Thursday, March 24, 2016

Munich to Dulles

As quickly as these trips pass it is worth it for the new people we meet, the first glimpses into new places and their histories, the foods we haven't heard of, the signs we can't read and the distinctions in cultural and life ways that remind us how much we want the same things from life even if we don't achieve them in the same ways.

I was more comfortable in Poland than I expected. It's a country with which I didn't think I'd have any particular affinity. But I'd forgotten art history, the earliest of which - for western culture - is so grounded in architecture and public art. Less so in Wroclaw, but amazingly so in Krakow, I found myself extremely comfortable, really excited to be seeing the buildings and materials that I only knew from small photos, exhaustive slide shows and finally in documentaries on television or the backdrops of countless movies.

One thing is very clear. Back in the day people really did believe that bigger and taller means closer to heaven, and therefore bigger was better. Not the mundane stuff of regular folk. But places of worship and markers of power. Churches that look like cathedrals. Cathedrals that look like castles. Castles. Well, we only saw one and it was HUGE.

Phil was determined that he would learn one Polish word each day. And he worked at it. There was two words that seemed to present challenges for us. Dziękuję means Thank you. But every time we said it, people laughed. At first we thought they thought we were charmingly bad at our attempt to say it properly. But really, they laughed, and no other words we used elicited that response. Złoty is the name of Polish unit of currency and for some reason we just couldn't remember it's proper pronunciation: swotny, slotty, svolty. We did learn that it means golden.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Message of Peace and Solidarity!

The Defenders were very pleased to coordinate the delivery of a solidarity statement prepared by the organizers of the Social Forum 2016 in Wrocław, Poland (Mar. 11-13) for the United National Antiwar Coalition at the Day of Peace & Solidarity - a rally and march held on Sunday, Mar. 13 in New York City, NY, USA. See Facebook page.

Photo: Social Forum 2016 march through Wrocław's  Rynek Square on Sat. Mar. 12, 2016.

Dear comrades from the United National Antiwar Coalition,

We are sending you our greetings from the Social Forum of Eastern Europe and Cooperation between South and East, meeting this weekend in Wroclaw, Poland. We are very pleased to welcome your comrades at our forum: Ana Edwards and Phil Wilayto. We want to send you our support concerning the anti-war march you are holding today in New York City.

It is very important for us to have the links with you who are from the USA and who struggle against U.S. imperialism and wars and hatred made by your government and other imperialist countries. We are aware how important and hard your struggle is and we are proud to be with you this day in the March for Peace and Solidarity. We want to convince you that your struggle is also our struggle and we are ready to collaborate with you in the name of internationalism to create the world without wars, violence, exploitation and crimes.

Another world is possible!


Eva Grochewska
Moinica Karbouska
Piotr Lewandonski
Naila Wardi
Irina Koval

and all participants of the Forum

There are representatives here from France, Belarus, Germany, Austria, Sardinia, Slovakia, Germany, Ukraine, Palestine, Tunisia, Greece, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Romania, Hungary, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Russia, Moldavia, Hong Kong, China, Bosnia, USA, and Poland.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Conference photos

Session on Ethno-Nationalism and Racism as a Tool for Creating Social Conflict

On the evening march through downtown Wroclaw.
L-R: Bernard Fanou, Cameroon / Ana Edwards, USA

Evening march through downtown Wroclaw. 
Red flags from Social Justice Movement a group based in Warsaw.

Session: Feminism 
Turkey, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Poland

Thanking Ewa! 

Post conference networking at the AMI Fotografia.

Conference opening night

The conference opened with presentations, poetry, and music, including a group singing of the Internationale.

[Phil is transcribing the statement prepared by the organizing committee of the Social Forum we hope will arrive in time to be read at the Day of Peace and Solidarity in New York City today. It is 2:42 pm in Wroclaw Poland and so 9:43 am in DC. and the rally starts at 2 pm there.]

Friday, March 11, 2016

Dulles to Frankfurt

Writing from the Frankfurt airport. We arrived in Frankfurt from an overnight flight from Dulles. Like most international airports it's huge. But some get the inter-facility transport (and restrooms) better than others. It took us an changed our gate apparently just to reroute the overcrowded gate we were intended to go to, eventually... so that an 2 coffee American + 2 croissant = $15! no creme for the 1/2 full cup of very dark brew. But they have recliners and free Wifi. Folks look a little more "grim" but are actually quite friendly.

Poor Phil - space between seat rows on Lufthansa is quite tight, thank goodness for the seat recliner's slide-forward mechanism or he'd have had to hold the seat back tray with one hand. We slept in doses, watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Not bad. Luke looks good in a beard and cloak. But why does the plot always revolve around absentee parents???

In the last hour of the flight, after breakfast, Phil struck up a conversation with the passenger to his left (Ana got the window seat), who is from Germany but works for its Pennsylvania based office doing systems work for a global crane supplier. They compared the two societies from various perspectives, including confirming the fairly common rumor that European workers get more vacation time than Americans. WAYYY more. Like 5-6 weeks vacation the first year of employment. Everyone gets healthcare. It was also important, somehow, to disavow Trump the Presidential Candidate. Really.

It will be cloudy and cold all our visit long.  $1.00 US buys .90 EUROs or 4 PLNs (Polish money). It was 84 degrees when we left Richmond yesterday afternoon. It was 41 when we landed in Frankfurt this morning.

Why are we traveling? A combination of conference, Wilayto family research, and tourism. The Social Forum Wroclaw, visits to Auschwitz-Berkinau Memorial Camps in Oswiecim and the Schindler Factory Museum in Krakow, and site-seeing in Wroclaw - the town of 300 apparently anti-communist "dwarves"?