Monthly Archives: February 2009

World Press Photo 2009 – the Polish entries


If you’re into photography, you are probably aware of the yearly World Press Photo awards and subsequent exhibitions.

The 2009 winners gallery has recently been published and I’m glad to see a few Polish photographers made it to the top 3 in a few categories. Wojciech Grzedzinski’s picture of the Georgian Conflict or Tomasz Gudzowaty’s Mongolian Child Jockey are some of the 104 Polish entries this year which got noticed by the jury. (I won’t reproduce them here for copyright reasons, hence the links to the WPF website).

When you look at the amazing quality of the pictures submitted by the finest photographers from around the world, it’s actually quite a fantastic achievement to get noticed in five different categories.

One of the less immediately obvious winners (he was a runner-up in the Daily Life category, to be precise) was Tomasz Wiech and his study of life in large corporations based in Kraków in Poland.

When seen separately they look like casual office snaps uploaded to Flickr, but when studied together they paint a rather bleak picture of life in a large international corporation: open-plan offices, bland interiors, bored faces in meetings, desperate attempts to enliven dead spaces on the outskirts of a culturally rich and vibrant city.

You can see the entire series called simply ‘Corporation’ on his website along with other pictures from his collection, including another bleak study of life in a large city, Park.

As a budding photographer all I can say I wish one day I could get noticed too…. ;)

Image © Binder.donedat via Flickr used under CC licence

Fact or myth? Polish music charts – and singles – never existed

cassette tape

Poland has never embraced a music single in the way the Western world did. There have always been singles, but mainly as songs on the radio – those that were available in shops, if at all, were never popular. Therefore Poland has never had ‘proper’ charts based on record sales.

With piracy in Poland in the 80s and 90s – and even now – reaching record levels, nobody would probably bother buying singles even if they were available. (In many towns and smaller cities they simply weren’t.) You could record all songs from the radio, uninterrupted by ads or DJs.

It actually seems like a crazy idea now, but DJs in the 80s would play ENTIRE records for people to record at home; for a majority of Poles this would be the only source of new music from the West. Most of those records would be privately owned by the DJs themselves, who mostly brought them from their trips to London, Berlin or anywhere with a properly functioning record store. (Quite often they would time their foreign trips to make sure they get a particular CD on the day it is released and quite often they would play it on the very same day in the evening on one of the 3 national public FM stations we used to have back then; and a whole nation of music enthusiasts would wait with baited breath, a blank C-90 tape and their collective finger on their hi-fi’s RECORD button).

So if the records sold in the shops were not the ones people wanted to listen to, no wonder nobody even thought of collecting any sales figures and collating lists.

But in April 1982 a DJ called Marek Niedźwiecki started what later became a cult show on Polish Radio, a weekly chart show called “Lista Przebojów Programu Trzeciego” (Radio Three’s Chart Show – radio Three being the public broadcaster’s youth-oriented station).

Until 1996 when they introduced online voting, the only way to decide the position of a song on the chart was by sending a postcard with the title of the song you liked. AND it was only possible to vote on the songs played on that particular station. And as Marek was responsible for music there – and it was the most popular show in Poland, playing the most popular hits Marek liked – no wonder some Poles in their 30s and 40s have a particularly soft spot for rock ballads, power ballads and, er, Celine Dion in particular….

Luckily, the rest of us also listened to Radio Two, which played everything else – from jazz to alternative.

In 2009 the Chart Show is still going strong, there are hundreds of other charts everywhere – from the smallest commercial radio stations to the biggest music dowload sites. Nowadays they might reflect the number of downloads and CD sales.

But the humble music single has never been loved in Poland. Fact.

More Fact or Myth?
Discover Polish Music

Image © Erica Marshall via Flickr, used under CC licence

Fresh music: Tatiana Okupnik and Wyclef Jean – ‘Valentine’

Tatiana Okupnik

Another relatively big international name records a single with a Polish artist.

This time it’s Wyclef Jean who’s teamed up with a Polish singer Tatiana Okupnik to record a song called ‘Valentine’, released on 14th February (obviously).

Tatiana used to be in a Polish group called Blue Cafe but went solo around 2005. She has a very distinctive croaky voice, although ‘Valentine’ doesn’t really allow her to showcase her full vocal capabilities.

I’m slowly getting used to the song, it’s not bad. Have a listen to it on her website or click the video below (audio only – unless it’s already been removed from YouTube):

More Polish Music:
Czesław Spiewa
Smolik and Novika
Image of Tatiana from her website

Have you celebrated Tłusty Czwartek? – polish your Polish, part 11

paczkiIf you’re on a diet, look away now. Last Thursday Poles celebrated Tłusty Czwartek, aka the Fat Thursday.

Tłusty Czwartek

is mainly celebrated in Poland and in Germany and it marks the end of the carnival. It’s the last Thursday before Lent, which starts with Ash Wednesday the following week.

So what is Tłusty Czwartek all about? Well, nowadays it’s all about eating donuts


or a very Polish sweet dough thing, called


basically long, thin, twisted crusty pieces of fried dough with plenty of icing sugar on top.

It’s estimated each year Poles go though – ready for this? – approximately 100 million donuts on Tłusty Czwartek.

As it’s celebrated just before Lent – time when you’re supposed to fast for 40 days before Easter – people have traditionally used the day to go OTT with food. Our ancestors might have preferred meat, bacon and wódka, but nowadays is just deep-fried yummy stodge. But many people believe that if you don’t eat at least one donut on Tłusty Czwartek, your luck will run out. I love it how we come up with any excuse just to stuff our faces.

So anyway, if you did miss Tłusty Czwartek, don’t despair. There’s always


which is the very last night before the beginning of Lent (known in the UK as Pancake Tuesday) and which in the past was a massive excuse to throw parties, eat a lot (yeah, of course) and – particularly in small villages across some parts of Poland – to walk around dressed up and do silly things. The general rule was – everything had to finish before midnight. You were not allowed to have parties or eat excessively for the next 40 days until Easter.

Again, nowadays it’s likely to be celebrated by having massive parties on the weekend preceding the Tuesday.

More polish your Polish
More from So very Polish

Image © Derek Farr used under CC licence via Flickr

Prawo Jazdy is actually not a human

GardaHave you heard about a Mr Prawo Jazdy? He made the headlines in the UK, Poland and Ireland this week and managed to embarrass the Irish  police.

Because while they were searching for this elusive driver with multiple addresses, the Poles reading the story, including me, couldn’t really believe it. According to the BBC:

He had been wanted from counties Cork to Cavan after racking up scores of speeding tickets and parking fines. However, each time the serial offender was stopped he managed to evade justice by giving a different address.

Such behaviour wouldn’t surprise me. But it would be foolish to judge Mr Jazdy at this stage:

It was discovered that the man every member of the Irish police’s rank and file had been looking for – a Mr Prawo Jazdy – wasn’t exactly the sort of prized villain whose apprehension leads to an officer winning an award.

In fact he wasn’t even human. “Prawo Jazdy is actually the Polish for driving licence and not the first and surname on the licence,” read a letter from June 2007 from an officer working within the Garda’s traffic division.

Yes, my dear readers, look at the top of your driving licence. What does it say there? Just above your name? ‘Driving licence’. Or ‘prawo jazdy’ in Polish. Must be one of my favourite stories in recent months…

Image © Infomatique used under CC licence via Flickr

Visit the world with Martyna Wojciechowska


She’s 34, a well-known Polish journalist, the editor of National Geographic Poland and a seasoned traveller. Her name is Martyna Wojciechowska and she’s just started a photoblog, where she will be uploading pics from her travels.

She’s also planning to upload older pictures from her ealier travels, so if you’re into challenging expeditions – from the Arctic Circle to conquering the highest mountain in the Americas, the Aconcagua – this might be a photoblog to bookmark.

Image © Martyna Wojciechowska via