Articles by Jenna

Christmas in Wrocław, Poland

I’d been watching the city municipal workers assemble the rows of wooden stalls and the three-story Christmas tree in Wrocław’s town center since the middle of November. The outdoor Christmas market seemed like it was going to be a huge event. Sprawled across two lengths of the square, the builders worked just as hard at assembling as they did at shoveling the continually on-coming snow heralding the beginning of the Polish winter.

I knew the day the market opened by the smell. Fried kielbasa, baked gingerbread, and the distinct linger of hot mulled wine invited me in as I walked from my bus stop toward the building where I work. Luckily, the town square is positioned so that a detour through the market was, actually, right on the way.

Wroclaw Christmas market

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December 22, 2010 2 comments

What does your name say about you?

I’ve always taken pride in my last name. That distinctive “-ski” ending, asserting a clear and concise Polish root.

I must have first become aware of the Polish-ness of “Makowski” sometime during early grade school. There always seemed to be a few of us in every class. Those rogue Makowski’s, Jablonski’s and Kotarski’s, deviously appearing on the role call next to the Smith’s and the Johnson’s. Those poor teachers would trip over the pronunciation for at least a week.

Then, there was that one time, out on the playground at recess. It must have been around third grade. One of my kiddy classmates made up a chant to help her remember my last name. “MA has a COW that SKIS. Ma-kow-ski!” She thought it was totally cool. So did I.

Over the years, I got used to the pronunciation blunders and spelling errors. I can’t even begin to count the times when I’ve had to dictate my last name to someone. In one breath, the unfortunate receiver’s response is always something like, “How in the hell is that spelled?”, immediately followed by, “That’s Polish, isn’t it?” Polish names do that. Confuse and clarify, both at the same time.

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December 16, 2010 5 comments