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Some personal experience here

‘Warsaw feels like a mini Soviet Union’: how Russian is gaining ground in Poland’s capital
Many from Ukraine, Belarus and other ex-Soviet states mostly get by in Russian – but its prevalence is starting to cause a problem

I speak no Polish. I do speak some Russian. The social reaction to me wandering into a small shop and asking for some tabs and a soda pop in Russian would convince me, if I was in Poland for any length of time, to learn Polish pretty damn quick.

20 thoughts on “Some personal experience here”

  1. Bloke in North Dorset

    Ditto as a Squaddie slipping in to bad Germanin the Netherlands in the early ‘80s. It was at best met with a brusque “I speak English”.

  2. ‘… but its prevalence is starting to cause a problem..’

    Problem? Here we call that sort of thing diversity and inclusion.

  3. Last time I was in the Elsaß-Lothringen I deliberately spoke German. On the grounds that it is a part of Germany currently occupied by france.

  4. This is just humble bragging on Poland’s part.

    Imagine if your worst immigration problem was refugees and workers from Ukraine and Belarus…

  5. There’s an old joke about a Polish peasant ploughing a field, when he turns up a lump of metal. Rubbing off the mud, there’s a puff of smoke and a djinn is floating there.

    “You’ve heard the stories, you know the drill, three wishes. What would you like? Wealth? Power? Women?”

    The Pole ponders. “I wish for a new Mongol Horde to arise in the Far East, and for them to slaughter, rape, burn and pillage all the way to the borders of mighty Poland; where the sight of our great army, sends them back home.”

    The djinn pauses. “Odd. But, okay, new Mongol Horde on the way. What’s your next wish?”

    “A while later, the Mongols come back. They kill, loot, rape, slaughter, all the way to mighty Poland-”

    “-Where your army scares them into stopping, and then they go raping and pillaging their way back home, I get it, same as last time. Now, you’ve only got one wish left, so pick carefully, do you want to be King, or the richest man in the-

    “I want a third Horde.”

    The djinn sighs. “You are strange. Why do you want a Mongol Horde to come and… look at Poland, then go home, three times?”

    “Because it means they will cross Russia six times!”

    Or, as the old boys from 304 Squadron said at my grandfather’s funeral (opening a tale that Michael Bay would consider implausible, about how a group of them made it from Poland to the UK in 1939):-

    “When Germany invades us, every day, we take off, six times a day, flying west to bomb Germans. Then Stalin invades us also. So now, every morning, we take off three times to fly west, bombing Germans; every afternoon, three times, fly east to bomb Russians. Because in Poland, there is a saying – ‘business, before pleasure’…”

  6. Jason – it might be a joke, but it’s also an accurate summary of Polish foreign policy.

    They strike me as being froggier now than they were in the 1920’s, if anybody’s going to do a Barbarossa 2.0 my money’s on Poland leading the charge.

  7. Only time I remember speaking a foreign language was when I was in France. I used my total knowledge of the French language to say, ‘Bonjour. Parle Anglais.’ Fortunately it worked.

  8. One thing which amused me about Michael Portillo’s Great European Train Journey through Ukraine was his use of the Ukrainian дякую to thank a market trader in largely Russian-speaking Odesa, while reverting to the Russian спасибо in a Ukrainian nationalist bar in L’viv.

  9. Jason @ 9.17, my Polish brother in law introduced me to the movie ‘Hurricane’ / 303 Squadron a few years ago.

    The pilots were not allowed to march at the parade given after the end of the war (nor were members of Bomber Command or Bletchley Park I believe). Shameful.

  10. We were in a shop in Luxemburg/Luxembourg once. The locals were chatting in their dialect of German. A German couple walked in. The locals immediately swapped to their version of French.

    Once on Skye my wife (as she then wasn’t) and a chum walked into a pub where the locals were chatting in Gaelic. As a courtesy they immediately swapped to English.

  11. Paul – if Michael Portillo was ever manhandled by Ukranian tough guys, I feel sure he’d beat them off.

  12. Otto: I’m surprised Portillo didn’t refer to it by the Polish Lwów, thereby upsetting Ukrainians, Russians and Austro-Hungarians too.

  13. @ dearieme
    The Highlanders (and Hebrideans, whom I mentally tend to include therein) are almost uniformly courteous, so I am not surprised albeit I remain impressed. However I *was* pleasantly surprised when, having walked into a local shop in Siberia to buy bread, my request in Russian with an identifiably English accent was met by friendly offers to translate for me …

  14. Bloke in North Dorset

    “ Once on Skye my wife (as she then wasn’t) and a chum walked into a pub where the locals were chatting in Gaelic. As a courtesy they immediately swapped to English.”

    The opposite experience can enjoyed in north Wales.

  15. It might be different in Warsaw – no one down here cares – but while the Ukies and Belarusians here might speak Russian to each other, they’ve all learned Polish pretty sharpish. It’s about as tricky as a Spaniard learning Italian, and it’s clear that it’s considered a courtesy to their host nation. Yes, you hear Russian spoken in the street, but not as much as you hear English, which is the default second language. Still, it’s the Guardian…

  16. Bloke in North Dorset

    Josh reminds me … a couple of days ago at a Stellplatz in a nondescript town in on the edge of the Black Forest I overhead a Frenchman and a German having a long discussion in English.

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