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C hapt e r F our Goofy the Dog Not long ago, as I was reading one of the latest issues of Kultura, I came upon an anonymous article titled “A Voice from the Motherland .” The author of the article was discussing the attitude of Poles toward America. During the Korean War, he reminisced, Poles who were walking by the American embassy would remove their hats to show respect to the starry flag. I belonged to that group as well. I was a student at a high school for the theatrical arts, and I was expelled a year before the outbreak of the Korean War. As far as I remember, the American embassy was located on Ujazdowskie Avenue, and our school was in the YMCA building on Konopnicka Street. After classes we would take Ujazdowskie Avenue and doff our caps in front of the embassy, and the soldier standing there would look at us with interested benevolence, the kind usually meant for hunchbacks and idiots. We would go to the Information Center at the US embassy as well. None of us knew English back then, but we’d look at the pictures in magazines like Life or Time and other American books and periodicals . Sometimes the Information Center would organize film screenings . We would go, and after the show, undercover agents from the nearby police station—on Piusa Street, I think it was—would detain us. They’d check our ID cards and rough us up. It took about two hours to regain our freedom. But there was an upside: we could discuss the movie we’d just seen with others who’d been in the audience Marek Hłasko 75 and were now awaiting their turn, sans belts, shoelaces, or ties. This happened time and time again. At the film showings at the embassy I got to know a character by the name of Goofy the Dog. Goofy always had pure intentions and good thoughts, but instead of being able to realize any of his ideas— for example, cheering up his owner or a bulldog acquaintance from across the street, or his son—he’d cause a short circuit or a tanker accident, or he’d slam his paw in the door and let out a howl. This would wake up the very bulldog Goofy had been trying to pleasantly surprise, and the dog would give Goofy a shot to the snout. From then on, Goofy became a favorite character of mine, right alongside Nikolai Stavrogin. And there’s probably no pride or exaggeration if I say about myself, “Goofy, that’s me,” just like Flaubert said, “Madame Bovary, c’est moi.” It was about that time Stefan Martyka, a third-rate actor with a show on Radio Poland called Wave 49, was getting his start. This bastard would interrupt programming primarily during dance music hours and say, “This is Wave 49, Wave 49. We’re signing on.” Then he’d get his digs in at the imperialist countries; mostly he sank his teeth into America’s backside. He’d spew all sorts of crude, vulgar, idiotic things and finish up his vitriol with the words, “We’re signing off.” One day a certain student did away with Martyka. At first they suspected it was an act of revenge by Jan Cajmer, who was the director of the dance orchestra at Polskie Radio. It was usually during Cajmer’s program that Martyka would come on. But soon it was discovered that Martyka’s murderer was a steady guest of the Information Center at the US embassy, and the place was shut down. My friendship with Goofy the Dog came to a halt for many years, but Martyka signed off forever. The unrequited love of Polish people for Americans was the subject of a host of publications, articles, and discussions. Essentially, it wasn’t a flattering picture. In American films, Poles overwhelmingly are drug addicts, spies, or petty thieves. Jerzy Putrament, the eminent Polish thinker, has something to say on the subject in his book On the Literary Front. Here’s Putrament the Thinker: “There’s a certain American crime Beautiful Twentysomethings 76 novel set in Chicago. It’s a hot afternoon, a private eye sits in his office and in a half sleep overhears the cleaning people arguing next door . . . in Polish.” And then: “In general, Poles (or rather, Americans of Polish descent, as they’re officially called today) quite frequently make it onto the pages of modern American...


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