I am now back from my epic adventure in Poland, an extended research trip for my next show with Mark and Hard Graft called Poles Apart.
We had a bloody great time, even if job hunting as an economic migrant in Warsaw was terrifying, upsetting and embarrassing. Anyone that turns up in a foreign country and tries to get work is not only brave but has my eternal respect.
I'm not going to give it away regarding whether Mark and I managed to secure work, you'll have to come and see the bloody show but we were certainly exposed to the full range of Polish society during our job hunt. From the modern skyscrapers and fine architecture of the old town to the communist era concrete monoliths and crumbling facades that remind you of Poland's difficult past.
The gap between the rich and poor is also striking, for all the suits strolling around and people making a decent living, there were plenty of people (mostly elderly) living in poverty, who set up tiny market stalls on the corner of streets selling an eclectic array of goods: shoes, pepper spray and tinned food being one example. These were not for tourists but for local people to pick up cheap stuff and for the seller in question to make some money.
Mark and I ate far too much meat whilst we were there, as their diet is heavily meat based (that and potatoes) and the special fried lard they put on bread was not to my liking but pretty much everything tasted great when washed down with the excellent Polish ale.
One thing that really struck me was how much we in Britain have been lied to regarding Poland's part in World War 2. I always remember thinking that we went to war for them but in reality we didn't lift a bloody finger to help as they struggled valiantly against not only the Nazi boys but also the Communist hordes from the Soviet Union.
In fact, Polish history is littered with instances of either the Germans or Russians (or both) trying to wipe them from the map and Polish people doing a fair job of fighting these two giants and keeping them at bay.
Back to the 'Western Betrayal' of the Second World War...Not only did we not help the Poles when the Germans, then Russians invaded, we also didn't support the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943, or the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 and during Yalta in 1945 let Poland come under the control of the Soviet Union; who, don't forget, had done their best to erase Poland from the map.
I must confess I was ignorant to the fact that Hitler considered Poles to be as sub-human as the Jews and attempted to destroy them, their culture and anything that was connected to Poland. It was Poland that suffered the greatest amount of civilian casualities in Europe, some 22% of its population eradicated, it was Poland that carried out the greatest internal resistance to the occupying forces; not France and it was Poland that never surrended, never capitulated and never gave up in its fight against oppression.
Although I have learnt much on 21st century economic immigration that will provide rich material for 'Poles Apart', I have also been educated on Polish history and their position within the world's political journey of the last few hundred years and I have nothing but admiration and respect for them.