Poland from the perspective of a young, goofball Brit

I dug deep into my Polish ethnic heritage during my prodigal “season” away from the Lord, which I documented here, and I like to occasionally read something about the “old country,” which recently led me to…

A Chip Shop in Poznań: My Unlikely Year in Poland
By Ben Aitken
Icon Books Ltd, 2019, 306 pages.

4 Stars

Few people think of Poland as a vacation destination, hence the dearth of travelogues devoted to that country. The idea for this book came about due to some unique circumstances. First, some background:

Poland and the U.K. have a unique relationship. When Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia invaded and co-partitioned Poland in 1939 at the start of World War II, the Polish government established itself in-exile, first in Paris and then in London. Polish expatriates and refugees continued to flock to England throughout the war and also afterwards when Poland was trapped behind the Iron Curtain. Poland regained its independence in 1989, but the transformation to a market economy was arduous. Poland joined the European Union in 2004 and thousands of Poles immediately began flocking to the U.K. for economic opportunities not available in their own country. There were 90,000 Poles living in the U.K. in 2004, but by 2016 the Polish immigrant population had skyrocketed to 900,000. This heavy influx of Poles sparked resentment among the Brits, contributing to demands by a sizable percentage of the citizenry for the U.K. to exit the E.U.

At the height of the controversy, young British writer, Ben Aitken, wanted to get some perspective on these Polish immigrants so he journeyed to Poland in early-2016 for a one-year stay to acquaint himself with the country and its people. His home-base was the city of Poznań, but during his stay he also made expeditionary trips to Katowice, Gdańsk, Wrocław, Oswiecim, Sopot, Łódź, Lublin, Jelenia Gora-Karpacz, Konin, Krakow, Piwniczna-Zdrój, and Ełk.

Shortly after his arrival, Aitken took an entry-level job peeling potatoes at an English-themed fish and chips restaurant in Poznań and gradually learned some basic language skills and acquired some Polish friends, including a romantic relationship that never quite got off the ground. In describing his journeys throughout Poland, the author makes many interesting observations in regards to the country’s cuisine, history, politics, geography, economy, customs, religion, language, traditions, etc., all told with a good degree of extra-dry British humor. The description of his challenging stay in the mountain town of Piwniczna-Zdrój is especially comical. One criticism is that Aitken devotes an inordinate amount of attention to his frequent visits to the local Polish pubs. While some of Aitken’s youthful antics are funny, I would have preferred a more mature perspective. Ultimately, any non-Christian worldview is going to be unsatisfying for a believer.

During the course of Aitken’s stay, the Brits voted to leave the EU and the Brexit disentanglement continues to drag on. In response to the political uncertainty of the situation, about 100,000 Poles have returned to Poland from the U.K. since this book was written.

I enjoyed “A Chip Shop in Poznań” and I’m glad I stumbled across it, but I’m hoping for a better Poland travelogue in the future.

TIP: The Google Earth app is very helpful while reading a book like this to get a bird’s-eye view of the locations that are mentioned.


36 thoughts on “Poland from the perspective of a young, goofball Brit

      1. Yeah, the history of Poland is fascinating, stuck between Prussia/Germany and Russia, both super-aggressive from the 18th-century onwards. And Poland identified with both Western and Eastern Europe.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Wow Tom you looked up places the author went via Google Earth? You really are the researcher! Thanks for the review, didn’t know that Poles in UK would have any backlash. Crazy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup, Google Earth is a great resource while reading a travelogue like this. To be able to see the actual streets and buildings being referred is such a huge plus. Thanks, this book was fun for me to read and review. I was somewhat aware that the resentment against the Polish immigrants partly fueled the Brits’ desire to leave the E.U. but this book gets into the nitty gritty of those anti-immigrant passions.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Nope, I never wrote about it since the trip was many years before I started the blog. Hey, that would be a good idea to pull out my old photos and “briefly” summarize the trip!

        Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re very welcome!
        RE: I hope others also be able to pray for you!
        Thanks! We had some blessings today with a nitty gritty phone conversation with my wife’s doctor and his agreeing to run some additional tests and prescribe some different meds.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Crissy! Our grandson lives in Germany with his mother and on our visit in 2007 my wife and I took a 5-day side trip to Poland and the city of Krakow. I had such a good time. Pastor Slim Jim suggested I write a post about that trip and I’m going to take him up on it.

      Liked by 1 person

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