An interview with Marek Wałkuski, an extraordinary author.
What made you write a book about the United States? Have you always dreamt of your own publication?
The one who encouraged me to write a book was Grzegorz Schwartz from Helion Publishing House. He didn't even have to convince me. I always felt that I should share my knowledge about America with others. I wanted to make Poles see the USA, help them understand that country and debunk some stereotypes about it.
Can you ever compare two countries, decide if one is better from the other? If so: Poland or United States?
Of course you can. I can't see anything bad about that. However, it is worth telling what exactly is being judged, so that one does not compare oranges with apples. Personally, I am incapable of deciding which of those would be a better country. All I know is that the Americans have better roads, better client service, better movies and music, better universities and more space. Poland has the best food products, better developed public transport and the enthusiasm and energy of a country that wants to catch up with West Europe as fast as possible. If I were to choose where the living is better, I'd say: in America. Still, I feel that my emotions are deeply rooted in Poland. I was born and raised there, my family and friends live there as well. All in all, I cannot decide: Poland or the United States.
What's the trait that American young adults have got while the Polish ones don't and the other way round?
I am not into generalizing. Young Polish people differ from each other just as American teenagers do. The latter may be more extrovert, self-confident and independent, true. Poles have more rounded general knowledge. Still, those distinctions are becoming smaller and smaller every day. Thanks to the Internet, youth are much more similar.
Are you planning to come back to Poland, or has the USA become your new homeland?
I am really enjoying my time in the United States. Living here is easier than in Poland. I like seeing the smiles and straight-forwardness of this country. I value American freedom and high manners in the relations between people. Anyways, I am not going to stay here forever. My professional career is connected with the radio and it would be hard to keep it up when in America. Moreover, my family and friends are in Poland. Still, I know that when I come back to my true motherland, I will miss the USA very much.
How long did writing the book "Walkowanie Ameryki
" take? Can anyone become a writer? How to look for (and find) a publisher?
The writing process took me around 10 months, the next 2 were spent on editorials. In my opinion, everyone who has something to say can be a writer. Yet, I need to forewarn you that writing as itself is very hard and uphill a profession. As long as you aim to write a worthy piece, of course. I am not well oriented in the subject of publishers issue since mine was the first to contact me.
How a young person without opportunities to travel the world can do to learn about foreign cultures?
There are a few. Study English and read newspapers online, visit sites about different countries and their customs, make new acquaintances with foreigners. The Internet won't substitute face-to-face contacts, though. Therefore, I'd strongly recommend to do everything to travel as much as possible, or even spend some time living in various places.
So you have never been fascinated with Great Britain? After all, it is also an English-speaking country and the United States used to be British colonies at some point.
I was passionate about the United States much more. Like everyone, I knew that country from numerous movies, songs, stories. I had been dreaming of walking the streets of New York, driving Route 66 or looking down the Great Canyon of Colorado River. I wanted to learn why the Americans needed guns, what hid beneath their smiles, how the suburbians lived. The USA have always seemed magnetizing to me and after 12 years spent there I have to admit that they are so in fact. The UK makes quite a grasping impression, too, yet not as much as the States.
Was it hard to get a job in the Polish Radio?
It was relatively effortless. During my studies at the University of Warsaw, I was working in the students' radio and that's how I acquired the workshop. I was the one to apply at the Program Third (pol. Program Trzeci) and to ask if I could work for them. They said I should come and try. The editors liked what I did and I got the job. I've been working for the Polish Radio ever since.
Do you have any tips for beginning journalists and writers? What's treasured in those professions?
The uppermost thing is to be courageous and stubborn as well as not to be afraid of challenges. The curiosity about the world is the key.