Monday, 28 November 2016

Polsko! Twoje Działo!

Actually, that wasn't Poland's fault. That was my fault. And you can read 800 words of the story in next Sunday's Toronto Catholic Register.

One detail that I regret to say did not get enough emphasis in my column is that once an attending nurse realized how much trouble I was in, I shot to the front of the two-hour long queue.

Of course, that's a rather vigorous way of putting it. In reality, after I blundered into the hospital examination room to say my eye hurt, I was sent right out to sit on my butt. However, within fifteen minutes I was summoned back in to read letters on a chart. Soon I was sent back out, but then I was summoned in again to sign some form. Soon after that, the nurse touched my arm, I went back in, and I was seen by the doctor. Queue-jumping is an unforgivable sin in the UK (and I apologized profusely) but happily there is such a thing as triage--in Poland as elsewhere.

My advice to anyone who is unlucky enough to be hurt, injured or fall ill in Poland is to have studied Polish for at least five years in advance. You simply must not assume that "all educated people speak English anyway." No. Human brains are human brains, and if they don't still need all the foreign languages they memorized for exams, the foreign languages leak out of them. English does not have magic glue. Neither does Polish; if she could have heard me last week, my Polish teacher would have wept. All the same, five years of off-and-on study meant I got the job done. The job, in this case, means keeping alive, fed, housed and all five senses.

Of course, you can get around the language requirements by having Polish-speaking friends who don't have to go to work or be anywhere else. Or perhaps by having any tough-minded travel companion.Graham Greene survived his first trip to Liberia thanks to his cousin Barbara. 

Anyway, if you can, get next Sunday's Catholic Register and ponder the corporal works of mercy, particularly the one about strangers. I certainly am.

Another lesson to ponder is "truth is what is" versus "truth is what I want it to be." However, I won't go into this until subscribers of the Catholic Register have read my column.


  1. I am glad you are ok! Sounds like a very scary experience. And congrats on getting by on your Polish skills! Who knows but that God put "studying Polish" on your heart precisely for this event.

  2. Yes, but on the other hand, if I weren't so obsessed with studying Polish, I wouldn't have been by myself in Poland in the first place! However, I definitely thank God that I never had any kind of health emergency in Europe until I was A) old and confident enough and B) had the language skills to deal with it.