Leonardo’s Lady with an Ermine

Many of my colleagues are writing glorious posts inspired by recent holidays. How envious I feel as I stay locked to my desk, moving inexorably towards my upcoming deadline. However, I did make a short trip to Krakow two weeks ago, for five days, taking all my work with me. I wrote all day in our lovely hotel room and then about 4pm I allowed myself out to revisit the city.

My husband, Michel, was on the jury for the Krakow Documentary Film Festival and I tagged along because it is a city I remember from two decades back. I first visited Poland months after the Berlin Wall had come down.

Of course, my first observation was how dramatically the city has changed. My first visit was, as all my trips have been, for work. I was filming there. In fact, I have been employed as an actress in Poland on several occasions. I have also taken the role of director of English dubbing on a couple of films, written the screenplay for a six-part film series partially shot in Poland, and, more recently, I have returned as an author on a book tour. Over the years, I have been a sporadic witness to its evolution.

When I first went to Poland it was, as I said, after the Wall had come down. Communism was still visible everywhere, of course. There were few foreigners except business folk. It was a time for enterprise, for overseas companies to step in and offer their wares or stake a claim in the opportunities for new business. It was grey. The streets were grey. The citizens, poor. There was little to buy in the shops. Many of their windows were bare with possibly one object on display. There was a subdued, vanquished, sense of national identity because the dominant identity was Communism. I observed certain overseas visitors treat the Poles badly, as the underdog but most were keen to express their enthusiasm at finally being offered the opportunity to collaborate, to create a mix of experience and skills.

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