Rzeszow, Unoffical City Motto: There are worse places in Poland or The Tale of one Peace Corps Volunteer's Adventures in the often Maligned Southeast

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Poland: Peace Corps Poland : Web Links for Poland RPCVs: Rzeszow, Unoffical City Motto: There are worse places in Poland or The Tale of one Peace Corps Volunteer's Adventures in the often Maligned Southeast

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Rzeszow, Unoffical City Motto: There are worse places in Poland or The Tale of one Peace Corps Volunteer's Adventures in the often Maligned Southeast



Rzeszow, Unoffical City Motto: There are worse places in Poland or The Tale of one Peace Corps Volunteer's Adventures in the often Maligned Southeast


My group of 132 Peace Corps TEFL Volunteers arrived in Warsaw in June 1991. We were immediately split up into 3 training groups. My group trained in Piaseczno, a suburb to the south of Warsaw. During the 10 week training, I stayed with a family in one of the "American houses" on the outskirts of town, thus named since they originally housed the American workers brought in to construct a television factory for RCA. The parents, Edward and Taisa, are both engineers at this plant, which had recently been acquired by Thomson electronics. The two daughters, Jolanta and Dorota, were university students in Warsaw. They are a middle-class Polish family with a fantastic sense of humor and warmth who did their best to make me feel at home. Jola gave up her room and became "homeless" as she was shunted off to sleep with her sister or in the den. But since she was gone for most of the summer anyway, I didn't feel too guilty. This picture was taken at the end of summer training. You can see the results of an entire summer spent practicing that cherished Polish sport of Feed the American.


When I got my initial site assignment to Rzeszow (pronounced ZHeshoof), many of the Poles I had met reacted with with a mixture of disgust and pity. "Oh, I'm so sorry, they're not sending you someplace nice." I soon realized that most of these people had never even been there and were reacting more toward the region than to Rzeszow itself. Rzeszow is located 5 1/2 hours from Warsaw by express train, putting it somewhere near the edge of the earth as far as Warsaw residents are concerned. It's also in the eastern part of Poland, which is generally regarded as poorer and more backward, presumably due to its proximity to the eastern front. Historically, and Poles are very big on history, Rzeszow was a fairly insignificant town prior to World War II with a population of around 10,000 half of which was Jewish (See the Simon Wiesenthal Center's web page for more information on the fate of Rzeszow's Jews). Following the war and the redistribution of lands which put Lvov in Ukraine, the Polish communist authorities believed another industrial center was needed in the southeast. Apparently the final decision came down to a choice between Przemysl and Rzeszow. Reportedly Rzeszow got the nod thanks to its staunchly pro-communist mayor at that time. This decision has never been forgotten or forgiven by the residents of Przemysl. Another historical point of interest is that Rzeszow was the birthplace of the rural Solidarity movement.


I'll never forget the first day of teaching my third year advanced group. A Polish colleague accompanied me to class and proceeded to lecture the 15 young men, in Polish, on how they were expected to behave toward me. I didn't understand all of it. What I did understand sounded fairly condescending. I think they agreed with my assessment since they were all lined up against the back of the room glowering at me and my colleague. So it was up to me to win them over after she left. My relationship with my students was much more informal than was the case with the average Polish teacher. This was partly by accident. When confronted with a long list of Polish names to read out for roll, I found it virtually impossible to stumble over first and last names while maintaining any sense of professional decorum. Of course, the students found this incredibly amusing. I quickly adopted a policy of using first names and when even these were too cumbersome, I used their nicknames. I ended up becoming quite close to my first group of pilots. When they were assigned a different English teacher the following year, they went to the head of the department to complain. I still correspond with several of them.


The educational system in Poland was undergoing some changes to meet some of the new demands of a western-oriented market economy. Numerous business schools had opened (and closed) including a new program in management and marketing at the Politechnika. I had one of these groups for two years. They were a lot of fun even if they proved remarkably resistant to any of my attempts to infiltrate the English language into their lives. Shortly before I was to return home to the U.S. several of these students showed up at my door with a gift, a large pink stuffed elephant. It was a sweet gesture but I couldn't figure out how I could possibly get it home and ended up donating it to the local orphanage. The orphanage sent a couple of boys over to pick it up. The last time I saw the elephant one boy was carrying it piggyback while the other spotted it from behind. I've always wondered how they managed it on the bus.


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