Roadtrip to Lodz – My Summer in Poland after the Fall of the Berlin Wall – June 26th, 1990

This is the third installment in my recounting my summer in Eastern Europe following the fall of the Berlin Wall.

June 26th, 1990 – 5:30pm

Dear Journal,

As I’m sure you can tell, I am writing to you on a train.  This is much more difficult than the U.S. Air flights from Richmond to New York.

My experiences are so rich here that I must write in you regularly.  Yesterday I met Jim, who will be running the Garment/Textile project I will be working on for the summer.

(Sidebar: When Poland opened its economy to the rest of Europe – and the world – it became apparent that the quality of its textiles and garments following the Russian occupation and closed market would not be competitive with the rest of the free market.  The goal of this project was to identify other industries/sectors for the city of Lodz, keeping in mind that, due to the nature of the textile industry, most workers were women.)

He seems like he’ll be a good manager.  He’s bright and pretty laid back.  He seems well-organized and explains himself well.  He puts questions out for discussion but still retains some control over the conversation.

Last night at dinner I got really charged up over this whole project.  It just seems so perfect.

It’s 10:30pm, and I am ready to go to bed, but I must make an effort to write in you.

I couldn’t sleep very well last night because I was afraid I would oversleep.  It gets light at about 3 a.m., so I was awake at 4 a.m. and at least one other time before my alarm went off at 6:15.

It got up very quickly because I knew I had not given myself a lot of time to get ready.  I was supposed to meet Jim at 7am at the train station to go tho Lodz (pronounced Woodj or maybe Wodj).

I wore my flat patent leathers in preparation for walking and a long-sleeved dress in preparation for cold weather.  I wore a blazer to look somewhat professional and a belt to give it some style.

I didn’t take a shower because we have no hot water (A reminder of the Russian occupation, hot water is turned off for two weeks each summer to maintain the pipes! We took turns showering at each other’s homes, and I took some showers at a the Holiday Inn – built in 1989, where I would go to get full body massages for $9!) and because I did not leave myself enough time.

I didn’t have a briefcase since it disappeared from the OMNI hotel when I was working in Virginia – one of the things I do not have to take care of.  So I put my papers in a cardboard portfolio.

Mike (one of our Polish guides) tells me I can buy a synthetic briefcase on a store on Marchewkowa for about $9 – a lot of money by Polish standards.

At 6:45 I set off walking.  I was very paranoid about my purse – putting on my New York attitude in preparation for the dangers I had been warned about at the train station.  The walk was a little difficult – even in flat heels – because of the bumpy cobblestones.

I arrived a little after 7 at the Polish car being raffled off and, wearing my new glasses, easily spotted Jim in the middle of the very slow-moving line.

He waved me over and explained that he still did not have any money.  Then he asked me to hold his place so that he could locate a girl named Helen who was joining the team and would know whether we could buy tickets on the train.  (It was now 7:15, and our train was at 7:20.)

Jim quickly found Helen and confirmed that we could pay on board the train which left promptly at 7:20.

The seats on the train were very dirty but could be pulled out like beds – as the lady in our coach showed us.  So Helen and I slept most of the way.  (See photo of our first class accommodation.  A friend who just returned from Warsaw tells me that the train interior does not look much different from today, though they run more frequently and faster.)  

We arrived in Lodz at 9, and I discovered that the weather was no warmer outside.  The grey damp coolness reminded me of my 1987 trip to Europe.

Helen and I left Jim to wait while we set off for food, bathroom and tickets.

(more to come)

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