During my first spring in Warsaw, just after I started studying here, I noticed what one could call a natural phenomenon near the Central Railway Station, which I used to pass several times a week. Probably many of you have seen and know how a fly behaves under the influence of spring sunbeams. Something similar happened at the Station but I’m not talking about flies but the Station’s inhabitants, who treated it as a shelter for winter. When the first sunny days came, they used to get out and for a couple of hours they were blithely staring at… Actually, I don’t what they were staring at, but we can say that they looked somewhat spectacular. During my ten-year stay in the capital I have experienced living in its different districts – Wola, Śródmieście Służewiec as well as on the other side of the Vistula: in Saska Kępa or Praga North – and I always had a chance to encounter those alcohol lovers and even be their neighbour. Sometimes when I met a petty drunkard, his face said it all: “Holy f...! What happened?” But after a closer look I noticed that culture was always above all – they’re always dressed in a button-down shirt, a jacket with hair parted to the side. Also, when it comes to discussing business issues they always address each other with gentleman manners and since those dandies are usually pressed for money, they try not to mention this subject and even if they do they never forget about culture. “Excuse me, would you be so kind as to lend me...” So how could one not keep up with this ‘backyard culture’ and refuse to lend one or two zlotys for a bottle of wine or beer?

Once I had no coins with me so I said that as soon as I come into my flat and put down the shopping bags I would look for some change and throw it out the window to chip in for their desired liquor. And then I heard a response: “But can I trust you?” So we can also observe the issues of honesty or even honour. Our capital is not short of this drinking community. One of the newspapers described a situation when some local authorities in southern Poland declared war against ‘country boozers’ and demanded increased police patrols in the villages, especially around shops selling alcohol. It turned out that shop owners suffered losses because they were required to close their facilities earlier so that “the drunkards would not be making scenes till late night” – one of the local newspaper cited a shopkeeper.

Maybe such situations don’t happen in Warsaw but one of my friends from France says that “here it’s like in Afghanistan”. Obviously he means alcohol consumption and to be more specific - the prohibition on drinking alcohol in public places. It’s not banned in Western Europe and it’s even considered a standard behaviour. Unfortunately, things in Ukraine have also been changing completely for quite some time and now the prohibition on consumption of alcohol in the streets, in parks and so on is in force. But let’s come back to the main protagonists of my article.
Generally, they’re called ‘bums’ but I’d rather describe them as cultural enthusiasts. Once I’ve met such an alcohol-love treesome in a museum in Warsaw at the posters exhibition of an Ukrainian artist Yarko ‘Plakacista’ (Poster Maker). This poster maker’s real name is Jarosław Filevycz and he comes from Lviv. He graduated from the Ukrainian Academy of Printing at the Department of Graphic Design. Between 2007 and 2010 he worked as a graphic artist at the Lviv Philharmonic. In Poland he takes part in a scholarship programme ‘Gaude Polonia’ of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage and he realized a project “Development and Implementation of Posters in Educational Institutions in Warsaw”. The scholarship is aimed at young culture creators and translators of Polish literature from the Middle East European countries. It lasts for half a year and its main objective is to enable getting to know contemporary Polish culture and perfecting creative skills under the care of renowned Polish artists and institutions in the biggest and the most important Polish cultural centres. ‘Gaude Polonia’ programme contributes to building common ground and good relations in cultural cooperation between Poland and its close neighbours: Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. And this tipsy trio came to assess the effects of perfecting creative skills of Yarko. Naturally, the posters and the exhibition opening received a high grade from them. When the reviewers left the museum and cooled down after this culture shock they had experienced inside, they summed it all up: “F..., this wine was good. And those Ukrainian sweets!”

Paweł Łoza

Translated by;€ Iwona Białek