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Since Kentucky Derby just happened and my daughters absolutely love horses, I decided to get you a little bit more familiar with horse racing (wyścigi konne) in Poland. Our ancestors raced since they got on the horse, but probably not for sport, but rather hunting or in the heat of battle, when the rider’s life or death was dependent on his skills and speed of his horse. One thing is certain, and so the need for racing never died out in the Poles despite wars, uprisings or partitions, and on the contrary – it was growing.

My daughter

The first certain date, which we can boldly announce the beginning of the era of documenting events relating to racing, is the year 1777. It was the year when on the road from Wola do Ujazdów, a mare belonging to Kazimierz Rzewulski utterly defeated the horse of the English Member of Parliament, named Sir Charles Whitworth.
This event is discussed in many sources, but the most interesting description is presented by Karol Mórawski in the chapter “Where people chased horseback in Warsaw”, which is an integral part of a brochure published on the occasion of the opening of the last year’s exhibition “Bomb Up! 166 years of horse racing in Warsaw.”

In March 1841, the Horse Racing and Livestock Exhibition Society was founded in the Polish Kingdom. It is the institution that set itself the goal of organizing horse racing and supporting the breeding of thoroughbred horses. The first races were held in June of the same year. Horse racing, in which the whole Warsaw found excitement, was suspended with the outbreak of the January Uprising (1863-1864). However, neither this break, nor repression and seizure of autonomy of the Polish Kingdom did not contributed to the decline in horse racing popularity. What is more, the Polish horses each year were getting better. They won a lot of races not only within the Polish territory, but also in Russia, for example, in Moscow. Extremely interesting is the event of 1887, when the Whole-Russian Derby was won by the Polish stallion Ruler, purchased in England still in the womb.

Racing popularity was bigger and bigger, and it increased significantly by the official introduction in 1880 of the Totalisator, which started to pay out pretty substantial prizes for the winners. It is also important that trainers and riders from England began to come to the Polish lands more and more frequently, and England is the place of origin of the best “sports” horses, trainers and jockeys, and therefore we could learn from the masters. One could say that it was a golden period for the Polish horse racing, widely known throughout Europe.

The outbreak of World War I is another difficult period in the history of Polish horse breeding, and hence, also racing. Fortunately, a large group of valuable horses survived safely in Odessa, from where they returned to the Polish tracks in 1919. However, it must have taken many more years to return to the breeding level of the time before the war. The way back to normality was facilitated by the entry into force of the Law on horse races (1925). This Law resulted in the creation of the Committee of Horse races.

There is a lot more to tell about history of horse racing in Poland. However, nowadays, Służewiec  Horse Race Track is the most popular in Poland. U2, The Rolling Stones, Sting, Depeche Mode, George Michael, Britney Spears, Daft Punk, Pet Shop Boys, Duran Duran, Nelly Furtado, Courtney Love – they have more than only music in common. All of them have performed concerts at the Służewiec Race Track in Warsaw, Poland. This is one of the largest and most beautiful racing tracks in the world and horse racing has a long tradition in the capital.

According to the vast majority of regular visitors of this type of structure, the Służewiec Race Track in Warsaw is the pearl of European and global “equestrian architecture”. It delights not only with the architecture of particular buildings, their functionality, but also greenery, which makes this place a sports and recreational structure. The “Horse-Racing Town” today can be an example for future generations of racetrack designing.

Natalia and Splash

One of my daughters

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Learning a foreign language can make you smarter, build multitasking and decision-making skills, ward off Alzheimer’s, improve memory, and much more. It is easier to travel and meet new people in other country if you can have a conversation in their native language, right?

Lots of people say they speak a foreign language (obcy język) better after a drink or two. I remember this one situation from when I was in high school. Students from Germany were visiting our school and all of us were competing in different sport games. They were staying in our town and we spent quite a lot of time in bars and coffee shops together. I noticed that some of my friends, who had problems with German every day in school, were speaking German perfectly fine and without being shy when we were out with our new German friends drinking (and I just want to be clear – legal drinking age in Poland is 18, so we were not doing anything illegal:)). Just like that!

Image by bridgesward from Pixabay

So why is it that people seem so much better at speaking their second language after a beer or two?

To answer that question, British and Dutch researchers conducted an experiment, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in October 2017. And it turns out, people in the study really did speak more fluently (płynnie) after a low dose of alcohol,  even when they didn’t think so themselves.

Researchers from the University of Liverpool, Maastricht University, and King’s College London gathered 50 native German speakers, all of whom had recently learned to speak Dutch at Maastricht. The participants were then either given a low dose of alcohol (mała dawka alkoholu) or a control beverage that contained no alcohol, and were asked to have a conversation in Dutch for a few minutes. The conversations were recorded, and then rated by two native Dutch speakers who were unaware of which participants were given alcohol. The subjects who were slightly intoxicated received better ratings than their sober colleagues, particularly when it came to pronunciation!

So why exactly does booze help us with this particular skill? It might seem contradictory (sprzeczne), since alcohol impairs cognitive functions like the ability to pay attention and remember facts. But it also lowers our social anxiety (lęk społeczny) and boosts our self-confidence (pewność siebie), which helps us when speaking to another person. It is important to point out that participants in this study consumed a low dose of alcohol.

So if you’re trying to learn a new language, it appears that a little bit of alcohol can go a long way to help:)

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It is definitely one of the hardest polish words to spell: Krzyżtopór! But don’t let this discourage you! From afar, it looks truly monumental. The kind of castle in which you expect to find a dragon in the cellar!

A magical point on the map of Poland, that it lacks the publicity of Malbork or Wawel. It is situated in the southeastern part of Poland, in one of its least visited regions. On the other hand, the castle turns out to be located not that far from the top tourist destination in the country. Krzyżtopór is 140 kilometers or a two and a half hour drive away from Kraków, the beautifully preserved, former royal capital of the Polish Kingdom.

Image by monikasmigielska from Pixabay

The castle has a status of a permanent ruin, and it is a unique, although delerict building. It raises interest not only among common tourists, who may suddenly see a huge and unusual shape of the castle amid small hills in the valley of Koprzywianka river. This place is also interesting among numerous explorers of the past, such as: historians, archeologists, ethnologists, as well as modern artists and architects.

Image by monikasmigielska from Pixabay

Image by monikasmigielska from Pixabay

The thing that I find very interesting is the architecture of the Krzyżtopór castle. It strictly refers to the Gregorian calendar, which was introduced in Poland in 1582. Reportedly, the castle once had 365 windows (as many as days of the year), 52 rooms (as many as weeks of the year), 12 ballrooms (as many as months of the year) and 4 towers (as many as the seasons). It reflected to the fact that Krzysztof Ossoliński (palace builder) was interested in symbolism and astrology. What is more, he was a student of Jan Mrożek, rector of Kraków Academy, a renowned mathematician and astronomer. Moreover, in the left corner of the gate there is a hieroglyph in the shape of W-letter, which has also a symbolic meaning. It probably derives from Arameic ornamentation and represents the castle’s eternity.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Nowadays, the Krzyżtopór castle is one of the largest ruins of magnate’s residence in Europe. The wealth of architectural solutions, the magnificence and splendor of the interior design, the size and layout of the castle’s gardens, together with defensive values of the stronghold situated on the rock and surrounded by swampy meadows that protected the access to the castle, make the construction almost perfect.

Castle appears in a fascinating new book called Castles of the World by Phyllis Jestice, which examines more than 150 fortifications from across the world, from 5th century fortresses and fairy-tale Alpine wonders to Norman keeps and Samurai strongholds. This book is a beautiful examination of past worlds viewed through castles that continue to enrich the modern landscape. They evoke an imagined age of aristocratic warriors and noble aspirations for which many people still yearn today.

I would love to hear how many of you visited this amazing place?

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Easter is almost here! In Poland the last week of Lent, Holy Week, is known as Wielki Post or Wielki Tydzień. During this week Polish families prepare their homes for Easter. Traditionally there is spring cleaning, shopping, baking and cooking for the Easter feast.

Many churches in Poland observe Good Friday (Wielki Piątek), which is the Friday before Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday (Wielkanoc), and Easter Monday.

Image courtesy pixabay.com

Good Friday is not an official public holiday in Poland, but some shops may have shorter opening hours. Some museums, theaters and tourist attractions may also be closed.

In Polish churches a reconstructed tomb is placed in a special place with the faithful praying constantly and keeping watch. People visit those tombs and pray.

Devoted Poles may observe a strict fast on Good Friday, consuming neither food nor beverages.  Some cover the mirrors in their homes with a black veil to remind them that they are in mourning for the death of Jesus Christ (Veiling). Good Friday was the day traditionally reserved for the decoration of pisanki, or Easter eggs.

Image courtesy pixabay.com

Good Friday – Why is it “Good”?
Is good Friday really “good”? It may seem odd that people celebrate the day Jesus was crucified as “good.” Obviously, the suffering Jesus went through on Good Friday was not good. He was whipped, beaten, mocked, and killed in a very violent way. How can that be good?

The term “Good” as applied to Good Friday is an Old English expression meaning holy. It’s often called Holy Friday also.

But in another sense, Good Friday is always tied to Easter Sunday, which is a joyful celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. He could not have been resurrected if he had not died first.

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Teachers (nauczyciele) in Poland went on an indefinite nationwide strike over pay Monday after the government failed to meet union demands during days of negotiations.

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

The strike (strajk) by teachers of kindergarten all the way up through the final year of high school is the first such widespread work stoppage in Poland’s classrooms since a two-week strike in 1993, when graduation exams had to be canceled at many schools.

The indefinite strike started Monday after pay negotiations (negocjacje płacowe) with the government failed. Protesting teachers (protestujący nauczyciele) said that their action was dramatic, many among them have to juggle two or three jobs at different schools to make ends meet. A teacher’s monthly net earnings range from 1,800 zlotys to 3,000 zlotys ($470 to $780). Teachers want an immediate 30% pay increase and to back their demand, they argued that the government recently found substantial new funds for families, pensioners and businesses, in an attempt to win support ahead of May’s elections to the European Parliament.

Image by succo from Pixabay

Warsaw officials said about 80% of the city’s schools were closed Monday. Preliminary figures from other regions showed that up to 90% of schools were affected in some areas. The Polish Education Ministry (Polskie Ministerstwo Edukacji) said 48.5% of schools nationwide were on strike at noon.

The latest strike also comes at a crucial time for students (uczniowie): days before end-of-year tests in primary and middle schools and weeks ahead of this year’s high school matriculation exams. President Andrzej Duda, whose wife taught high school German before she became Poland’s first lady, expressed solidarity with the striking teachers, saying they should be properly compensated for their hard work. But Duda also appealed to them to be realistic with their demands and to allow the scheduled exams to be given.

Reactions among parents ranged from supportive and understanding to disappointment, especially since the strike comes so close to crucial tests.

So who is right? Should the teachers be paid more? I definitely agree they should.

Teachers play important role in our life to become successful in career and business. A good teacher helps us to become good human being in the society and good citizen of the country. Teachers know that students are the future of any nation. So the future development of any nation is in the hands of teachers. What we become in life is depends on teachers. Teachers impart the data and information in the brain of students to analyze. Analyzing in the situation what is possible is the most important thing that we learn from teachers. Of course parents and guardians play important role as well in educating kids. What you learn from them, can not be replaced by teachers. But teachers definitely deserve more appreciation in Poland.

Definitely would like to hear what your opinion is. I agree that everyone has a aright to their own opinion and no judgement because of that.

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Things in life happen unexpectedly, we constantly face ups and downs. When life gets a little difficult or hard to bear, it’s comforting to know that there are still ways that can brighten up our day. Reading a positive quote (pozytywny cytat) is one of these methods. When you start your day with positive thoughts (pozytywne myśli), you aim your habits and conversations in that direction. If you’re dealing with a challenging time, these quotes and sayings will help you to think about things better – keep a more open minded perspective and be less tough on yourself.

Image by Igor Ovsyannykov from Pixabay

Optimistic quotes are everywhere. Motivational quotation posters are often plastered at school and office halls. Positive quotes have been thoroughly studied and researched by the experts over the years. Through studies, physiologists have learned that people who read a positive quote daily have had a positive outlook in life.

Here you go:

Once you choose hope, anything is possible – Gdy wybierzesz nadzieję, wszystko jest możliwe (Christopher Reeve)

The best way to predict the future is to create it – Najlepszym sposobem na przewidzenie przyszłości jest jej stworzenie (Abraham Lincoln)

Not all those who wander are lost. — Nie wszyscy ci, którzy błądzą, są zgubieni (J. R. R. Tolkien)

What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. — Co nas nie zabije, to nas wzmocni.  (Friedrich Nietzsche)

When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. —
Kiedy czegoś gorąco pragniesz cały wszechświat sprzyja potajemnie twojemu pragnieniu.  (Paulo Coelho)

One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving. — Kocha się za nic. Nie istnieje żaden powód do miłości. (Paulo Coelho)

Eighty percent of success is showing up. — Osiemdziesiąt procent sukcesu to obecność. (Woody Allen)

Energy and persistence conquer all things. — Energia i wytrwałość zwycięży wszystko.
(Benjamin Franklin)

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find.  — Proście, a będzie wam dane, szukajcie, a znajdziecie.  (Bible)

That’s one small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind. — To mały krok dla człowieka, wielki krok dla ludzkości (Neil Armstrong)

Image by Avi Chomotovski from Pixabay

I would love to hear your favorite positive quote:) Please share it with us in comments below (in both English and Polish if you can).

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The first time I’ve heard about bear Wojtek was from my grandfather who fought in both World War I and World War II. My grandfather had asthma and with his health problems for the last few years of his life he lived with us.

Every day after school he was waiting for me with a special treat: homemade french fries, ice cream…and was ready to tell me a new story about the war. You would think that a child would not like war stories, but I loved them and to this day it’s one of my favorite childhood memories!

Image courtesy pixabay.com

One day I heard the story about amazing bear named Wojtek, who was raised by my grandfather and his fellow soldier friends! How amazing is that!?? Check out this short YouTube story about him!

The Bear That Went To War - YouTube

Purchased as a young cub from a railway station in Iran by a group of Polish soldiers, Wojtek was enlisted into the army as a private (szeregowy) in order to be given rations and transportation. He was subsequently promoted to corporal (kapral), and helped to move crates of ammunition during the Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944 – swiftly becoming a celebrity among the Allied troops.

Speaking of rank of troops, here is a list of them in English and Polish!

Private (Pte, Pvt) – szeregowy
Private First Class (PFC) – starszy szeregowy
Corporal (CPL) – kapral
Lance Corporal (LCPL) – starszy kapral
Master Corporal (MCpl) – plutonowy
Sergeant (Sgt) – sierżant
Staff Sergeant (SSgt) – sierżant sztabowy
Master Sergeant (MSgt) – starszy sierżant
Warrant Officer (WO) – chorąży
Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) – starszy chorąży
Senior Staff Warrant Officer (SWO) – starszy chorąży sztabowy
Second Lieutenant (2nd Lt) – podporucznik
Lieutenant (Lt) – porucznik
Captain (Capt) – kapitan
Major (Maj) – major
Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col) – podpułkownik
Colonel (Col) – pułkownik
Brigadier General (Brig Gen) – generał brygady
Major General (Maj Gen) – generał dywizji
Lieutenant General (Lt Gen) – generał broni
General (Gen) – generał

After the war, Wojtek lived out the rest of his life at Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland, and was commemorated by a statue in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens that was erected in 2015. In 2013, the Kraków city council decided to erect a statue of Wojtek in the city’s Jordan Park. It was unveiled on 18 May 2014, the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino.

The unbelievable true story of the orphaned cub, which was found by Polish troops in Persia and then traveled through Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Italy and Scotland as a morale-booster, is now being turned into an animated movie! When you actually find a story that is almost like a fairytale but is real, and documented and true, it just opens up so many more emotions.

The British-Polish filmmakers hope to release the family-friendly “A Bear Named Wojtek” in 2020. Can’t wait to see it!

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It may be 1st day of Spring today…but it sure does not look like it in New Hampshire…

Although I have to admit that days are getting longer and warmer, so there is hope:)

My daughters having hot chocolate in our yard couple days ago! Waiting for the Spring!

Around the world, people celebrate the end of the dismal winter weather with unique festivals and traditions. Some date back thousands of years and others are relatively new.

Poland celebrates the coming of Spring through the drowning of Marzanna. The Marzanna is a doll made of straw that symbolizes the cold and dreariness of winter. The polish people parade the dolls through the streets making their way to a body of water. The dolls are then set on fire and thrown in the water as a way to mark the end of winter (check out this blog that explains it more).

I have found this video of drowning of Marzanna , which took place in Jeziorzany, a town my mother grew up in!! Check it out!

Marzanna w Jeziorzanach - YouTube

Marzanna (also known as Morana, Morena, or Mora depending on region) was a Slavic goddess of winter, night and death. Although she is generally referred to as a goddess, some scholars consider her a demon or a high-level witch. She symbolized the destructive power of winter.

Like most pagan deities (pogańskie bóstwa), Marzanna’s myth came about as a way to explain cycles of nature (natura) that were not yet studied by or understandable to the general population, a single figurehead into which people could pour all of their frustrations, fear, and anger about winter, which was truly dreadful for many. Must be the witch’s fault!

Since it was her fault, she had to die so Spring (Wiosna) could come. That makes perfect sense in the pagan world, but what’s remarkable is that this particular tradition has endured to this day, and that it’s largely practiced by children. I remember skipping school on that day, although it was actually “approved” by teachers, so we all used to take a walk to the near by river/pond/lake and drown Marzanna! We took our time few days prior to make the doll:) It was more like a field trip, than skipping school (skipping school in Poland is traditionally called wagary).

Well, my kids were at school today and I celebrated first day of the Spring by going skiing with my husband! It was truly beautiful, Spring skiing day! It will take a while for our snow to melt in Mount Washington Valley, so we may as well enjoy it while it lasts:)

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Respect and equality are two words that should matter in any workplace every day.  International Women’s Day (Międzynarodowy Dzień Kobiet!) celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievement of women as well as acts as a call to action for individuals and organizations to promote, enforce, and advocate for gender equality. This day is celebrated on March 8th and it is gets a lot of attention in Poland!

Image courtesy pixabay.com

There are a lot of inspirational quotes from successful women who make us feel empowered every day and here is a short list of them in English and Polish. Enjoy!

“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun” (Jeśli przestrzegasz wszystkich zasad, tracisz całą zabawę) – Katharine Hepburn

“Do your thing and don’t care if they like it” (Rób swoje i nie przejmuj się, czy im się to podoba) – Tina Fey

“You have just one life to live. It is yours, own it, claim it, live it. Do the best you can with it.” (Masz tylko jedno życie. Jest twoje, bądź właścicielem, żądaj go, żyj nim. Przeżyj je jak możesz najlepiej) – Hillary Clinton

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” (Nikt nie może sprawić, że poczujesz się gorszy bez twojej zgody) – Eleanor Roosevelt

“It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but even more to stand up to your friends” (Potrzeba wielkiej odwagi, aby przeciwstawić się swoim wrogom, ale jeszcze większej aby przeciwstawić się przyjaciołom) – J.K. Rowling

“We can do no great things, only small things with great love” (Nie możemy robić wielkich rzeczy, tylko małe rzeczy z wielką miłością) – Mother Teresa

Happy International Women’s Day! What better way to celebrate than sharing the voices of women we are lucky to know, admire, and support!

Image courtesy pixabay.com

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Learning the Polish Prepositions is very important because its structure is used in every day conversation. The more you master it the more you get closer to mastering the Polish language!

Prepositions are usually associated with location or with direction and verbs of motion. In Polish most preposition are used in the same way as with English. However, there are some important differences, for example with reference to sky and sea. In English we say ‘the sun in the sky’, in Polish it’s the ‘sun is on the sky’. Simlarly in English we say the ‘ship is in the ocean.’ In Polish it is ‘the ship is on the ocean.’

Image courtesy pixabay.com

Here is a list of most common Polish prepositions:)

on – na czymś, w, nad, po, dalej

in front of – na wprost, przed, z przodu

at – przy, w, na, u, o

in – w, na, za, do, za pomocą

between – pomiędzy, w środku (dwoma przedmiotami, osobami)
 
above – powyżej, nad, u góry, ponad

below – poniżej, pod

under – pod, poniżej

behind – za, z tyłu

on top of – na wierzchu

away from – od 

next to – obok

across – ponad, poprzez, przez, w poprzek, na drugą stronę

over – przez, nad, przy, ponad, powyżej, po
 
out of – z czegoś, ze środka, na zewnątrz

to – do, na, za, przy

from – z, od jakiegoś momentu, od kogoś

into – do (środka, wnętrza) w, na

throught – poprzez, przez, po, na wskroś

up – pod górę, do góry, w górę

down – w dół, na dole

around, round – wokół, dookoła

towards – w stronę, wobec, w stosunku, w kierunku

about – o, około, po, dookoła, mniej więcej

after – po, później, według

against – przeciw, o, wbrew

along – wzdłuż

among – wśród, pomiędzy (więcej przedmiotów)

before – przed, przedtem, zanim

beside – obok

besides – oprócz, poza tym, poza

beyond – za, dalej niż, poza

by – przy, nad, przez, do, na, obok, z pomocą, przed do (jakiegoś terminu)

during – podczas, w ciągu, w czasie

except – z wyjątkiem, poza

for – dla, od, przez (pewien czas), za, na, po, o

near – blisko, obok, w pobliżu

inside – w, wewnątrz, do środka,w środku

of – ze, z czegoś, o

out of – z, ze (na zewnątrz), od

outside – na zewnątrz

past – po (czas), za, obok

since – od (jakiegoś czasu)

throughout – przez

till, untill – aż do

with – z, za pomocą

within – w ciągu, nie dalej niż, w zasięgu, wewnątrz, w środku

without – bez

onto – na (wierzch, powierzchnię czegoś)

Also, check out this article with a lot of helpful tips on how and when to use Polish prepositions.

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