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A sleepless night in the Polish Bieszczady Mountains

I can’t remember spending a more uncomfortable night. I fidgeted constantly in my rigid lower bunk bed, sleeping in short, unsatisfying 20-minute bursts and, worst of all, running at least once an hour, often more frequently, to the loo. By the end of the night I knew every loose floor board in the building; I knew exactly when […]

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Erm, erm, erm… Mr President

It’s not every day you address the person sitting across the table from you as Mr President. Neither is it every day that you interview a man for whose freedom you marched as a teenager. Whether or not these are sufficient reasons to explain my bumbling questioning of Lech Wałęsa, Poland’s first democratically-elected president after […]

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On the trail of the Tatars in Poland

Drive through many of the villages in the north east of Poland and the eerie silence might lead you to believe there is no-one left to tend the miles of flat farmland, stretching beyond the horizon in every direction. A handful of ramshackle wooden homes occupy well-defined plots along either side of the road. An […]

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Knocking on doors in search of a good story

I’m sure many writers will identify with this. Your story gets published and while you might be pleased with the finished article there’s something that the readers will never know: that what you’ve shared with the reader is only half of the story. Indeed the untold back story to an article is often more illuminating […]

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Strangers on a train: why it’s not always good to talk

  With barely a soul in the first class carriage I figured the three hour journey would be a good chance to get some work done. I had just spent two days in the rural backwaters of eastern Poland to research a couple of articles and was returning to Warsaw in time to catch an […]

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Sound advice on local hotels – from the girl in McDonalds

“Do you really want to stay there? It’s horrible!” It was 9.30pm and I’d been in Bialystok for a little over half an hour. The bed I had arranged was not available and having been given a couple of phone numbers by the apologetic hostel receptionist I thought I’d got lucky. There was a bed, […]

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Hidden Warsaw: stories behind the courtyard shrines

Wander around any city for long enough and you’ll discover surprises in the most unexpected places. This is certainly true of Warsaw, where much of the city’s history, often tragic, often bloody but always fascinating, is hidden behind the brick and concrete of the main streets. While much of Warsaw was rebuilt after 1945 by […]

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Warsaw Palace of Culture: Stalin’s unwanted gift to Poland

At some point in our lives we have all received an unwanted present. We usually hide it away and hope that no-one will notice. When Stalin decided in 1951 that he wanted to make a ‘gift’ to the people of Poland, he chose to erect a colossal tower in the heart of Warsaw that would […]

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Poles apart: growing up with Warsaw

Our long term memory is a funny beast. I look on many of my childhood events and they appear to be not only distant but also dim; quite literally so. Our holidays seem to have took place if not in black and white then in a washed-out hue while memories of people and places are […]

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