Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017 in a nutshell

Customarily, last days of an ending year are a time of summaries, concluding thoughts and attempts to predict events in a coming year. Hence, let’s break it down to three main topics the blog has been meant to broach.


I admit not to have devoted much attention to current affairs in 2017. I have grown weary of nasty stuff going on around and have given in to the feeling I am too powerless to change anything. Many liberal voters have also displayed similar fatigue, so the activity of anti-government protests has generally waned, with one noble exception of mass protests in July to stand up for independent justice system.

PiS is holding strong in power and enjoys support of nearly half of all surveyed in polls, a larger part of electorate than those who voted for them in October 2015. The popularity of PiS is an effect, not a cause. Seasoned observers of the political arena keep arguing what has driven high support for party which resorts to autocratic measures and slowly, yet consistently dismantles democratic mechanisms. The blame weak and quarrelling opposition with lack of counter-agenda, they blame policy of lukewarm water in the tap, pursued by PO-PSL government, social inequalities, fear of migrants and criticism towards run-down Western Europe.

The key political event in 2017 was, in my opinion, change in the position of the head of government. Home-like housewife Beata, being a prime minister of ordinary people, was (unsurprisingly?) replaced by a modern-looking, wry-smiled former CEO of Bank Zachodni WBK whose net worth of over 30 million zlotys does not rank him among ordinary people. The nomination must have been a blow for several members of PiS who have stood aside Mr Kaczynski for many (mostly bad) years, while Mr Morawiecki started his political career merely two years ago and lacks merits several faithful henchmen of Mr Kaczynski could boast about.

Adrian (named after a character from “Ucho Prezesa”) has finally wasted his chance to morph into Andrzej. President Duda in July vetoed two out of three drafts law prepared by the parliament and in September came up with alternative proposals. As it eventually turned out, amendments pertain mostly to division of power between wielders of executive power and do not touch the lousy gist of new laws.

In 2018 I do not foresee a breakthrough. Unless weak opposition not only unites, but also lays out a reasonable and credible counter-agenda to rulings of PiS, little is going to change. I even doubt if a serious scandal breaks out, it will not drag down this government. The government has had numerous cock-ups along the way, but it remains teflon-coated. PO also has been shaken by several scandals for many years and support to it oscillated near 50%, in some time PiS follows the same path, provided they do not rig the elections beforehand (which is not improbable with the amended elections law recently enacted by the parliament).


The Polish economy kept growing strong, however too low investments and too high reliance of GDP growth on consumption are still the ailments which need to be tackled by the government economists who seem to be complacent with how things come out.

The labour market in Poland has never witnessed such shortage of labour force. To fill in vacancies several companies need to hire migrants from Ukraine and retain current workforce with solid pay rises.

Pressure on wages is slowly translating into spurt in inflation which is not yet above central bank’s target, but has lifted from near- or below-zero values where it has been for some time.

The threat of inflation so far has not convinced central bankers to tighten monetary policy; consequently real interest rates in Poland are now around -1%. Most members of Monetary Policy Council tentatively speak of the first interest rate increase in the second half of 2018, those who would initiate monetary tightening right away are unfortunately in the minority. Unfortunately, since in my humble opinion the buoyant economy would withstand slightly higher interest rate with no major problems.

Poles also eagerly buy durable goods. Sales of brand-new automobiles and dwellings have been record-high in 2017. The car sales may dwindle rapidly, but the property market is not poised for sharp decline, since it is hard to find a reasonable flat in the advanced phase of construction or finished. Property developers have no problems for finding buyers for dwellings whose construction has not yet commenced, meaning they will not be left with stocks of built, ye unsold flats for the coming two years. Also property prices on the primary market in Warsaw, after being flat for four years, began to go up, but still in a moderate single-digit pace, fending off the risk of a bubble.


Little has changed in this sphere in 2017. On the blog I dedicated more posts to private stuff.

2017 has been a year of frequent travels abroad. Never earlier in my life have I been outside Poland four times (Spain, Germany, Italy, Malta) over one year and never have I spent abroad 24 days in a year in total.

The affection has struck me out of the blue when I least expected it, after weeks of ruining uncertainty it has shaped up and is likely to last long.

Paradoxically, with a mass of good things happening to me, I was also struck by an illness. I am still trying to overcome (therapy proved fruitful, yet badly prescribed medications have wreaked some havoc and got things worse, currently I am on the mend) it and hope to fight it down in 2018.

I also hope to find enough inspirations for writing in 2018. Most bloggers active in the best years of English-language blogosphere in Poland have dropped off, two of us hold on. My goal is to carry on at least until I reach a full decade of blogging, namely until February 2019.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Cicha noc - film review

Not a secret for (sparse) faithful readers of this blog I am fond of Wojciech Smarzowski’s films. I watched all, except for Róża (time to catch up tomorrow or on Tuesday),  and reviewed here Drogówka, Pod mocnym aniołem and Wołyń. If so, seeing “Cicha noc” by Piotr Domalewski (silver screen debut of the young gifted director and scriptwriter) was a must.

If naturalistic depictions of grossly imperfect reality and acutely presented characters take your fancy, you will definitely not regret watching this recently premiered film. Unlike in most films where Christmas Eve is a bright day and snow lies all around, here even the weather is painfully realistic – the day is dark, grey and it rains. Just like on most Christmas Eves over the last decade.

The dark side of Polishness and shattered family relationships are played up in the entire plot. The Christmas Eve is finally shown as it looks out in many homes, as a source of distress and far from being ideal. The director has deftly managed to squeeze all sorts of familiar shortcomings into one family. A viewer beholds a multi-child family, grandfather with strong inkling for alcohol, jobless father on the rehab, over-caring, tired-out mother, children arguing over dividing proceeds from inheritance after another grandpa.

The director has put together all nasty things which might happen on this one special day and bestowed them on one family spending Christmas under one roof. This reflection of uneasy celebration is probably an amplified version of what many of us could see in a mirror. Luckily, if some of us witnessed or heard of scenes similar to those played out in Cicha noc, this was a just a fraction of the dirt showed in the film. Besides, the dirt is bearable, it does not flow out of the screen into audience as it does in Smarzowski’s films.

Many would be brought down by the cumulation of dirt the film, but my spirits have been lifted. Every time I see most people have it worse than me, it reminds me I ought to be grateful for what I have instead of complaining about what could come out better.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Toruń, just before turning thirty

Off to Toruń and nearby over the last weekend. The purpose of the trip was to take a break from everyone and everything, from all thoughts and tribulations that could bring us down. If you are to forget about the daily grind, the best recipe is a short foray to a nice destination, as at home your mind-bothering stuff keeps you company.

The very trip, except for the fuel, was a birthday gift, the one which I kind of extorted from my girlfriend, yet the idea was brilliant. On Saturday morning I only knew we were about to head for Torun, but had no idea about the details of our accommodation.

Instead of taking A2 and A1 motorway, I decided to take a shorter and more picturesque route via DK7 and DK10, both not actually congested on Saturday and Sunday. Landscapes of Mazowsze were much more eye-pleasing sights than drab noise barriers fencing the motorway off.

I visited the very city for the first time since June 1998 (counting out one business trip during which I turned up to a warehouse somewhere within the administrative borders), when Toruń was a school trip destination. Finding a place to park a car near old town was a challenge and one of less efficient methods of wasting some twenty minutes, but we took our time. Then we took a walk around the historical part of the city.

To the right, a Christmas tree, lit up by LED diodes. By dint of late-autumnal weather, the place still lacked typical Christmas climate, yet we should have got used to it (last truly wintery Christmas in Poland was in… 2002). The day was dull, grey, short, yet unforgettable.

We strolled further to come across a Christmas fair, a festival with German origins, getting increasingly popular in Poland and staged in most bigger cities in Poland, usually on market squares. Maybe not the best place to do the shopping, but it does not hurt to catch the climate, scents and the scenery.

After eating a lunch and finding the car, my better half programmed the navigation so that it led me to our destination, but somehow showed only directions but not where it guided me exactly. Thus until the last moment I did not know what the destination was. Finally it turned out to be Pałac Romantyczny in Turzno (here snapped on Sunday morning after most of the snow fallen on Saturday evening has melted) – a lovely place, now the object of lovely memories.

For posterity, a short (and duly incomplete) record of my probably bestest birthday ever. The good has come, hope the best is still to come :)

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Remigiusz Mróz

Young and talented novelists are few and far between. Those truly gifted come into the limelight early and usually readership are fascinated with their uncanny style of writing, valour of touching upon problematic or delicate matters or such authors just happen to become the voice of part of their generation. Remigiusz Mróz, born just like me in 1987 (though nearly a year older than me), could fall into any of the categories above. His books have just stepping into shelves of bookshops and filled them, since the skilful writer churns out novels.

My friend Ola has recommended his books to me several times, quoting his age (our peer) and potency in writing novels in different genres – over the last five years several publishing houses released 25 books (crime novels, thrillers, science-fiction) authored by him. My first book by Remigiusz Mróz (Zaginięcie) was lent to me by my mother; I have nearly finished reading it from cover to cover (short of some 50 pages to reach the last page) and I am pretty impressed.

I should hold back from shaping on opinion on all of his writings (which I will draw on) based on one book, but Zaginięcie appealed me with realistic plot, dynamic twists of action, decent focus on details and consistency. A reader truly feels in the centre of the depicted world and characters seem oddly familiar to them.

The language Mr Mróz uses is plain, flows smoothly, is found light to receive. While I have been reading Zaginięcie I felt the author had little problems putting his ideas into paper and editors of the book had little job to do in terms of refining the style.

From my side hats down to the author for decent insight into intricacies of criminal law (no wonder, as he holds PhD in law) – one can easily make out when somebody knows what they write about and does not need to consult a third-party to make their story appear credible.

So again, I boosted the reading statistics which in Poland come out still horrible. More than 50% of Poles have not read a single book over the last year, while I belong to a tiny 10% of Poles who have read more than 7 books in 2016. Despite standing out, I cannot feel proud of myself, reading around 10 books per year (my mother and father read more than 40 books per year each, however as pensioners they have more spare time to indulge in reading).

Next post in two weeks – spending the next weekend I don’t know where, celebrating the 30th birthday with my better half.

Sunday, 26 November 2017


Some claim it should not be a subject of conversations between gentlemen, for some this is a taboo topic to nearly the same extent as sex, for others it is simply not on to broach it and talking too much of it demonstrates one’s pettiness.

Yet the matter is too serious to pass unnoticed, especially if we bear in mind one of most frequent reasons why couples quarrel is money, or to pin it down, the approach to it.

The approach to money begins to be shaped at home. A child observes how their parents handle money and on such basis forms its own financial patterns. Psychologists point out the middle-of-the-road approach to money, i.e. not going into extremes of being parsimonious or wasteful, develops most sensible stance towards money. Oddly enough, adults whose parents were going into any of the extremes, are roughly equally likely to either be skin-flints or to throw about money recklessly.

Most people work to earn money or in other words to earn a livelihood. They are paid money to meet their needs, basic ones such as housing or nutrition and more sophisticated ones, the ones which bring pleasure. No matter how strongly at odds you are with that concept, how you make use of the money to possess or owe, defines who you are. Where you live impacts your comfort of life and describes your social status. What you eat has impact on your health. What outfits you wear impacts how to feel and how fellow people perceive you. Your pastime activities, sports you do, cultural events you attend, travels you take, paint the picture of you and how colourful it is depends also, though, watch out, not only, on what your budget and inclination to spend money is.

Some people are taught not to spend every penny they earn, but to put money aside, with some specific goal in mind, or just for a rainy day. Others spend nearly as much as they receive, yet do not live beyond their means. Finally, lots of people these days consume more than they can afford to, some run up debts cheaply and wisely (e.g. to buy dwelling), others use credit cards and cash loans to consume – buy expensive clothes, host lavish parties, travel to fancy destinations. I am holding back from evaluating whether each of the approaches above is commendable or condemnable, they are just different. The former bring in the virtue of safety, the latter let one live it up.

To lay out my own take on money:
- maximise your income, including all non-pecuniary benefits you may receive (company cars, vouchers to shops, allowances you are eligible to),
- rationalise everyday spending, since repeatable reckless purchases are where most money goes down the drain – hence I prefer super- and hypermarkets to cornershops, I seek out bargain offers, buy things in advance when they are cheaper or in bulk (provided I use them up before expiry dates), and do not take the path of least resistance – for instance I have recently calculated I save between 200 and 300 PLN per month by preparing myself four sandwiches (two eaten before lunch, two as a “dinner”) each day to work from ingredients bought at a hypermarket, instead of buying four ready ones,
- from time to time, be lavish to give your friends / relatives and yourself some pleasure, since life is not only about skimping and saving,
- save wisely, i.e. to do not buy cheap, yet shoddy stuff or lousy food lacking nutrients,
- mind quality of items you buy, attach more importance to durability and reliability than to brand tags.

Finally, the wealthiest folks are not the ones who have earned the most, but those who thriftily disposed of their wealth and knew how to accumulate it prudently.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Road construction summary - November 2017

The grand road completion spree of 2012 (coinciding with the football championship held then in Poland) would probably never repeat, yet nearly five years after that it is worth looking how construction of motorways and expressways in Poland has moved on and what sections are expected to be opened over next years.

At the end of 2012 A1 motorway linked Gdansk with the Strykow junction on A2 motorway. The eastern bypass of Łódź, being a part of A1 had been scheduled to be completed in 2012, yet several tribulations, including disputes with distressed general contractor, delayed the end of works by 4 years. Eventually, the 40-kilometre section between Stryków and Tuszyn was opened on 1 July 2016. Further down Piotrków Trybunaski A1 becomes a decent dual carriageway enjoying the status of a national road and giving benefit of smooth driving (watch out for police patrols hunting up speeding drivers). Troubles begin when one gets close to Częstochowa and down towards Górny Śląsk, where two lanes in each directions with frequent intersections are already congested. Construction of the new motorway between Blachownia north of Częstochowa and the Silesian agglomeration has already commenced and is due to draw to a close in mid-2019. Travellers heading for Górny Śląsk from Warsaw are rather advised to take a PKP Intercity train, though journey durations are around a quarter longer than a year ago…

Over the past two years not a single kilometre of A2 motorway has been built. The section between Łódź and Warsaw, plagued by dense traffic cries out for third lanes in each direction. S2 expressway being the southern bypass of Warsaw was partly opened in 2013, the remaining section of Poland’s capital’s southern ring is to be ready by the end of 2020. In 2021 the A2-S2-A2 trail will end beyond Mińsk Mazowiecki and little heralds any further extension east in the foreseeable future.

S3 expressway, the one I have never driven, in 2012 had a completed stretch between Szczecin and Gorzów Wielkopolski. Today it reaches down to Zielona Góra and further sections down to Bolków are under construction (spent some ten minutes in a traffic jam on A4 motorway where a junction with S3 is built in June 2017). Sadly, the expressway will end in Bolków, while the route down to Jelenia Góra and to the border with the Czech Republic is bound to remain a single carriageway.

A4 motorway whose western parts date back to Hitler’s rule, is now the only border-to-border motorway in Poland, on vast sections a toll road, despite this being one of the most congested roads in this country.

S5 expressway would finally link Wrocław with Grudziądz. Several stretches of the expressway between Wrocław and Poznań (never had a chance to travel between these two cities) have been opened over the recent five years, the remaining are under construction and due to be opened up by the end of 2019. The section I drove several times was between DK92 and Gniezno (the new factory has a training centre out there in the sticks) and this one was extended this year beyond Gniezno, but the wait for the fast-traffic link between Poznań and Bydgoszcz will take some two years.

S6 motorway will one day connect Gdańsk and Szczecin, yet except for section between Szczecin and Koszalin being built, further stretches still wait for better days and higher priority in road construction agendas.

S7 is a dire example of how sluggish the pace of road construction can be. The national road number 7 still connects Warsaw with Gdansk (there is an alternative route via A2 and A1) and Kraków and after years of being built stretch by tretch, yet chaotically – new sections of S7 expressway intertwine with old sections of the DK7 road. It will take two years before you will be able to drive from Gdansk to Nidzica through S7, but then the section to Płońsk which badly needs upgrade stands some chance to be completed until the end of 2021… Warsaw still lacks the northern expressway out of the city, while the wait for S7 down to Grójec is estimated to last 4 years. Further south the road is ready or under construction, down to the border of Małopolskie province, where S7 has gotten stuck as a daydream. I do not even feel like mentioning how badly the road link between Kraków and Zakopane needs to be improved.

S8 expressway has seen a substantial stride. The whole section between Wrocław and Łódź was opened for traffic in 2014. In 2015 the section between Warszawa Opacz and Nadarzyn was also completed. On Warszawa – Piotrków Trybunalski one 20-kilometre section is under construction and should be completed in late 2018. North-east of Warsaw the salvation to residents of Marki, bypass of the town, has recently had its opening deadline postponed again, but still is due to be opened by the end of this year. Works on several sections of DK8 meant to upgrade it do S8 status are under way and in a year it is quite probable one would be able to drive from Warsaw to Białystok without a single stop.

While if you asked me where DK9 runs, I would need to scratch my head twice to think, going forward with next number makes little sense. I am looking forward to seeing S17 between Warsaw and Lublin completed and S61 aka via Baltica from Łomża to Lithuanian border. Well, in terms of road construction eastern Poland has always fallen behind in government road construction agendas, yet the lower priority has been underpinned by lower traffic volumes.

The road construction status as of November 2017 is hereby saved for posterity. For up-to-date information on progress of works, visit the regularly updated map looked after by Skyscrapercity users. Hats down to them!