Through much of the 1980s and early 1990s I lived in my family’s Warsaw apartment in Aleja Szucha, just opposite the old Gestapo HQ. During the war the block had been used as married quarters for the Germans; they could torture a Pole and then pop across the road for lunch with the wife. There was still a chill about the place. Since it was one of the few buildings left standing after the war, it was taken over by the up-and-coming communist elite.
Michael Moran would have relished the downstairs shop. There, every day for decades, this microcosm of Poland’s changing elites has performed an absurdist pantomime while queuing for bread rolls and newspapers. Handshakes are refused, eyes averted; old betrayals are etched in the memory across generations.
History is taken very personally in Poland. No more so than when the country suddenly changes step. The Poles measure out their lives not according to whether you were a fan of the Rolling Stones or the Beatles in the 1960s but against a somewhat