of Vermont’s Northern Kingdom. But my knowledge of pig farming is all second-hand and comes mostly from Annie Proulx’s novel That Old Ace in the Hole, a devastating indictment of industrial farming in Oklahoma. What remains in my memory are the huge holding ponds of pig excrement and the unholy smell. So...
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