Wednesday, June 09, 2010


Łódź, on the road from Cracow to Warsaw, is hardly a tourist destination. But I've wanted to read it since I read I.J. Singers family saga, The Brothers Ashkenazi. And I can testify: a visit to Łódź is a fascinating insight into what Poland must have looked like under the communists and even further back under the tsars.

Apparently at best, Łódź was no more than a big, hard-working industrial city.--”the Manchester of Poland,” I heard someone say. I assume they were talking about 19th-Century Manchester, England, but it also reminded me of Manchester, New Hampshire, where I went to high school 60 years ago. Łódź, is (and apparently then was) bigger, but they are both defined by the old textile mills—massive, gaunt red-brick buildings with lots of windows, side by side with blocks of charmless worker housing. Both in Łódź and in Manchester this stuff evidently stood vacant for a long time, but in both cases it has now been aat least partly revived with restaurants, computer stores and who knows what else. Łódź also has something my high school town does not—ungainly and portentous faux baroque monuments to the industrialist's power.

Łódź today appears to be a functioning city, but by any superficial measure, it looks a lot worse off than either Warsaw or Cracow. Warsaw is charmless but appears to be busy enough and somewhat on the make. Cracow –even after the floods—appears to thrive. But in Łódź, you see bad teeth, crummy haircuts, cheap clothes. I hear tell that some Poles are moving back home from the west. Under the right circumstances I can see how that would make sense. For their sakes, I hope it won't be here.

Update: I am reliably informed that the correct pronunciation is "wudge," as in "there once was a lady from wudge..."

1 comment:

New York Crank said...

Never mind the observations. How do you do the accent marks in Łódź? (I did mine by copying yours, but that's cheating.) I can't even come up with accents egu, grave and a circumflex in my letters to France.

The New York Crank