I thought I would talk about this town I have been living in for the past nine months: Radom. Since last September, I have been teaching English to children and adults in this small city of about 200,000 inhabitants. Radom is located 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Warsaw. To be honest, it is nothing to look at in terms of touristic appeal. It is considered a working class town where a lot of locals actually commute to Warsaw for work. In fact, my Polish friends in Warsaw – and other Poles I’ve met in my travels – ask me, “Why are you in Radom?” “Well, I know it’s not the prettiest place,” says I, “but what’s the big deal?”
“The city is cursed,” they tell me. Cursed? At first, I had no idea what they were talking about, but later I learned that Radom staged a revolution against the communist government in 1976. As a result, the government stopped supporting the city, leaving most Poles believing the city is cursed.
But in all honesty, Radom isn’t all that bad. The cost of living is much cheaper than that of the bigger Polish cities, it has a lovely high street full of cafes, restaurants and bars. There is also a huge shopping center where most of the locals congregate on weekends. It has a bus and train station where I can be in Warsaw or Krakow in under three hours.
So how did you end up in Radom?
It all started over a year ago when I was living in Ottawa. I was unhappy with my current situation and looking for a new job. I had a mutual friend who was teaching English in Radom, and suggested that I apply to the school, which he was teaching at. I did a little research on the city, mainly relying on Wikipedia. My friend was blunt. He told me the city wasn’t much to look at, and that life there can get boring really quickly. Nonetheless, I applied for a job, had an interview with the director a week later. Another week later, I was offered the job, and promptly accepted it.
What do you do there in your spare time?
Wind down from a long week, walk around town, work on my novel in a café, and go to the gym. Most weekends, I travel around Poland and during the holidays I travel around Europe.
Anything you particularly don’t like?
At the time of writing, the city doesn’t have an airport (well it does but there are no flights in operation). So if I need to fly somewhere, I have to use Warsaw Chopin Airport, which means carefully timing logistics so I can make my flight. The city is beautiful in the summer months, but during the winter it’s a ghost town where many bars and restaurants close early. What really irks me is that during the winter months it gets dark at 3pm! It’s also not great looking at the many apartment blocks in the city.
How do the locals perceive foreigners?
Some are genuinely curious about them, others wonder why I am even there. I have even be told once, “We don’t want you in our town!” I simply took that with a grain of salt. I have come to accept these negative opinions, but I also remember that I am here providing an invaluable service.
What do you like best about it?
I can walk everywhere. In fact, it only takes me five minutes to walk from my apartment to work. I wouldn’t have this if I lived in Warsaw or Krakow.
Would you recommend other foreigners to follow your path?
Radom, for me, will challenge even the most seasoned of travelers. One must be fully independent and able to entertain themselves. They will also have to be able to sacrifice certain creature comforts like Starbucks. At the time of writing, there isn’t one in the city. However, there is McDonalds and Pizza Hut.
One thing that foreigners would find interesting is that Pope John Paull II once visited Radom and prayed at the intersection of the place where the revolution took place. Kind of nice if you are a history buff. And Pope John Paul II is revered here (he was Polish himself).
Just to be clear, I am not criticizing Radom. I am simply sharing my reflections on my time here. I am glad I came because it has made me stronger professionally and personally. I now feel a greater sense of gratitude for my own country and community. This is something that so many of my countrymen take for granted. Perhaps Radom will grow and maybe become a booming metropolis like Krakow or Warsaw.