Friday, December 4, 2015

Snippets from Warsaw

It's a cool morning for the drive to Warsaw.
The highway is wide, smooth, with traffic moving swiftly.

The farms here are being worked. Even spotted a farmer on his tractor plowing the field.  
The first and only person we have seen actually working the land.

Small more prosperous country village in Poland

This is an encouraging sign.  There must be a thriving agricultural class in Poland. 
They wouldn't be selling farm equipment if no one was buying.  
We learned private land ownership is allowed and encouraged. The farmers are working their own land, no communes, no forced labor, just capitalism at work. 
Work your fingers to the bone 'cause you get to keep and enjoy the fruits of your labor. 

The Fields of Weeds Question. 

The nagging question was: Why did we see mile after mile of farm land in Russia knee deep in weeds, in Belarus the land is being working but no workers in sight and in Poland, we saw farmers plowing a field on a Sunday morning. 

The answer:  Private land ownership and Government policies

Previous USSR and current Russian government policies has completely destroyed the agrarian class by not allowing private farm ownership. Even worse, at times the government allowed and encouraged farmers to work the land, said they could keep their crops, reaping the profits of their labor.  Only to change policies and re-confiscate the land again.  Now no one is willing to invest time, money and back breaking labor into cultivating the land, making it profitable, if the government is going to take it away again. The people are not stupid. They don't trust a government with a history of saying one thing and doing another.

This policy flip-flopping has created another problem. 
Today, not only is no one working the land, but with each succeeding generation, there are fewer and fewer people who know how to successfully farm. Farming is best learned by growing up on a farm. Learning the millions of little details and processes that make farm life productive takes time.  Learning by living the life style that makes a farm function can take years of experience. A young man from the city who has never seen or lived on a farm does not have the slightest idea of what to do or how to do it.  

With no incentive and no obligation to work the land, young people moved to the cities seeking work, leaving the fields to become overgrown with weeds. The sad part is the country youth are not prepared, trained or educated for the jobs available in the city. Which is why alcoholism is now a major problem in Russia today.  The governments solution?  They just announced they are going to limit the amount of Vodka a person can buy each day.... what? Russia has the farmland to feed not only their citizens but a major portion of the world's population too. 

Back in the 1950's, according to my father,  the USSR tried to lure American farmers to move to Russia as they saw Americans knew how to make a farm productive. A few even went. After several years of that, government policies changed and all the land was once again confiscated.  With no incentive to pour blood sweat and tears into making a farm productive, people abandoned the land and moved to the cities where unemployment is now rampant among the uneducated country folk. 

The Soviets are not the only world government whose policies have done more to destroy a class or group of its own people with "good intentions" that have had disastrous consequences.  The United States has destroyed the African American "family" with its War on Poverty policies that disintegrated family formation among the disadvantaged. 

Prior to the "War on Poverty", the African American community enjoyed higher than average employment, high family formation (i.e. marriage) and a low rate of out of wedlock childbirths.
After 50 years of our government spending billions of dollars "fighting poverty", those statistics are dramatically reversed to where today the African American community has the highest level of unemployment, the lowest marriage rate and the highest number of childbirths out of wedlock. Look up the writings of the Harlem-raised, Harvard-educated economist Dr. Thomas Sowell if you doubt me on this.

Back to the Poland......
Entering Warsaw, those tall skinny trams don't take up much space in the center of the streets. 
From the empty streets in Belarus and the old town charm of Viluis, now we are in the modern energetic city of Warsaw.  One can feel it in how people walk and talk here. 

Famous bronze statue of Chopin in the Lazienki Park. 
During the summer, free Chopin recitals are offered daily.

It's now Fall, so we missed any summer concert.
Not to be disappointed, we were invited to attended a private Chopin recital
with a professor from the Warsaw Conservatory. Was interesting to hear her interpretations of Chopin compositions as opposed to what we typically hear in the West.

The professor is very talented and a gifted performer.
Though she spoke no English, she offered us her interpretations of Chopin's greatest works.
This recital ranks as one of the top three highlights of our tour, along with
the Russian Ballet and Red Square. 

Here is a snippet of the recital.....  aren't iPhones great?

In front of the Warsaw Conservatory stands the Polish painter artist Jan Matejko 
and his jester honoring the Polish artistic community.

The jester and the model....

One of the last remaining old post war buildings in Warsaw, is now slated for demolition. 
The residents have been removed and relocated to newer buildings, making room for a modern apartment building, like those in the background.

Among the empty buildings set to be torn down, discovered an isolated courtyard with no church in sight. Yet there stands a solitary statue of Christ keeping watch
over his flock of dumpsters and dust bins.

There has to be a fascinating history behind this now abandoned statue. Would love to hear it.

Sweeping leaves in the Fall is a full time job for the gardeners.

Heavy chains and lock with a well scratched bike has all but eliminated the problem of 
lamp posts disappearing in Warsaw.

To walk to the Mall nearest the hotel, we had to go underground through a modern clean subway station to reach the other side of a busy thoroughfare. They did not allow pedestrian crossing at street level, too many cars, trucks and trains.

Warsaw today is bustling, modern and thriving.  Having rebuilt itself after its near total destruction during World War II and later during the Soviet domination.

Like a phoenix, it has arisen from the ashes of its past. Congratulations to the Polish people on accomplishing this rebirth.

Our farewell dinner in Warsaw before heading home.
A toast to Anna our guide and Warner our driver, we are deeply indebted to you for safely transporting us through a fascinating three weeks of discovery, learning and experiences we will always remember.

Tomorrow forty strangers who became friends will depart for different cities around the world.  


1 comment:

  1. Thomas Sowell is indeed a great writer, insightful and clear. I like how the Poles have eliminated the problem of stolen lamp posts! ;)


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