The best part about visiting Poland for two weeks is that I was able to spend every minute with my boyfriend Kuba after not seeing him since I left Scotland. We spent most of our time in the small village of Lisówki, 30 minutes outside the larger city of Poznań. Lisówki reminded me of the American midwest: lots of corn and wheat fields, farms, forests, and dirt roads.
The Polish countryside was beautiful but my allergies wouldn’t let me properly enjoy it.
We spent our nights camping in a tent away from Kuba’s parents’ house. Their house was small and his brother and his brother’s daughter were practically living there as well, so there really wasn’t space for us inside the house.
Not that I could have stayed inside the house anyway because my allergies were terrible no matter where we went!
Kuba had planned to renovate the attic of his parents’ house during his two week holiday. Clearing the space and ripping up the floor created a considerable amount of dust every day. This dust permeated the entire house. I couldn’t breathe inside the house, or even just outside because the dust would drift about in the wind.
His parents also had a dog, so the dog dander didn’t help. And Kuba’s brother would take his daughter to the stables from time to time, and since I’m extremely allergic to horses, the horse dander on their clothes seriously aggravated my breathing. His brother also needed to cut grass in the meadow next to the house daily (for the horse to run about) so even when I tried to find sanctuary in our tent, I couldn’t breathe. (Not that anyone should keep horses…a rather difficult topic of discussion for vegans in a non-vegan family!)
So for two weeks straight, I reluctantly medicated myself with several allergy medications just so I could function. I was tired most days because of the sedative effect of some medications, yet none of them worked completely. This was such a bummer! I always suffered from allergies while living in the States, but they practically disappeared while I lived in Scotland. I had hoped my allergies would become less severe because my diet is so clean, but for the time being that isn’t the case.
Camping in the tent was fun, but after not being able to sleep well because of my allergies, I grew tired of it. Fortunately, we were able to escape to an empty flat in the city (thanks to his sister) for a few days.
These were the BEST days in Poland. We had complete peace and privacy at the flat in the city, and we’d spend our days wandering around Poznań, hand in hand. We didn’t do anything touristy or visit any museums. We simply walked around, took some photos, gathered food and cooked back at the flat. I could do these same activities every day for the rest of my life and be happy, though I’d much prefer to live elsewhere! (No offence Poland, but I need to breathe.)
I miss those days. We ate watermelon every morning for breakfast and had our fill of fresh cherries and peaches. We’d often purchase berries and cherries from wee carts on the street. The cherries in Poland were even better than the ones I tried in Berlin.
In general, fruit and veggies were much cheaper in Poland than those in the UK (or in Germany). We spent roughly 60 złoty per day (around £11 or $15) on food for both of us. That’s about half of what we’d spend in the UK. While some would argue that the difference in food prices is due to the difference in wages earned in both countries (people earn less money in Poland), this isn’t the only reason because the same doesn’t hold true for other expenses. I think it is more important to notice the country of origin of the produce and consider how far the produce travels before it reaches the store shelves.
In the UK, grapes were usually from Chile or India. In Poland, we only found grapes from Israel and Egypt. These countries are located much closer to Poland than Chile or India are to the UK, so it would make sense that grapes in Poland would cost less. We noticed this with all of the food we purchased. Not all of our it was locally grown, but most of it travelled a considerably shorter distance than the produce found in the UK.
I am so grateful that his sister let us use her flat as a home away from home. We really needed time away from his family. We never got used to the constant commotion and conversation in and around the house.
His family was friendly toward me, but I never felt comfortable staying with them. I felt like an outsider and didn’t feel welcome. At first, I thought it was because I didn’t speak Polish and because this was my very first time meeting them, but Kuba also felt the same way so it wasn’t just me misinterpreting the situation.
I think the fact that we are both vegan didn’t help. Mealtimes were stressful in the beginning. The first day I arrived, we ate dinner with his family at the same table even though we ate different food—potatoes and steamed veggies for us, some sort of chicken stir-fry for them. Neither of us could stand to watch them eat meat in front of us and the smell of flesh burning on the stovetop made our stomachs turn. Because of this, and because I didn’t want to spend any time inside the house because of my allergies, we decided to eat our meals outside, away from everyone else and regardless of when they were eating lunch or dinner. I think us eating apart further alienated us from the rest of the family.
I had hoped Kuba’s family would be used to veganism by now, meaning they’d at least accept it since he’s been vegan for two years. I didn’t expect any trouble for us, but on several occasions, the topic of veganism came up for discussion, and inevitably the discussion turned into an argument. Not only has Kuba been vegan for two years, but I’ve been vegan for almost eight years now. We’re both healthier and happier than we’ve ever been, we eat as much food as we want and neither of us has health issues, yet this isn’t enough evidence to convince them to give veganism a chance. At the very least you’d think the fact that we have survived and thrived this long shows that veganism can’t be so bad….
It’s sad that some people are so stubborn that they’d rather be ‘right’ than consider objective evidence, even when their health is at stake. This is especially difficult when dealing with family. You want what’s best for them, but sometimes you can’t help them open their eyes.
Furthermore, I am always baffled when people with access to the Internet try to argue against veganism. Veganism is objectively better for our health and our environment, and all the information is at our fingertips!
Unfortunately, no one can force others to be vegan. No matter how poor their health, people still need to make the choice themselves. Maybe his family will come around and acknowledge the health benefits he has experienced, and hopefully, they can go vegan themselves.
I’m glad I was able to visit Poland because having Kuba by my side for two weeks straight recharged me. I’m sad to be apart from him again but I feel like a new person! I’m ready to move on with the rest of this Euro trip. I can’t wait to head to Majorca, Barcelona, and then Paris where I’ll see him again.
I do know that I don’t plan on visiting Poland anytime soon, at least not during the summer!
Is anyone in your family vegan?
How do you deal with a non-vegan family?