Accommodations – (a) lodgings and (b) compromises – in Poland

By Wioletta Greg
Transit Books, 2019, 191 pp.

5 Stars

When I took my dumb, long prodigal journey from the Lord, I attempted to fill the gaping vacuum with something, so I immersed myself deeply into my Polish culture/heritage, which I’ve described previously (see here). I returned to the Lord six years ago, but I still like to occasionally check out Polish stuff and I recently stumbled across this new autobiographical novel from a Polish author in our library’s catalog.


It’s 1994 and Polish society is still digging out from under 44-years of Soviet domination and repression and must endure the painful transition to a market economy. Despite the new political freedoms, many Poles are still consumed with the hardships of the past. Wioletta moves from the small village of Hektary in southern Poland to the nearby city of Częstochowa to study literature in college. Unable to secure a dorm, she is forced to live at a workers’ hostel with a collection of “misfits.”  The circumstances at the hostel disintegrate into chaos and Wioletta is forced to move into a room at a nearby convent. The mother superior is slipping into dementia and confuses Wioletta with a girl from her long-ago past. In a game of accommodating self-interest, Wioletta begins playing the part and barely escapes with her life. But after securing other accommodations, life gets no easier. Throughout this three-year ordeal, Wioletta must constantly navigate through unstable relationships and challenging, difficult circumstances. Her story is an allegory for post-Soviet Poland and Poles.


I write pretty much every day for this blog, but I’m under no pretension that I am a “good” writer in the artistic/creative sense. Ms. Greg’s (nee Grzegorzewska) writing on the other hand is sheer poetic delight. Some of the credit must also go to able translator, Jennifer Croft. I don’t read much fiction, but when the writer is a gifted artist, it can be quite a ride. This is a melancholy tale, but such is the story of Poland’s struggles. Because of my prior immersion in Polish culture, I felt right at home walking the streets of Częstochowa, so ably and richly described in this novel. The imposing Roman Catholic monastery/citadel of Jasna Góra (“Bright Hill”) looms over the city (as well as the nation) and the sensibilities of its inhabitants, but it’s a false hope and deep down, the people know it.

Above: The imposing monastery/citadel of Jasna Góra and the false gospel it represents towers over the city of Częstochowa and the Polish nation.

Postscript: This library book still sits at home. When I went to our local library branch on March 17th to return the book, a sign on the door said it was closed until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

23 thoughts on “Accommodations – (a) lodgings and (b) compromises – in Poland

    1. LOL! That’s right, Gersom! I went to the library that day to drop off “Accommodations” and to pick up a history book that I had placed on hold and that I was really looking forward to reading. Argh!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. RE: We need to know our heritage

      Thanks, Bonnie! I went a bit too far with it previously, but yes, it’s interesting and fun for a person to learn about their heritage.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. 👋🏻 Hey, Jimmy! Hope you’re off to a good start! I applied to a couple of jobs today – first ones I found this week – but it now takes me 5X the time because I fine-tune the resume to the job posting. Argh!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Wow your library is close and not accepting books too huh? Same here. Sounds like an interesting story! You know I don’t know if I told you before I find Eastern Europe more fascinating than Western Europe. Maybe the mystique of it being different than the West and there’s so much I don’t know of that region!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yup, I really enjoyed this book.

      RE: Eastern Europe

      Just about the only European history we learned in school was Western European, so I really enjoyed my personal studies of Poland and surrounding countries.

      Did you catch the photo of the monastery/fortress at the bottom? It would take a long time to explain, but the place has a tremendous significance to Poles. It has no parallel in the U.S. It was the symbol of Polish Catholic nationalism and independence for close to two hundred years when the country was erased from the map in the 1790s and was later overrun by the Nazis and Soviets. The national icon, the Black Madonna painting, is displayed there. Not counting the millions who drive there, Wikipedia states that 800,000 Polish pilgrims walk to Jasna Gora each year and the average walking distance is 217 miles!!! That’s a LOT of “penance.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I did see that picture; I’m always taken aback at how beautiful some Catholic buildings are yet sad to know how much bad theology and damnation of souls drove such projects to be finished…I know so little of Poland I need to still read that book I bought you recommended of the US Ambassador in Poland

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yup, the architecture is amazing, but it’s a snare and really speaks to the worldliness of Catholicism. The Swedes invaded Poland in 1655 and laid siege to Jasna Góra for a month, but the Poles held out, and that turned the tide. The Poles attributed the victory to the Black Madonna icon and Jasna Góra became THE symbol of Polish Catholic nationalism in all of the subsequent partitions and invasions of the country.
        I’ve been chipping away at a few unread books that I have in the queue, but I may download another Polish travelogue ebook because I’m enjoying the one I’m halfway through at the moment.

        Liked by 1 person

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