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Polish Barszcz


Anxiously holding a cup a traditional Polish barszcz, I couldn’t wait for the lecture about the country of my maternal roots to start during Spring House’s first Academy Day.

The next thirty minutes would become a mind boggling rollercoaster, during which self-proclaimed Polish Ambassador Schep linked the masters of Polish literature with the fine ingredients of the barszcz that everybody was enjoying. Literally incorporating knowledge, and understanding through the digestive system and the stomach.

Does that sound incredible enough? It certainly was.

What to think of the grzyb or mushroom. It was the great novelist Myśliwski who wrote about Polish traditional farm life. The annual grzybowanie - mushroom hunting - that takes place all over Poland, but mostly in the mountains in the south, compares to the Dutch madness of Kings Day celebrations - probably involving equal amounts of alcohol.

The carrots, that grow where there is no light, symbolise the centuries of dark history the Poles have gone through, with their land being tossed around between Germany in the west and big brother Russia in the east. It is Andrzej Stasiuk who is best known and internationally acclaimed for his travel literature and essays that describe the reality of Eastern Europe and its relationship with the West.

But of course it is the beetroot that gives the barszcz its characteristic and distinctive color. A perfect match to discuss the work of the late Polish poet Szymborska, recipient of the 1996 Nobel Literature Price.

Lying in the heart of Europe, Poland has much to offer. Ambassador Schep did a great promotional job, during a remarkable and entertaining lecture.

Max Wohlgemuth Kitslaar

Cover photo: Stuart Holt / CC BY