The Infrastructural Development and Individual Changes in the Polish Society. International Relations in the European Union from the Polish-German Imagological Perspective.

The Infrastructural Development and Individual Changes in the Polish Society. International Relations in the European Union from the Polish-German Imagological Perspective.


Vice-Dean Poznan University College of Business POLAND

Abstract: The following article offers an investigation into the infrastructural development and individual changes in the Polish society as a so called new society which is being reigned by the rules of capitalism. There can be seen an apparent discrepancy between the time of communism and capitalism in Poland. After joining the European Union in 2004 the newborn social reality is consequently attempting to be a part of the integrated Europe. This paper aims to clearly identify the factors responsible for the mentioned changes in Poland and to estimate the level of its integrity and adjustment to the so called European standards. It shows the Polish society from the imagological perspective. This point of view bases on the image interpretation of Polish and German nation in the chosen publications of Polish and German well-known authors.

Key Words: infrastructural development, individual changes, consumer society, Polish- German international relations, imagological perspective


A significant change can be observed in Poland after the communism reality was modified into the capitalism society. With relation to the dynamics of this change there can be seen a new way of perceiving Poland – as a member of the European Union and as a country that is associated with such words as modern, brand-new or developing. Being a part of the European Union is closely connected with the attempt to adjust to the so called European standards or European way of life. The establishing of new life quality has various consequences – some of them may be considered as positive and the other as rather negative ones.

The theme of Polish-German intercultural relations has already been investigated by various scientists, e.g. Zawadzka (2004), Jałowiecki (2007), Mende (2008), Ruchniewicz (2008), Tarkowska (2008), Zagórski (2009), Garsztecki (2010) or Kaluza (2010). The relations between the two neighbouring countries are also illustrated by different opinion research institutes such as e.g. CBOS or ISP.

The author of this article decides to base on the research that has been conducted while working on her dissertation in 2011 at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, Poland. The subject of the examination concerns changes in Poland from the perspective of the well-known polish and german essayists and publicists. The certain aspects of publications of such authors as Steffen Möller, Matthias Kneip, Adam Soboczynski, Andrzej Stasiuk and Krzysztof Wojciechowski were analyzed ¹. There are many facets that can be considered as important while classifying the mentioned writers’ opinions for both Polish and German societies: the big number of sold books, the huge variety of different prizes that they were given out of respect for their work, their constant presence in the media, etc. The investigation revealed interesting results affecting a diversity of particular aspects such as e.g. attitude towards emotions and feelings, religion and courage or the infrastructural development and individual changes. As already mentioned, the last two facets are going to be analyzed in this paper.

1 The following texts were investigated within the scope of the PhD thesis: Viva Polonia! Als deutscher Gastarbeiter in Polen (Viva Polonia! As a German Guest-Worker in Poland ) by Steffen Möller, Grundsteine im Gepäck. Begegnungen mit Polen (Cornerstones in the luggage. Meetings with Poland) by Matt- hias Kneip, Polski Tango (Polish Tango) by Adam Soboczynski, Dojczland (Dojczland) by Andrzej Stasiuk and Meine lieben Deutschen (My beloved Germans) by Krzysztof Wojciechowski.


Every nation is associated by other countries with a certain image or a group of images. Many scientists, e.g. Dyserinck (1988), Schipper (2004), Białek (2005) or Engel (2008) mention the significant meaning of an image while creating a certain perceiving way of a particular culture. The author of this article focuses on literary images that demonstrate the present situation in Poland concerning infrastructural development and individual changes in the Polish society after becoming a member of the European Union. The above-quoted aspects are investigated within the framework of imagology that deals with examining literary images.

According to Fischer (1987) the most significant aspects of imagological research can be described in the following way: the images that are created in a text A are compared with the images presented in a text B (Fischer 1987: 55): “Every time when a text A (that of course also includes some elements of texts B, C, D, E…) is compared with a text B the national images of How and Why can identify the diversity of various processes and decide whether they only concern belles lettres or also focus on other issues” (Fischer 1987: 55).

Klin (1991) appeals to Fischer’s scientific expla- nation of the existing perspective modifiability phe- nomenon within the scope of imagological research (Klin 1991: 145). By consulting the relevant literature Klin comes to a conclusion that: “Stereotypes which present some literary images are always modified by their authors” (ibid.).

On the other hand Dyserinck (1988) defines ima- gology as „Occurence of national identity“ (Dyserinck 1988: 26).

Worthy of mention is the issue concerning the fact that imagology can be also regarded as intercultural hermeneutic (Gadamer 1990: 303). Köchler (1978) considers the herein before mentioned intercultural hermeneutic as a kind of foundation of “dialogues of civilizations” that has an important influence on international relations and successful intercultural understanding (Köchler 1978: 40f).

Dilthey (1966) treats intercultural hermeneutic as a method of human sciences: “Hermeneutic is a theory of art; a theory of art that deals with reverse engineer- ing” (Dilthey 1966: 707).


As above-mentioned, the strong will to become a part of the integrated Europe leads to a series of changes including the infrastructural aspect of the new reality. The analyzed texts of Steffen Möller, Mat- thias Kneip, Adam Soboczynski, Andrzej Stasiuk and Krzysztof Wojciechowski try to provide an explanation for the current infrastructural situation in Poland from the Polish and German point of view.

On closer consideration of Polish cities the author of this article suggests to focus on the Polish capital city. Möller presents Warsaw as ‘‘the ugliest capital city of Europe” (Möller 2008: 340). This statement did not influence the publicist’s need to live there and investigate the polish-german relations and the differ- ences concerning mentality (ibid., 343): ‘’I have never seen such a city before which such words as concrete dessert suit so perfectly. It has not changed until now (ibid.). Möller also conducts an inquiry into discover- ing the advantages of Warsaw (ibid., 343f). The first one relates to the modernity of the city: ‘‘Warsaw is a perfect place for shopping since a few hypermodern shopping malls have been build” (ibid., 343). Ac- cording to Möller the second advantage of the Polish capital city pertains to traffic intensity: ‘’There is not such a traffic chaos in Warsaw as in other European metropolises. In Cracow the traffic is worse because there are plenty of one way streets” (ibid., 343f). Also the little number of tourists is contemplated by the es- sayist in a specific way: “There are no tourists. This is an advantage of being ugly. The squares, streets and shopping centers are because of this fact not too crowded. Those visitors who come here concentrate on the Old Town and disappear somewhere between Wilanów and the airport” (ibid., 344). As the fourth advantage of living in Warsaw the author points out the possibility of meeting the Polish celebrities almost everywhere: “It is typical for all the capital cities that the members of the whole population group meet one another everywhere. In the metro network one can see businessmen, politicians, moderators and factory employees. The city center is small, so you can see about three celebrities during one walk“ (ibid., 344f).

Polish and German approach to capital cities can be considered according to Möller as significantly different: the Germans are very proud of Berlin and the Polish seem to be ashamed of Warsaw (ibid., 346): “This remarkable Polish people attitude towards their capital city can be described as sadomasochism. It is seen in Europe as unique. The inhabitants usually tend to be proud of their capital city. The citizens of Berlin claim that Berlin is he coolest city in Germany that completely differs from Cologne or Hamburg” (ibid.). Möller tries to show that the sadomasochism concerning Warsaw can also present some positive issues (ibid.): “I admit that I do enjoy this remarkable sadomasochism of Warsaw inhabitants. Such immi- grates like me do not need to feel here as tourists or aliens. We sit altogether at the Vistula shore and we envy those tides that just a few hours ago were swim- ming under the castle in Cracow“ (ibid.).

Kneip’s Warsaw observation equals to Möller’s point of view. The writer points out that the infrastruc- tural modernity is considered to be a very important facet while analyzing the Polish capital city from the point of view of city development (Kneip 2006: 95). On the other hand – according to the author – there is only one word that can describe Warsaw – and this word is ugly (ibid.): “Warsaw cannot be used as any motive, the city somehow does not suit cameras or post cards” (ibid.). Kneip concentrates on discovering the beauty of other Polish cities such as Cracow or Wrocław (ibid.): “The Polish adore Cracow, Gdańsk, Toruń or Wrocław. In these cities there is the certain atmosphere, the people say and smile in way that may remind the Italian one” (ibid.).

The dynamics of infrastructural development can be also observed in Cracow (ibid., 131). Kneip’s study of the Polish cities reveals a pattern of results which demonstrates Cracow as the most beautiful among all polish sightseeing places. The mentioned matter seem to irritate the essayist (ibid.): “I might be angry because so much attention is constantly being paid to this city” (ibid.). In author’s opinion the other cities have to fight with the past trying to collect some reasonable amount of money for necessary renovations that can enable to forget the communistic look of these places (ibid.).

The rapid infrastructural development of Wrocław is also worth mentioning. An investigation into the pro- cess of infrastructural modifications shows that some time ago there was a huge competitiveness between Wrocław and Berlin – both cities were trying to win the title of “the biggest construction area of the world” (Kneip 2006: 159). Kneip describes Wrocław as “more beautiful than Cracow“ (ibid.) and focuses on the so called “European face” (ibid., 162) of the city: “In this city no difference between Germany and Poland can be observed. The picture that I see has an European face” (ibid., 161). In Kneip’s opinion Wrocław’s beauty is overwhelming; it is also the Polish city in which the infrastructural changes may be described as the most dynamic ones (ibid.).

Soboczynski attempts to search for the identity of Polish cities that tends to be under constant change in the new polish society (Soboczynski 2008: 64). The author discusses some of the problems involved in investigating attitudes to the changing reality and comes to a conclusion that Polish cities have lost their own identity because they put too much effort to imitate the western ones (ibid.). Soboczynski re- gards them as caricatures of other well-known places (ibid.). At this point the essayist brings into focus the description of Warsaw: “A bad taxi driver in a false Wałęsa-moustache is a reflection of the whole city. Warsaw means nothing more than a perfect copy. In the auratic archetype it repeats the faded myth of the capitalistic west” (ibid., 54f). The writer also reveals further characterization of the Polish capital city in this manner: “Around the railway station one can see the upper class and their freshly made great fortune (…). I visit the Intercontinental Hotel and Marriot Hotel skyscraper bars. These are meeting points of the super-moneyed ones from the capital city that have come a long way from rags to riches. Where is my pinot blanc?, they ask” (ibid.).

Soboczynski illustrates Warsaw as an unreal place, as an illusion (ibid., 64). In author’s point of view the Polish capital city “copies the western countries in a way that is supposed to be its own invention. It tries to show its innocence. What a paradox. Life needs illusions to initiate some actions. Said Nietsche. And all the time one needs a lot of them while being in Warsaw” (ibid.).


After much discussion about infrastructural modi- fications based on essayistic texts one can arrive at a conclusion that all the chosen writers consider the constantly changing image of the Polish society as relevant when it comes to turning into a consumer so- ciety. Particularly with regards to the above-mentioned infrastructural changes the establishing of the comfort- able lifestyle in Poland is regarded as a very important factor while becoming a part of the integrated Europe. This part of the article offers an investigation into the new Poland with reference to imagological differences and similarities between the Polish and the German nation.

According to Möller (2008) there is a significant difference between Poland and Germany while con- sidering the age of wealthy inhabitants – in Germany all important posts belong to the representatives of the so called old generation (Möller 2008: 142) . In contradistinction to it in the post communist Poland the most relevant positions are dedicated to young people (ibid.): “Poland is – as distinct from Germany or Japan – dominated by the younger generation. Young people preside over the most significant posts and huge amount of money. At the age of thirty it is possible to work as department manager or project manager” (ibid.). A similar situation pertains consumer goods and the new habits of consumption – these facets are also associated with the members of the young generation (ibid., 143). The essayist points towards status from Polish and German perspective – in his opinion the so- cial status of young Polish people is comparable to the one of german elderly inhabitants (ibid.): “Meanwhile I wonder when I see a sixty year old German driving a Mercedes or a BMW. When it comes to expensive cars in Poland, their owners are usually less than fifty years old, and sometimes even less than fourty” (ibid.). The essayist explains his theory in this way: “The Polish people born before 1960 are the losers of the system change in 1989. They do not really have a chance to find a good employment. They will never be able to spend their holiday in Scharm el Scheik. It is a place where young Polish generation meets old german generation” (ibid.).

Möller also concentrates on the fact that the post communist governments of the new Poland prefer contacts with the USA and admire this country (ibid., 54). The author provides the following explanation of this situation: the Polish adore the United States and Americans because they associate this country with freedom – there is no other nation in the whole Europe that focuses on liberty so strongly (ibid., 54). Möller carries out the following explanation of this aspect: Poland and USA are combined with each other by means of the joint history – many Polish inhabitants emigrated to America or Australia in the last hundred years (ibid.). This facet draws a distinction between Poland and Germany or Poland and other countries such as Ireland, Italy, etc. (ibid. 54f). Möller considers the German society as significantly different – there can be observed a rather “anti-America-hysteria” (ibid. 54).

Soboczynski attempts to build bridges between the new Polish image as consumer society and its ethics (Soboczynski 2008: 60). The essayist supports the statement that ethics in the new Poland is not considered as an important value and describes his experience gained in Warsaw: infidelity belongs to everyday lifestyle of the Polish – it is quite common to visit many various beds at night and after that sit in the church as if nothing bad happened (ibid.). The writer highlights the two uncommon proposals that he received from both female and male prostitutes while spending a night in the European Hotel (Hotel Europejski) in Warsaw: “After the long evening at Le Madame’s I heard that something was being pushed under my hotel room door. Suddenly I was awake and afraid of something dangerous. I turned on the light and saw two cheaply printed piece of paper. The first one was from Magda who wanted me to call her to spend a nice evening together (…). The second piece of paper showed Piotr (…). He also offered some nice hours together” (ibid., 61).

Soboczynski also tries to engage his readers’ at- tention to another phenomenon that in his opinion exists in the new Polish society – the cult of material- ism (ibid., 62f). According to Soboczynski Poland is developing into a society that worships mammon – a plenty of Polish businessmen put a lot of emphasis on themselves and their activities trying to present themselves on the top of the world and act as gods of the young capitalism (ibid.). The infrastructural growth has affected citizens‘ behavior: they started to pay attention to branded articles that are no longer considered as too expensive for them (ibid.). The au- thor challenges the statement that Polish women look particularly beautiful and elegant – instead of this he regards them as a “shining and sensual kitsch of a catholic-rooted society” (ibid.). Worth mentioning is Soboczynski’s opinion that such behavior is treated as characteristic in societies that eventually obtain the result they were hoping for – in this case it is combined with changing the communistic reality into capitalistic country: the young capitalism offers a diversity of at- tractions: marvelous piece of clothing, luxurious cars and houses, a possibility of exotic trips all around the world, great job opportunities, etc. – it depends on particular person how she or he takes advantage of all the above-quoted goods (ibid.).

Andrzej Stasiuk’s book (2008) under the title Dojczland can be counted as another example of imagological point of view concerning Polish-German relations. The writer presents his observation in a particularly ironic way – starting from the title that is a Polish phonetic transcription of the word Deutsch- land (Germany). Stasiuk dissects the topic of Poland as a consumer society and comes to a conclusion that consumption has also a plenty of advantages (Stasiuk 2008: 43). The author missed particular aspects of the young Polish capitalism during his trip to Germany – one of them was connected the Polish shops that are – in contradistinction to German shops – opened on Sunday (ibid.): “I did not even have a minibar in my hotel room. And it was Sunday. Everything was closed in the main street (…). In one of the shop windows I discovered a bottle from Burgenland. But the guy in that shop concentrated on cleaning up and fully ignored my shy request (…)” (ibid.).

Kneip (2006) also hints at the post-communist rapid change in Poland – there can be noticed a following constant exchange: the old life becomes the new one, the unknown countries and its traditions are treated as well-known ones, the exotic inhabitants from other countries are no longer contemplated as strangers (Kneip 2006: 31): Poland as a country “welcomes me at the end of the century in an anxious way” (ibid.). The author describes the uncertainty of Poland while attempting to be a part of united and modern Europe, the speed of infrastructural and individual changes that cannot be stopped or limited anymore and the new western traditions which are constantly being added to the Polish everyday life (ibid.).

Kneip adverts to the fact that the former commu- nism era and the current infrastructural development are affiliated with each other (ibid., 32): “Everywhere in the streets, flats, shops, hospitals, on the farms – I was a witness of quarrel and contradiction. I was a witness of two systems fighting with each other. But we need more time to see the winner” (ibid.). Kneip observes the above-mentioned situation in various spheres of life: “There is a certain difference that can be pointed out in private and in professional life, it can concern the little ones and the big ones, it occurs on each corner of this country. (…) On a train one can see mobile phones and notebooks next to old schoolbags and shoes. In the streets old Polish Fiats drive next to brand-new German BMWs” (ibid., 31f). Kneip regards the present situation in Poland intently and comes to a conclusion that the flats and houses, the cars, the piece of clothing, and the whole present lifestyle of the Polish can be contemplated as nothing else but a per- fect copy of western cultures, their everyday life and traditions (ibid., 32): “Young Poles run into a massive debt just to be able to welcome the new reality with a new suit, a briefcase and sunglasses. The others do not reveal if they became rich in a legal or in an illegal way during the chaos connected with the end of com- munism and the beginning of a new era” (ibid.). Kneip also bespeaks the look of the new buildings in Poland – they are not incident to the previous ones anymore (ibid.): “The houses on the left and on the right side of streets follow the western style, people pay atten- tion to all the modern glass facades of the banks that are seen in each town and city – various architectural experiments are a trend nowadays” (ibid.).

Another issue that reminds of being a part of the western world is also viewed in Poland – mobile phones that are being heard everywhere – on a bus, on a train or in the streets. A former luxury article has become very popular and commercially available to everyone (ibid., 59).

Wojciechowski’s (2002) viewpoint stands in con- trast to the aforementioned attitudes. The essayist does not concentrate on infrastructural development in Poland too much – he prefers to focus on individual changes analysis in the new Polish society. The writer points towards the issue of Polish mentality that in his opinion has not modified to welcome the era of consumer society (Wojciechowski 2002: 60): “Poland is a country where borders, landscapes and policy are easier to change than individual and collective identi- ties. When it comes to the most important issues – the good and the bad ones – the Poles are now not different than they were two or three hundred years ago” (ibid.).

According to Wojciechowski Polish people constantly hold together in a way that they did in the time of communism when friendship and harmony were con- sidered as significant values (ibid.): “(…) They talk politics and protest in the same way, they work and get drunk in the same way. And in the same way they worship the Socratic ethical principle that encourages them to be faithful to themselves” (ibid.). The fact of not following certain rules may in Wojciechowski’s point of view discredit Polish citizens – a person who constantly changes his attitude towards various aspects of life cannot be trusted (ibid.).


What this all amounts to is that being a new mem- ber of the European Union is usually associated with a plenty of modifications concerning a particular country. According to the analyzed publications of the well-known and respected Polish and German writers such as Steffen Möller, Adam Soboczynski, Andrzej Stasiuk, Matthias Kneip and Krzysztof Wojciechowski one can come to a conclusion that Poland is undergoing radical changes. The presented imagological perspec- tive focuses on two significant aspects: the infrastruc- tural development and the individual changes in the so called new Polish society that can be beheld as a consumer society. The above-mentioned authors try to examine all aspects combined with the new reality to present the Polish and the German readers the possibly most objective point of view. While analyzing the in- frastructural modifications of Polish cities they regard the beauty and the ugliness of such cities as Warsaw, Wrocław or Cracow, etc. The authors explain why so many young Poles are given the best positions in their professional life and can afford expensive consumer goods. The essayists emphasize the fact of copying the western countries when it comes to infrastructure and mentality. In the above-quoted essayistic publica- tions Poland is treated as a country that is constantly between two different worlds: between the fading communistic era and the modern consumer society where materialism, certain image and branded articles play a very important role. The old and the new reality are described as two opponents that continuously fight with each other and the winner is perpetually regarded as unknown.

Worthy of mention is the fact that the imagologi- cal perspective is only one of possible perspectives dealing with Polish-German relations after Poland joined the European Union. On the other hand it can be considered as a significant viewpoint that influences

the Polish and the German public opinion: each book that was presented in this article, was published in Poland and in Germany.


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JOANNA ZATOR-PELJAN, PHD Vice-Dean and Assistant Professor Poznan University College of Business POLAND

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