“Ed, you want to go to Poland?”
My previous professor Dr. Glen Russell is talking to me as we walk to a restaurant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We’re attending the spring meeting of the American Chemical Society, and it’s shivering cold without my winter coat.
“Why?” I ask.
Professor Russell is a big man in the image of John Wayne. I have difficulty keeping up. He never gets cold no matter what the weather and wears only summer clothes.
“Well, you want to go?”
Russell is a man of few words. I’ve learned long ago to catch on quickly or lose him.
“I guess so.”
I hesitate, but count on something good to happen. I’ve learned this much from previous experience with my mentor.
“I still have some travel money left over in my National Science Foundation grant for trips to Warsaw but I‘ve been over there enough. I don’t need to go again. You can take my place. NSF will pay for everything.”
“I’ll give you the forms. My friend Professor Waldemar Wawrowicz will be your host. He’ll arrange everything on the Poland side. When you get there all you have to do is talk with him and his students and give a seminar or two.”
“Are there any strings attached to going to Poland? I hear Martial Law has been declared.”
“No. Not that I am aware of. You have a US passport, don’t you?”
“Yes. I do.”
“Then that’s all you’ll need. Your reputation as a scientist will be good enough for NSF.”
“OK,” I reply and the conversation is finished.
We’ve arrived. Russell has a reservation. About 20 students and wives are congregated. This is Russell’s treat. It’s a tradition.
The real drinkers cluster around the bar. Russell joins them. I’m not one of them.
Some months later I’m on a flight out of Vienna on Aeroflot in a Russian built Ilyushin jet. This is my first experience on an aircraft making the news because of it’s notorious safety record, but we land safely. The pilot does perform the well publicized power dive on approach.
Warsaw airport looms dark and grim. My passport evidences no problem with the authorities. Scientists are among the highly respected in the Communist regime.
Mickolaj Wadosicz meets me at the inner side of the airport and introduces himself as Professor Wawrowicz’s graduate student. We proceed to his car, a Polish Fiat, and “put-put” down the street. It’s a 2-cylinder 2-cycle mini car appropriate for his needs. He says it’s all he can afford.
At the Hotel I’m shown to my room. Micky promises to join me for breakfast the next morning. It’s been a long day and sleep comes easily.
At 8:00 AM I’m wakened by a woman at the door. This is the alarm call to get up. I’m ready.
After morning ablutions, I find Micky downstairs. We are shown to a table. There is no menu. I’m served a breakfast with coffee. Micky gets the same but no coffee.
Vintage Russian seven string acoustic guitar.