SEPTEMBER 16, 1960
NEW YORK —If Poland becomes a stable economic country—as I think it will if its borders are recognized by the Western European Committee and it is assured of nonaggression from any source—it may well serve as a bridge of understanding between the Western and Eastern groups. This bridge is going to be necessary to build up the beginnings of confidence between the two, so perhaps Poland's own feeling of greater security—if it can be assured by the two opposing areas—may be the opening wedge to help the other side to understanding.
One could not help but like the Polish people, whether they were ministers of state or casual workers whom one had an opportunity to contact.
I deepened my early enthusiasm for Poland and I hope for peace and prosperity for the country, because I think peace and prosperity there will benefit the whole European community.
Warsaw itself seems to epitomize Poland and yet I was very glad to have had an opportunity to drive out to the country and see a little bit of the agricultural situation. The people in the cities say the peasants are better off than anyone else because they have more to eat and they do not have to keep up appearances and buy the amount of clothes and shoes that people in the cities do. But as I looked at the farms and buildings I decided the life of the peasant had not yet reached a very high level of comfort.
I met a group of American farmers in the lobby of our hotel in Warsaw who had visited in Russia for several weeks and were then going to visit in Poland, and their first impressions were very much like mine.
Our one trip to another city was to Cracow. This old Polish capital was not destroyed by the Germans and, therefore, has retained its beauty and charm. The palace is preserved as a museum and has some beautiful pieces of furniture, mostly from Italy. A Polish queen came from Italy and she was responsible for this Italian influence.
The modern young Pole is proud of the "steel city" that is growing up around one of the big steel plants not far from Cracow. We drove through this city and I could see that each section had a school, two kindergartens and two nurseries but was told that they had overbuilt their nurseries.
With a recollection of the Russian nurseries, I asked how this could be and were the mothers not obliged to take their children at a certain age to the nurseries? The reply was "certainly not." There was no obligation, I was told; in fact, many mothers preferred to stay at home and take care of their children.
I also found out that while the pattern of universal medical care has been laid out in Poland, there is really no compulsion in this field either. I discovered that many doctors depended largely for their living not on their state salaries but on their private practice.
Years ago the Germans, who admire efficiency, sometimes used a rather contemptuous word in talking about the Poles which I think could be translated into "muddling through." The methods of the Soviet Union compulsory system are not very different from Hitler's Nazi compulsion, but somehow the Poles never seemed to have fallen into this groove of the kind of compulsion.
I would say that perhaps it is not in an industrial town that the real genius of the Poles comes through. They have had difficulties because they have brought many people straight from their lives as peasants into new lives as factory workers. This has had an effect even on the children. One of the women judges who is now on the highest court in Poland told me that one of the main causes of juvenile delinquency was the fact that youngsters from the farms did not easily adjust to city life.
I did detect, however, a great rivalry in music and drama between the old city of Cracow and the new steel city going up so near by. And just because of this appreciation of the arts and understanding of the cultural side of life I think that Poland may find adjustment to the leisure that automation brings easier in some ways than we will in America.
(Copyright, 1960, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)
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About this document
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, September 16, 1960
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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