Re-imagining history


In 1991 I moved to the small Czech town of Havířov, situated just a few miles from the Polish border. The coal mining town officially became a town in 1955 having been constructed on the site of several villages with Polish populations. The main street took a long straight path from the railway station up to the top of Bludovice Hill. The Russian army was still based in the country, there was still a May Day Parade with floats and so on which went up through the town. The Communist Red Star was still to be seen atop buildings. Monuments commemorating Russian soldiers killed in the World War Two battles were still about those somewhat less cared for as they had been prior to summer 1989.

Within a couple of years, those monuments to brotherhood and sacrifice were gone. It was as though history had been erased. Statues, Red Stars, flags, signs, monuments, plaques etc all disappeared as Czechoslovakia sought to become more nationalistic and more westernised. The country called Czechoslovakia ceased to exist and the nationalists on both sides wages economic and verbal wars against each other. Some of the monuments turned up in storage spaces – I found a statue of Lenin behind the museum in Děčín. It has probably now been destroyed. There were several monuments rumoured to be hidden in an old church just outside Ústí nad Labem. As the whole suburb was due to be razed to the ground, those have probably been erased too. The Czech governments after Václav Havel turned increasingly to the right as a total opposite to the Communist ideology.

The same phenomenon can be observed in other countries which are close neighbours of the Czech Republic – Slovak Republic, Hungary, Austria, Italy, Bulgaria and Poland. Up in Estonia, the government removed the statue of the Unknown Soldier and placed it in a cemetery. Most other monuments have been removed. Some though were hiding in the undergrowth behind the National Museum some years ago. In Latvia they have mostly gone except for the huge freedom monument across the river, In Lithuania quite a few were still on the streets of Kaunas last time I visited. In Hungary you can find the Communist Museum just outside Budapest where you can buy souvenirs as well as look in awe at the monuments. Life for these countries has moved on but they have not tried to remove all traces of their history.

In Poland the situation is something different. For the PIS government rewriting history and boosting Polish nationalism is a major occupation. Just in case there is any doubt – it was the Germans what did it! Did what? Everything. Polish hands are squeaky clean over the persecution of Jews, building the ghettos, building, running and supplying the concentration camps. Don’t try to suggest otherwise or present evidence to the contrary. It is illegal. The Poles suffered. There is no doubt about that. Monuments to the Katyn massacre abound. The Russians were both saviours and prison guards. They both rescued and killed. They rebuilt and destroyed. However, they were there and nothing can change that fact.

I was driven to this reflection by an excellent article in the British Guardian online about the increasing nationalism in Poland and the removal of Soviet Era statues.

I think I need to spend some time going around the country and photographing anything which remains before the evidence is removed and destroyed.

 

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Posted in Budapest, Hungary, CommTourism, History, Nazis, Ostalgie, Rewriting history, Rewriting history in former Communist states, Writing | Leave a comment

Forgetting the infrastructure is a bad idea


For the past few weeks the normally reliant and efficient tram service here in Krakow has been disrupted. “Stop not in use” signs have started appearing on the tram shelters, sections of line have been surrounded by red and white tape, lines have been rerouted and, on occasion, stopped altogether. What is going on?

It appears that the transport authority has invested in shiny new floor level trams with bicycle racks and USB recharging ports at the expense of replacing the actual lines that the trams run along. The result has been crumbling lines.

Trams are an essential part of the Krakow scene.  They cover large sections of the city quickly and efficiently. They look nice when the appear out of the distant mist. They are iconic. They are great for the image of the city. They do not pollute the environment.

The city has a traffic jam issue with cars, buses, coaches and the occasional lorry jamming up the roadways. Moving around by bus is time consuming and a lot of the journey is spent waiting in jams. Trams, on the other hand, have their own lines and routes. Unless there is a crash or breakdown trams are more reliable.

Here in Krakow we have not had a good start to summer with torrential rain and closed tram lines. In August the fares become cheaper for residents making public transport a better option. Here’s hoping that the city gets the tram lines repaired and the trams start flowing again.

Posted in Krakow, Ostalgie, Transport, Writing | Tagged , | Leave a comment

253 Interactive novel


253 is an interactive novel by Geoff Ryman which was published on the internet back in the days before web 2.0 and the kind of interactivity we see today.

What is 253?

It is an interactive novel written for the net. It tells the story of a train journey. There were seven carriages on a train on the Bakerloo Line. Each carriage had 36 seats. That made 252 in total plus the driver. For each person on the fictional train there was a story written in 253 words. Each character was described in terms of outward appearance, inside information and what they were doing or thinking.

What is the story behind it?

it was written by a software engineer and shows the possibilities of the early internet. It is also an interesting way to play with a story and allow the reader to write their own ending. Thus there are as many endings as there are readers/writers.

How does it work?

Go to the site and start clicking on the links. Below is a screen shot of the book map.

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You can click anywhere to start and as you read along there are more hyperlinks dotted around the page which leads you to another page, another story and more links. It is a bit like a literary maze and you have no idea where you will end up.

Build your own endings?

I don’t think you can do this officially anymore but there is nothing to stop you having a go. The concept is that you use the software  to create collaborative interactive texts. There are some great ideas on The Chronicle of Higher Education for using such programs in an educational setting.

Where can I find it?

The Wayback Machine allows you to revisit this early example of an interactive web=based story. You can find it by typing “253 interactive novel” in your browser or from here 253 page.

Using Twine to create something similar.

I guess that if you like coding and webpage building you could easily recreate such a text in notepad, Dreamweaver or the like.

There is a piece of software called Twine which allows you to create a text full of hyperlinks and unravelled thoughts.

There are links and ideas also on It’s foss and Text Adventures Quest .

There are so many ways of creating hypertext interactive narratives that have yet to be explored and developed that  the surface has only been lightly scratched. As far as I am aware there is as yet no e-reader which can fully deal with an interactive text though I have tried out a couple of game-reading apps on an iPad. It is something I am looking forward to exploring with my next novel.

Posted in Authoring, Computer skills, Computers, Teaching Creative Writing, The Art of Writing, The craft of writing, Writing | Leave a comment

Utterly amazing Kiev


The train journey from Lviv to Kiev takes around five hours but seems much longer due to lack of in-train entertainment such as a decent buffet bar and an open car where you can observe people. The scenery is not so interesting either though I imagine that a little bit of East European snow would make it much more interesting.

The train, an old style Russian type several feet from the platform, was reasonably comfortable. Everyone was crammed into small compartments which double as sleeper cabins on the overnight journey. The only novel thing about the compartment was that the benches lifted up to reveal sizeable storage space, This, I image, would be very handy during an overnight journey as the person on the lower bunks would be sleeping on top of their luggage and thus able to keep a much better eye on it.

The buffet was actually another compartment stripped of most of the seating and equipped with a large table, a fridge, a microwave and a cupboard. I came across this type of operation on the train from St Petersburg to Tallinn back in November so I was familiar with the ordering routine.

  • Go to the carriage
  • Knock politely
  • Enquire as to what products are available
  • Negotiate
  • Select
  • Hand over money
  • Wait for purchase to be prepared
  • Take and consume purchase
  • Return used dishes to the sink in the buffet.

Do not expect:

  • The attendant to speak any foreign language (Russian or Ukrainian is it)
  • The same products as is a modern cafe – no lattes or decaffs here
  • The same standards as in a modern cafe – the coffee preparation used to be called “Turkish” in my Czech days but bears no relation to Turkish coffee being a spoonful of ground coffee stirred into a glass of hot water
  • Don’t expect much or be fussy as stores are limited to be prepared to accept whatever is on offer – the lack of milk meant that I had to add a sachet of 3 in 1 instant powder to the coffee grains (it was reasonably disgusting but broke the monotony of sitting in the overcrowded compartment hoping for some interesting scenery).

The train arrived in the newly enlarged railway station and I just walked straight ahead as I did not appear to see any signage. Once away from the tracks and down the stairs I was in a veritable palace with wonderful images on the walls, chandeliers and stained glass windows.

Kiev railway station

As I didn’t have a map and couldn’t locate the metro I took a cab to the hotel. On the way the driver pointed out, in halting English, some of the sights. The journey took me through the centre of the city towards the harbour and a neighbourhood of old, new, ornate, dilapidated and the frankly ugly. The hotel was a nicely renovated building seconds away from the busy main artery and close to Kontraktova Ploshcha in the Podil district.

DSCN0991.JPG The first evening was spent exploring area between Kontraktova Ploshcha and the river.  The square itself is one of the main transportation hubs in Kiev and many trams terminate there. There are also a lot of bus stops along the route. The square itself houses a few statues and a Ferris wheel. At either end there is a double-decker bus which has been converted into a rather artistic coffee bar.

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Further along to the right is the Pyrohoshcha Dormition of the Mother of God Church which originally dated from 1130s and then was knocked down by the Soviets in 1935 before being rebuilt in 1997-8. The street along from the Ferris wheel houses many top western shops such as Laura Ashley and some of the Italian ones. It is also a foodie hub with pizzerias, burger bars, eco cafes, hipster grazing places and the like. At the far end just after the major road tunnel is the biggest foodie place of all – McD’s. The advantage the big M has is that it is on the waterfront and punters can munch their fast food while ogling the bridges.

Day two involved trying to figure out how to get to the nice churches I could see from the waterfront. Having a great fear of heights I was not keen to use the funicular but that was the best way up to the hill in the 35 degree hill so I paid my 4 HUK and off I went.  The funicular is a truly amazing bit of architecture at the main entrance matching the grandeur of the railway station and contemplating it took my mind off the fact that  we were going almost vertically up the hill.

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At the top I was blasted by the heat and the beautiful blue of the monastery and church complex at the top. St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery (Ukrainian: Михайлівський золотоверхий монастирMykhaylivs’kyi zolotoverkhyi monastyr) is stunning. The large complex is open to the public who can sit in the grounds, visit the Cathedral and buy souvenirs in the shop. I was stunned by the blue of  the outer walls and the paintings within.

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Once up at the top of Old Kiev I was mesmerised. This is truly a beautiful city and here are some of the photos I took to illustrate this.

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Even at 35 degrees Kiev was a stunning place to visit.  I walked along with an ice cold mojito and my cap on my head enjoying the early summer weather and taking in the sights and smells of the city. The next day I had to return to Lviv and said goodbye to Kiev. As the taxi sped through the early morning city I saw with regret the buildings I hadn’t had a chance to visit and vowed to return as soon as possible.

The coach journey from Kiev went through some outstandingly interesting neighbourhoods and villages. I was transfixed and tried to capture as much on video as possible to help me plot a future visit. We sped past decorated village houses, decorated bus stops, monuments to the fallen and the victims of war, tanks, shells, guns and even country-western style restaurants. Ukraine is a truly amazing country.

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Posted in Kiev, Ostalgie, Travel in Ukraine, Travel Tips, Travelling Light, Writing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Museum of Polish Communism


The Muzeum PRL-u is to be found in Nowa Huta, a district of Kraków, The museum occupies the former Kino Światowid just a few short steps from Ronald Reagan Square, which is an odd juxtaposition.

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Kino Światowid now Muzeum PRL-u

This year is the centenary of the foundation of modern Poland and next year is the 70th anniversary of the construction of the town of Nowa Huta around the Lenin Steelworks. It is rather ironic that the museum has an underground exhibition of it’s nuclear bunker which is a legacy of the Cold War situated a few metres from a square named after the great Cold War warmonger from the USA, President Ronald Reagan. Apparently, the former Central Square was named after Reagan in 2004. It seems the government of Kraków view Reagan in a different light to me.

It was interesting to see a Communist-era nuclear bunker along with some of the remaining equipment and solid steel doors. Should the East and the West have gone to war it seems to me that the Easterners would have had a better chance of survival. We had an air raid shelter in our back yard which was left over from World War 2 and which would not have given much protection from anything. But then again, I can’t see that it would have been much fun surviving a nuclear war anyway.

The main exhibition on the ground floor was of a series of strikes which took place in 1968 and the persecution of Polish Jews in 1968. To be honest, I had never heard of these events probably because the big news stories in the West in 1968 were student riots in France, USA and UK and then the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. The fight for the soul of Poland and the fight for control in the Polish Communist Party didn’t become part of my knowledge of history until today.

The exhibition has some interesting archive material such as videos of students barricading themselves into their university buildings and pelting the riot police with snow, photographs of the student resistance and of demonstrations by ordinary members of the public, reproductions of newsletters and other materials from the time. Communism was in crisis and the country was struggling under the repressive regimen imposed by Russia. There were very few freedoms of expression, intellectual life was stifled, the economy and society had stagnated, people were frustrated and bored. The Party ran a smear campaign against Jews as well as intellectuals causing many to flee the country. The exhibition has some interesting interviews with people who were forced to move to Israel, with subtitles in English, and who found themselves Polish refugees in an alien world. Some of them expressed that they had found a home but it was not their homeland.

Upstairs is an exhibition of the Solidarity Movement and the strikes which finally brought down the Communist Government in Poland.

Poland is currently going through a rather interesting period of denial, self-flagellation and apologising for past events while at the same time allowing the government to create new laws restricting freedom of speech and commerce. It was good to see many Polish visitors at the museum while I was there as I think such museums have a role to play in reminding citizens of the dangers of the past and the dangers of revisiting shameful events of the past. The recent amendment  to the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance, passed by both houses of the Polish parliament and signed by the president is a reminder that people do not always learn from history.

Posted in Cities to visit, CommTourism, Europe, History, Museums, Ostalgie, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Utterly Amazing Ukraine – Lvov/Lviv


Just when I thought there was nothing much more to see and experience in Europe than I had already done, I discovered Ukraine.

A few months ago I all knew about Ukraine was that it had been known as “The Ukraine” when it was part of the former USSR; the great cities of Sevastopol and Crimea where located there; Florence Nightingale, the nurse, had worked there under horrendous conditions during the Crimean War which had led her to found a school of nursing; the Russians had re-invaded under Vladimir Putin; some people wanted to remain in the West while others looked East. Then, I went to an exhibition at the International Cultural Centre in Krakow to see an exhibition on Lvov/Lviv. Having seen the wonderful buildings displayed and photographed I knew it was a country I had to visit.

As readers of this blog will know, I am a ComTourist. This is, I like to visit former Communist Countries in Eastern Europe – I see this as compensation for having been rejected by the East German Embassy in London on 1986 when I wanted to go cycling around East Berlin and to practice speaking German. Ukraine is, of course, a wonderful ComTourist destination on a par with Belarus thanks to some existing communist-era reliefs and statues.

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Monument to the Victims of Communism

Getting in and out of Ukraine is a bit of an experience reminiscent of the Cold War Era. Even going on the train from Przemyśl is like going through a corridor to the past.  Przemyśl, by the way, has a lovely station which harks back to the old Austro-Hungarian days of decorated plaster work. I spent a happy hour there getting some Ukrainian currency, munching on a hot dog and admiring the decor.

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To get to the track for the train to Lviv it is necessary to go to Platform 1, down the stairs, along the corridor, up to Platform 3, walk to the end, go down some stairs, walk down the corridor, come up the next set of stair and then go through the gate. If the train is at the platform then the people in charge of each carriage will be waiting at the steps to check your paperwork. When everyone is cleared off the platform then the train departs. I was lucky to be on a new electric train as I still have nightmares of the awful train I once took from Moldova to Warsaw (overcrowded, uncomfortable, overheated, no snack bar and fourth world toilets).

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Leaving Kaunus on the way to Warsaw in 2009

At the Polish border there were the usual passport checks. Mine went through a portable machine and then the guard inspected one page using a special magnifying glass – a remnant of my stay in St Petersburg. Then we moved along to no-man-land where Ukrainian guards took over and re-inspected passports and went through each carriage with a sniffer dog. Eventually, we moved on and were only 30 minutes late.

Lviv railway station is a delight but the area around it no so much so. I am disappointed that I didn’t get to go into the restaurant as it looked rather comfortable. A wonderful lady at the Tourist Information Office gave me a map, a guide book and instructions on how to get into the centre. I bought some tram tickets from a kiosk and then boarded tram #1. This was not one of Lviv’s finest trams, I have to say. It looked like one of those things they used to produce in an Hungarian factory some time in the 1970s. The immediate response to the view was “Dear God!” as it looked as run down as the worst bits of  Kazimierz or Podgórze in Krakow. However, as we came towards the university the roads widened and it was evident that the buildings had been nicely restored.

I had booked myself into a four star hotel just off the Rynok Square, so I was right in the heart of the old city.

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I discovered I was only a few metres away from the remains of the city wall, the square, several eateries, the Arsenal and the Boim Family Chapel among other places. The street I stayed on was also a popular destination for other tourists as well as local down-and-outs who hung around the mini market.

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The old city walls

The delights of Lviv were the streets, the museums, the parks, the cafes, the monuments, the shops, the buildings and the people. It was an easy city to walk around and the fact that there were street signs and destination signs in English really helped. I must say, though, that knowing the Cyrillic Alphabet enhanced my experience as a visitor as it allowed me to read the notifications on the buildings.  The people were friendly and, where possible, tried to help me.

On day one I discovered the open air book market where I bought a copy  of Leonid Brezhnev’s speech to the Russian Congress of 1976 on the topic of foreign policy and a locally published book in English of one man’s journey through life.

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Just off Rynok Square there is a postcard museum with an amazing collection of postcards and printing equipment. The printer helps you to make your own letterpress card using the templates already prepared. I did this a couple of years ago in south Poland when I visited the printing museum so it was great to have a go again.

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I took a tram out to one of the suburbs where I experienced the Lviv housing boom. In fact the district looked like any in Europe except for the addition of a nicely domed church.

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Lviv used to be part of southern Poland so it is no surprise that the city architecture owes a great deal to that of the region. The rulers of the city were a well-travelled and ambitious lot so there is a bit of French and Italianate architecture around.

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My conclusion at the end of the first four days what that I loved Lviv but I had to move on to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.

Posted in Europe, Lviv/Lvov, Photo Essays, Soviet Nostalgia, Travel, Travel in Ukraine, Writing | Leave a comment

Writing in the sunshine


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Here in Podgórze, Krakow, it is just after 10 in the morning and the sun has been blasting down on my patio for the best part of three hours. The sun and heat have persuaded me to move my writing station outside so I can both enjoy the warmth and the open air.

My flat is rather cold and the overhanging balconies from the flats above mean that it is rather dark nearly the whole day. This, I have discovered, is not conducive to writing. I have placed my writing desk in virtually every part of the flat but it has made little difference. So, now I am outside.

Being outside is noisier as I have neighbours who also live out in the garden during the warm weather. I am also overlooked from the second floor flat to my left. Then there is the pollen to which I have become somewhat allergic this year. The upside is that the outside is brighter and warmer.

It is my hope that the sun and warmth will inspire me to complete my Czech-Polish novel. As I have now got over my Polish culture shock and am back writing my blog I have hight hopes of completion at the end of summer.

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An astonishing omision


A few weeks ago I picked up an interesting looking book at a second-hand book store in the centre of Cracow. The owner had been so delighted to have a native English-speaker peruse his shelves that I felt compelled to leave with something. The book which caught my eye had an old fashioned cover design and was called “Writing in Canada.” I had recently been reading about the well-known Canadian short story writer Alice Munro so was intrigued to find out more about Canadian writing and writers.

On closer inspection the book was not just about Canadian writers and writing but specially about the Canadian writing scene in 1955. The book was a compilation of the Canadian Writers’ Conference held in July 1955. Without looking further into the book I decided to purchase it and looked forward to finding out what the writing scene was back then.

When I read the blurb on the back cover I began to get a sense of who the Canadian Writers’ Conference organisers considered to be writers – people who wrote poetry and fiction. Actually, they meant men who wrote poetry and fiction. The blurb makes a mention of “Canadian literary men” and goes on to list a number of them who presented papers at the conference. No women are mentioned. I thought about it. 1955. There were lots of famous female writers about then such as Agatha Christie, Dorothy Baker, Ivy Compton-Burnett, Mary Higgins Clark, Francoise Sagan, Iris Murdoch, Astrid Lindgren and Anais Nin.

This male bias extended to the theme of the conference which was “The Writer, His Media and the Public.” Note the male possessive pronoun there. Where there women in attendance? Clearly so. They provided entertainment alongside their more prominent husbands, recorded events, typed up submissions and got the manuscript ready for publication. Two women apparently spoke at the event: a Miss Phyllis Webb reported her findings on the publication of poetry and a Miss Jay Macpherson typed something up (page. Xi). Two women were involved in discussions according to the contents list.

The list of delegates showed that there were women in attendance but they were not the presenters and discussion leaders. This was mainly a male affair and the voices of the many women writers were not given a platform. Thankfully, the organisers of such events could not get away with such discrimination these days. This little tome is a sharp reminder, though, as to why women should always be watchful of male privilege and promotion.

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A Digital Immigrant challenges the Natives


Are you a digital native or a digital immigrant?

 The description of the generation which was growing up in the new technological ages with computers, smart phones, computer games, digital music players (CD players like the Walkman to those old enough to remember them) was popularised by Marc Prensky in 2001 as Digital Natives. You can find the link to his original document on his website at https://www.marcprensky.com. Those people who were born before the advent of the modern computer ages were referred to as Digital Immigrants.

Prensky believed that teachers who pre-dated the digital age were limited in their ability to communicate with the digital generation. Why? Well, the digital natives had grown up using digital technology and multi-tasking. They could write an email while watching (or half-watching) television. They could work with background noise and action because that is what they were growing up with. The older generation hadn’t had those background noises and so fount them to be distractions.

The skills of digital natives and digital immigrants were also different, according to Prensky. The DIs had to print their emails or reports off in order to edit them as they lacked the skills, or willingness, to edit them on the screen.It was simply more difficult for them to do so. DNs on the other hand had grown up with onscreen editing tools and so were more natural at using them. Prensky assumed that DIs had trouble catching up and would always lag behind.

Theoretically, I am a DI because I was born and educated long before the modern digital age really began to take off. However, I believe that I am a Digital Native Plus as I took to the new technologies like a duck takes to water and I am a highly skilled user.

 Digital Immigrants could apply old school skills to new situations.

I had a person cassette player and a Walkman when they first came out. I also had a Brother Word Processor for writing my college assignments on. I learnt how to use a desktop computer in 1988 when I worked in a publishing company. The typing skills I had gained from doing my RSA Level 1 on a manual typewriter came in very useful when I acquired a word processor and then a desktop computer.

Desktop computers were very expensive in the 1980s so I learnt how to build one using a manual and computer parts bought in a shop. Learning how to build a computer taught me how a computer worked and the language of computer parts. These building skills have been extremely useful when printers have broken down.

Like many young people in the 1980s I learnt how to program using a Commodore computer. The skills I learnt using the old pre-windows computers, CTRL + V for paste for example, are still useful even though we now have GUIs, mice and touch screens I think I can still touch type at a good pace especially since I can use keyboard commands instead of taking my hands of the keyboard to use the mouse or a stylus.

Some Digital Immigrants are more skilled than modern Digital Natives

In the press and online we are often informed that the younger generation with their iPhones, iPads and Xboxes are skilled computer users. More so, we are led to believe, than the previous generation. However, I beg to differ. In my experience those who have grown up while the Internet has been in full swing and are used to using Smartphones, touch screens and apps are lacking in basic computer skills such as touch typing, using basic office and learning software such as Office. People who developed their computer skills using Windows 95, Photoshop, the old MS Office, Dreamweaver and so on are much more skilled that those who can merely swipe their hand across a screen.

I have spent just over a decade teaching ICT skills to young people and have watched how each year the actual skill set has declined along with the development of new technology. I have watched students peck at keyboards and struggle to complete tasks because they do not know how to touch type. They may be good at texting but having good thumb action is of limited use when it comes to populating a spreadsheet or typing up an assignment.

 Implications for teachers, teaching and the future

Prensky informed us that as educators we would need to learn the language of the computer age in order to communicate with the Digital Natives. The irony now is that the DNs need to learn the language and the skills of the Digital Immigrants in order to compete with then in the marketplace. Some young people have coding, typing and application skills but a great many think they are more in tune with digital technology than they really are. I argue that being able to download an app, write a tweet and post on Facebook is far less skilful than being able to write a line of code, use keyboard commands, touch type and know your way around various Office products. We immigrants are now the leaders and the natives are the followers.

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Krakow Remembers 1939 – 1956


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Memorial to those who were oppressed by Communism

For two bright sunny days the people of Krakow turned out to remember the days of terror which are commemorated in the Gestapo Museum in Pomorska Street. The events included a clean up of the remains of  Plaszgow Concentration Camp, walks, an exhibition at the Schindler Museum, talks and a fun run. These events have been running for the past few years and have special significance this year as Poland celebrates 100 years of independence.

For my part, I visited the building built to house students from the Silesian region in Krakow. The building was constructed in the late 1930s and was taken over by the Gestapo in during World War 2. There is also evidence that it was used by the NKVD  (KGB) during the late 1940s and early 1950s.

The rear part of the building houses the memorial 1930 to 1956 (the end of the brutal Stalinist murders) and the cells were prisoners were held and interrogated.

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The memorial to the victims and the entrance to the cells

I have been to several former KGB prisons and memorial sites but am still shocked by the brutality and the hostility towards ordinary citizens that the Communists and the Nazis showed. This small museum contains several artefacts which demonstrate the ruthlessness, the efficiency and the brutality of the Nazis towards all people who they thought were opponents or lesser people. People who were hanged were often left on display in public places for several days as a warning to others.

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If you have seen the film “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” you will understand the significance of the outfit displayed here.  It is surrounded by photos of ordinary people killed by the Nazis. For each photo there is a biography and an account of their fate, as much as is known.

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It is possible to stand in the docks were the prisoners stood as they were condemned.

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Marks made by former inmates of the cells

I visited this sad little memorial on the day it was announced that British and French troops had joined forces with the USA to unleash air strikes on Syria in attempt to defeat Assad and Putin. Such museums remind us that these events may have been in the part and part of our collective European history but history does have a way of repeating itself.

Posted in Europe, Gestapo, History, Krakow, Nazis, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment