In the prologue to UNQUIET DAYS, Thomas Swick describes the deep personal attachment to Poland that led him “to adopt the Poles as other writers had the Greeks.” After he met his Polish wife, Hania, on a fellowship to England, the couple settled in Warsaw for two years, where Swick taught at the English Language College. Swick writes admiringly of the courage and resiliency of the Polish people in coping with the shortages, hardships, and frustrations of life under martial law. Through Swick’s American eyes, we come to admire the genius of the Poles to survive under conditions that we would find intolerable.
Taking us through the seasons of daily life in Warsaw, beginning with the wet, gray days of autumn, Swick captures the ambience of modern Polish life: the rigors of public transportation, long food lines, cramped apartments, and indifferent service in stores and restaurants. He describes the elaborate Polish Christmas and Easter celebrations shared with Hania and her family. He recalls the subtle pleasures of teaching evening language courses to large, crowded classes of eager students. Most interestingly, he offers us a vivid account of the tense months leading up to the crackdown on Solidarity and the imposition of martial law in 1981. He conveys the uncertainty of living under martial law and the courage of those Poles who found small ways to defy it. Finally, he recounts the unforgettable experience of taking part on an August pilgrimage to the shrine of the Black Madonna in Czestochowa.
In UNQUIET DAYS, Swick shares his deep interest in Polish history, folklore, rituals, and traditions. He brings not only a fresh perspective but also a lively and engaging literary style to capture the warmth and rich humanity of the Polish people.