The following text was adapted from the “Poland In Depth” section of “Frommer’s Best of Poland,” a guidebook I wrote in 2010. You can find a link to purchase the book from Amazon here.
Film is a great (if arguably insufficient) gateway to understanding a culture. While I’m not an expert on Polish film (and please take everything I write here with a grain of salt), I’ve been a big fan of Polish movies ever since I saw classics like ‘Man of Marble’ and ‘Ashes and Diamonds’ at graduate school in the 1980s.
At that time, Poland was mired deep within the Eastern bloc and Polish filmmakers were considered the most daring among the Eastern European countries at exposing the underlying contradictions within communism. Given the historical context, the films struck me as arty and daring. Read More →
This story was originally commissioned and written for the ‘Wall Street Journal Europe‘ in 2008. Obviously it’s a bit dated now, but much of it — particularly Lodz’s ongoing commitment to remembering its Jewish past — remains pretty much accurate to this day.
“The Lodz ghetto was like its own country. It was the ‘first Jewish state’ if you will. It had its own post office, seven hospitals, seven pharmacies, a cultural center, a theater, and a symphony. It even had its own president: Chaim Rumkowski.”
Those are the words of Hubert Rogozinski, a local historian and volunteer at Lodz’s Jewish Community Center. Until a few years ago, Rogozinski made his living principally as a taxi driver. Now he’s a highly sought-after tourist guide, catering to an ever-growing number of visitors curious to learn the history of this industrial city of 800,000 people, 120 kilometers southwest of Warsaw.
Few people outside of Poland will know much about this country’s second-biggest city. Read More →