Polish Jazz Penpal

In 1961 I saw a letter in Down Beat from a jazz fan in Poland who wanted to exchange records with an American jazz fan. I wrote the fellow immediately and soon began an exchange that lasted about a year. Andrzej Rusinek lived in Poznan. I had no idea of his age but suspect he was somewhat older than me. The first record he requested was Miles Davis’ Workin’. (A great record!)

I didn’t know who the Polish jazz stars were so left it to Andrzej to pick things to send me. After the first couple of disks I realized I was getting the short end of the stick as Poland couldn’t possibly have players as good as the Americans. Besides, I believed the only jazz worth hearing was played by Black Americans and I didn’t think Poland had any. One record I got featured a decent enough female vocalist. The other was a Brubeckish sounding band. I remember no names. Finally I asked for books and got a beautiful book of photographs of the city of Poznan which I treasured but eventually lost. I lost the records, too. There were also some wonderful stamps including a large triangle that he used for postage but of course with time I lost all these as well.

I enjoyed the letters, though. Andrzej struck me as a bit of a bohemian style intellectual. He loved Mozart and described the artistic scenes, the music, and nightlife of Poznan. As I considered myself a communist I was excited by the prospect of getting the inside scoop on the Polish paradise but he never took my bait. I didn’t get the impression that he was worried about the state cops or anything. I think he just wasn’t interested. Who knows? When I got back from Cuba in the summer of 1962 I wrote a glowing report on the revolution but got a non-committal reply saying, essentially, “that’s nice.” After this other interests took over and the correspondence ended.

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