Don's Diary

April 28, 1995

FRIDAY. Fly to Warsaw with colleague. Met at airport by Polorbis travel courier with rail tickets. Ignore beggars at Central Station (it is getting more like London every day), and board Pieniny express to Krakow. Met at Krakow station by colleagues from Kracow University of Technology and that familiar atmosphere of soot and sulphur dioxide. My fourth visit to Poland and the welcome is as warm as ever. Dine with friends on fish (it is Friday), beer, wine and vodka.

SATURDAY. To Czestochowa and the monastery Jasna Gora, home of the icon the Black Madonna, the most sacred symbol of Polish independence and national resistance. Museum holds relics of Lech Walesa - a certificate for beatification in the future. Hundreds of devotees, a potent demonstration of the power of the Catholic church. Return via Katowice, a classic example of Poland's grossly polluted industrial heritage, a relic of unrestrained development in the communist era. Hope that our second, Joint European Project (JEP) in environmental management (under the aegis of Tempus, the Trans European Mobility Programme for University Studies), will make a contribution to overcoming that legacy. Dine with friends at their small, but comfortable flat. They are lucky - there is a severe housing shortage and much of the housing stock is of poor quality.

SUNDAY. To the Tatras mountains, a recreational lung for beautiful but polluted Krakow, and the only major city in Poland to escape systematic Nazi destruction. The original capital of Poland, Crakow's vibrancy has visibly grown with more an more cafes and restaurants, clubs and expensive shops. Some Poles are doing very nicely but a visit to the open market shows that for many life is hard. Men and women harangue passers - by selling clothes and household items we would consign to the dustbin, and pathetic bundles of vegetables or flowers. Avoiding the prostitutes, pick up Anglia pro vice chancellor and another colleague from Krakow station. Over dinner discuss week's programme.

MONDAY. First of a round of meetings. This is the final year of the JEP in construction management. Activities programme for the year agreed. Includes student work placement in the United Kingdom with our industrial partners, staff development at Anglia and at Instituto Technico Superior of Lisbon (our Portuguese partner). Policy in the communist era was to strictly segregate industry from universities. Teaching and research even in areas like engineerin, became highly theoretical. Student work placements were restricted to periods of manual labour on East German construction sites. The aim of our JEP is to help Kracow University of Technology develop links with Polish industry in line with the government's priority to make universities responsive to the economy. Given the recession and precarious state of the construction industry, establishing links is not easy.

TUESDAY. Further discussions on a proposed new JEP to develop foreign language teaching. Compare notes on the lot of Polish and UK academics. Average national monthly income 4 million zloty (Pounds 111). Professor's (lecturer) salary 3.4 million zloty (Pounds 94.40) per month. With official inflation at 35 per cent per annum and no pay rise for two years, many staff have at least two jobs. In evening refused entry to Forum Hotel Casino. Clearly look insufficiently wealthy.

WEDNESDAY. Opportunity to visit Auschwitz (40 miles from Krakow) or the Tatras again. Decide to avoid the death camp and go the mountains. Ghetto area of Krakow, where Schindler's List was shot, is now part of the tourist circuit. A new Jewish restaurant and bookshop has opened and guided tours are available.

THURSDAY. Leave early by train for Warsaw for appointments at the ministry of physical planning and construction and the Polish arm of one of our JEP industrial partners. Excellent meeting with the director of the international division who reaffirms commitment to our programme. Next stop our industrial partner. The managing director's secretary supplies plates of delicious doughnuts while we discuss practical issues of student placements, and the rigours of life in Warsaw. On to the Marriott hotel, symbol of United States capitalism, passing the Palace of Culture, Stalin's "wedding cake" gift to Poland, now housing a casino.

FRIDAY. Finalise plans for series of seminars for selected Polish construction companies with Kracow University of Technology, the ministry and one of our industrial partners. Last-minute shopping for family including a Chinese Swiss Army knife and some fabulous silver and amber jewellery. Fly direct from Krakow to Heathrow. Ample free vodka with Lot airways fortifies us for traffic jams on the M25. It is quicker to fly from Poland than get home from Heathrow by car.

Head of the international division and Tempus coordinator in the design and communications systems area, Anglia Polytechnic University.

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