By Agha Iqrar Haroon
A long-awaited travelogue is published. I was waiting publication of this book since March 2015 when I met writer of this travelogue Juliusz Strachota in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
We met in a motel where we were living and we used to talk hours and hours while sitting in cozy dining hall of Hotel Caravan Serail Samarkand.
I had an opportunity of publishing his interview about his experiences of life—from a normal life to a drug edict and then recovery from drugs. He was honest to share his past and present.
He was expressive because he is a writer and of course is one of the best novelists and short story writers of Poland.
He was nostalgic about past during our conversations and breakup of former Soviet Union left strong impressions on his personality and memories.
“Everything was change abruptly. My neighbourhood was not same—my school was not same. It was total and abrupt disintegration from Yesterday for entering Today. It was sudden and unexpected for a young boy of 10 year of age. It was too much for me”, said Juliusz Strachota when I asked him about his memories with reference to impact of USSR disintegration over Polish society.
Born on 20 April 1979, he is author of 5 collections of short stories including bestsellers like “Dream worth having cigarettes” and “Shadow of the block Miron Białoszewski” (English titles of his Polish short stories). He belongs to a family of writers and journalists. His father was also a journalist before his retirement. His stories and reports are published in different top newspapers of Poland including “Lampa”, “Time of Culture”, “Politics” and “Gazeta Wyborcza”.
Since his book is published and is now in the hands of readers, I requested him for another brief interview. We missed our meeting in Baku because he left Baku Azerbaijan and I reached a day after. A brief part of his latest interview is hereunder:
After leaving the psychiatric hospital I came across the USSR guide, which I used to study in my childhood. Once more: Baku. Samarkand. Frunze. Dushanbe. Leninabad. Caucasian Mineral Waters. Alma-Ata. Young Pioneer camp Artek in Crimea. The names, maps and photos still affected me. So instead of practicing the everyday, I left for a place, where memory and fantasy meet.
The book is the result of four years of travels to places described in an old guidebook of the Soviet Union. Strachota browsed through the guidebook as a child, when he dreamt of becoming a great traveler. Yet, the travels never came to be as Strachota struggled for years with severe addiction. When he got out of rehab and did not know how to cope with everyday life, he decided to begin anew – starting from the last vivid childhood memory. So what if that memory was a picture of the non-existent Soviet Union?
Strachota (he talks about himself) took the obsolete guidebook and left to accomplish a dream, which he almost forgot he had. I travel to every place in the old guidebook. Did I manage to get back the lost time?
“The Polish tourist in the USSR” is not only about the travels through a long-lost country, but also a study of the feeling of nostalgia and the longing for a life that never was.