From Nowy Dziennik
September 20-21, 2003
By Marcin Poznan
When asking for directions in Greenpoint,
there is an 80 percent chance that we will receive an answer in
Polish. We can use Polish freely in nearly all of Greenpoint, since
people of Polish descent own most businesses there.
Even if a salesperson
is not a Pole, communication should not be difficult. With some
gesticulation and Pidgin English, I managed
to buy a phone card at the corner of Manhattan Avenue and India
The same can be said of fruit stands. After I paid for
an apple, a salesperson with Asian features said to me: Dziekuje
in Polish). We can recognize Polish stores by the familiar Polish
names; such as Danuta Store, Mazur Meat Market, Podlasie, Staropolski
Deli, Blask, Kiszka or simply Kosmetyki, Apteka or Komis. In stores
with American signboards, we often find stickers saying ‘Mowimy
po polsku’ (we speak Polish) displayed in the window. Even
if there is no such sign, we can freely risk initiating conversation
in our native tongue.
We can run many errands in Greenpoint using
Polish. Even though the only bank that displays ‘Mowimy po
polsku’ is Morgan
Chase Manhattan Bank, it doesn’t mean that in other banks
- Citibank, Apple Bank or Greenpoint Bank - we won’t be understood.
Poles work in each of these places.
We can be sure of service
in Polish in all the branches of Polish Credit Union - not to mention
the indigenous Pekao, the most famous
bank in Poland. And since we are talking about money, we can use
Polish in every place that features the logo: Western Union. After
all, they advertise themselves emphasizing ‘Mowimy po polsku.’
logical that we don’t use English when inquiring
about the price of some trip in a Polish travel agency. Just like
we won’t order flaki, pierogi or borsch in English while
in a Polish restaurant.
We hear Polish when in a dental office.
Although there is no Polish last name among the names listed on
the signboard at Greenpoint
Community Health Center, it does not mean that the clinic is inaccessible
to Poles. Registration forms and announcements posted on the wall
are all translated into our language.
We can ask for help in Polish
when strolling through the aisles of stores like C-Town and Associated.
We will hear our native tongue
spoken at cash registers and over the intercom. And even if a worker
stacking bread doesn’t understand us, we should not be abashed.
He can go find someone who speaks Polish. Such situations take
place wherever Poles work together with people of other ethnic
The majority of beauty salons are owned by Poles as
well. Hence the signs: ‘meskie stzyzenie na krotko is bez
mycia kosztowac bedzie 10 dolarow’ (men’s haircut -
And who else is going to help us preserve that antique watch
if not a Polish clock master? Even in a Laundromat we can use Polish
when asking for help with a washing machine, or when asking about
which colors not to mix.
If we want to do some reading, we should
visit Polish bookstores or the local library. And if we want some
we should head to a Polish pharmacy, where we can also buy Polish
English is not necessary when we want to send a parcel,
buy a house or get legal advice. We can even use Polish when inquiring
English classes offered in a local English school.
For stores selling
Polish magazines, the rule is that the owner or the salesperson
speaks Polish. But we usually don’t even
need to say a single word when buying a Polish newspaper.
yet to meet Polish MTA workers, bus drivers or police officers.
Although I was able to buy a weekly metro card using Pidgin English
at an MTA booth, it was not as easy as buying a phone card. I was
also unsuccessful when ordering food in McDonald’s. Perhaps
there were no Poles on shift that day. I did not have any problems,
however, when buying a sandwich at Subway. Generally speaking,
in fast food restaurants it’s not difficult to be understood
when the menus are right in front of us.
Having lived here for
a while, I feel that one should attempt to get a driver’s
license. There is nothing easier than using the service of the
many driving schools whose instructors will
teach us in Polish how to drive on American roads. And since we
are talking about cars, let me add that I did not even have to
ask an attendant at the McGuiness Boulevard gas station for gas.
He approached me an said in Polish, “premium or regular?”
the Polish neighborhood would not be Polish if not for an active
party life. There are several Polish bars and night clubs in
Greenpoint. In all of them we can speak Polish, listen to Polish
most importantly, we can drink some Polish beer.
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Translated from Polish by Joanna Sufin