The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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PARIS—On last Sunday, the closing day of the meetings of the World Federation of United Nations Associations in Warsaw, Poland, our Dr. Clark Eichelberger made a speech in which he pointed out that the United Nations is in danger of becoming a European-dominated organization and not a world organization. The U.N. must be operated on a world basis, he emphasized, if it is to succeed in helping its membership to win a peaceful world.

When all is said and done, probably the contacts and the friendships that are made at these meetings among peoples from different countries are among the most valuable results.

No one could have been more solicitous or more hospitable during my week in Warsaw than the people of Poland.

There were a number of receptions, and these were not exactly like our American cocktail parties. Guests are invited to arrive between seven and eight o'clock, and after a short greeting doors are opened to a room of tables filled with more than enough food for an evening meal. There are several kinds of cold meat, jellied fish, bread and butter, and sweets of various kinds.

I was told, however, that they often have a hard time finding certain things that are easily obtained in the U.S. For instance, anything that is out of season, such as fruits and vegetables, simply do not appear in the shops, and when one does find them they are so expensive that the average person prefers to go without.

The first day in my hotel in Warsaw I ordered orange juice and a Polish friend who was with me said, "Oh, no, you don't want that for breakfast. That is fearfully expensive and may not even be obtainable."

Oranges and lemons appear only periodically in the market, and the average Polish housewife considers their price too high. Tea is always available, however, but coffee is very expensive and milk is not usually trusted, even though it is supposed to be pasteurized. I found that people with children boiled their milk.

To my surprise, the water supply seemed to be trustworthy, and everyone was told they could drink it. But most people, I noticed, brought bottled water if they came from a foreign country.

Miss Kalinouska, who had served in the U.N. as an adviser when she was attached to the Polish Embassy in Washington, was very kind to me and served as an interpreter on every possible occasion. She invited us for lunch in her apartment, which was one big room with a bathroom and a small kitchen. She was very exultant over the size of the room because, as a rule, rooms are not as large as hers. And she was on a centrally located street, where she could walk to work at the university.

The delightful part of her apartment, I thought, was the gardens at the back of the house which her two windows overlooked. The Poles love bright flowers, and their flower beds are masses of color. Wherever it is possible to have a window box one will see bright red geraniums enlivening the whole side of a house. What they do in winter I do not know, but in summer one can buy flowers at innumerable street stands, and I think they feel that flowers are almost as much a necessity as food.

I was told by a Polish housewife that there were comparatively few things for which they had to queue up any more. Meat is not to be had on Mondays, and at all times it is hard to find. Also, I was told that paper frequently was in scarce supply, so when they could buy it they bought it in large quantities. Quite unashamedly a housewife would walk through the streets with a string slung over her shoulder on which she had strung as many rolls of toilet-paper as she could obtain.

The real expense for the average person, just as in Russia, is for shoes. Also, clothing materials are not really good. A young American girl who is the wife of a Pole told me that when she told her friends the suit she had on was six years old they simply could not believe it. They assured her that no material they bought in Poland would last that long. Many Polish girls, however, make their own clothes and their taste is excellent, so that on the whole one is more impressed by how attractive the young women look than by the hardships they may have to go through in order to appear well-dressed.

Poland always was a Roman Catholic country, and I was not surprised to find the Catholic churches flourishing and young and old attending the services. But I was not prepared for the liberal attitude toward the new young Protestant denominations that have started up. While I was there they were holding a meeting attended by Methodists, Baptists, Christian Scientists, Lutherans, and a number of other denominations.

The Methodist minister who was organizing the meeting said that they had no difficulties and that he ran the biggest college for teaching English in the city of Warsaw. He had several thousand students.

It is evident on many sides that Poland is still a very poor country and that the cost of rebuilding what was destroyed by the war is a tremendous burden on the economy, but they seem to live with vitality and enthusiasm.


(Copyright, 1960, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

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About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, September 15, 1960

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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