Thomas Wolfe once wrote that you can’t come home again! Yet, I almost did during a nostalgic week in Warsaw, November 2013. I was returning to where I had been the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in American Studies during the spring of 2012.
It felt so familiar after being gone for over a year: I stayed in the same ul. Lewicka building where we once lived, enjoyed my favorite nearby restaurant dinners at ZuZu’s and L’ARC, rode the accustomed subways, buses and trams, walked down Nowy Swiat, met former American Studies colleagues Will, Tomek, Ewa and Gosia for meals, gave a class lecture on wartime media dependency in the same University of Warsaw American Studies room where I once taught, ate Ewa’s fantastic meals after hiking in the Las Kabacki forest, explored the Contemporary Art Museum’s controversial “Britain, Britain, Poland” exhibition, saw the Ethnographical Museum’s folkarts exhibit, and marveled at the impressive new Museum of Polish Jewish History.
With this recent return, I was reminded once again of that enlightening and exciting experience as a 2012 Fulbright Scholar in Poland. In my classes covering American mass media and politics and mass media history, I found most Polish students not only prepared and purposeful, but also leading interesting lives that taught me a lot about contemporary Polish society.
Gracious American Studies faculty members opened up their homes for parties and meals and guidance. The same openness and warmth was elsewhere, too, when I gave community lectures in Warsaw, Szczecin, Zagreb or campus colloquia in those same places and also Cracow and Zagreb and Zadar.
My husband, a retired professor who loves American baseball, found the same eagerness to learn when he tried to explain American baseball to middle school students in those same communities. He also took jazz piano from a Polish musician and researched his paternal grandfather’s roots.
In the meantime, we both tried to learn as much as we could about Poland. After the semester ended I hiked for a week in the Cracow-Czestochowa uplands on the Eagle’s Nest Trail to see the ruins of hilltop castles of the Middle Ages and the beautiful and peaceful mountain scenery.
Since 2012 Poland remained in our minds and hearts via e-mail correspondence with many students and faculty, attendance at the Seattle summer Polish festivals, and conversations with Americans about Polish life, culture and news. Our lives were indeed enriched by this Fulbright experience.
Betty was a Fulbright Distinguished Chair of American Studies at the University of Warsaw during the 2012-2013 academic year.