Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 7, NO. 1 / MAY 1988

Poland to USA via Antic I/O

The most unusual story we have ever published


Tadeusz and Jolanta Menert with their five-year-old son Michal.
I don't know how many Antic readers will remember my letter published in the April, 1986 I/0 Board under the title "Poland Teacher." It was a request for reader to send any Atari-related materials for use with my students at the University of Krakow. I explained that few Poles had Atari computers and that software was even scarcer than the small quantities of basic food products reaching this distant and quite different country--where money cannot be exchanged for any Western currency.

Within weeks after publishing my message, I was almost drowning in the wave of letters, magazines and disks. Dozens of people who never met me were suddenly offering to pay the subscription fees to various computer magazines so that I could receive them directly in Poland.

It is said that extensive users of impersonalized computers are deprived of warm feelings. On the contrary, these supposedly heartless computer monsters actually appeared to be much more friendly and understanding than others who never touch a computer keyboard. It seems that the popularity of personal computers creates a network of friendly users willing to share their concepts and knowledge no matter where they live or what they do.

In June 1986, two months after my letter appeared in Antic, I was forced to leave Poland due to various political reasons. I had to leave behind my Atari, along with almost all my belongings. With my wife and our four-year-old son, Mike, I landed in West Germany.

It seemed quite natural to try to get to an English-speaking country. I was, after all, an English teacher. The United States was our choice. However, according to current immigration laws, being a political refugee isn't enough for admittance to the USA. Sponsors are needed who will help a refugee settle down succesfully.

With no relatives in America and only a few pen-pal Atarians, it seemed almost impossible for us. Besides, deprived of my 800XL and disk drive I could no longer count on writing interesting letters, full of computer news and gossip, to the States.

Although I never openly asked any of my friends for help in getting across the Atlantic, they offered such help on their own! By September 1986, we already had our sponsor, Marlin. But there were still long months of waiting while our paperwork was processed by the American immigration authorities.

Having quite a lot of time at my disposal, I looked around to see how well the Atari was doing in West Germany, since I had read so many positive things about the growing Atarian population there. However, it was hard to find a single active users group. It was somewhat sad to see that other computers had so many active users groups holding regular meetings, advertising in local papers, organizing computer shows. And I found only one or two Atari-specific magazines--they were exclusively for the ST.

In August 1987 we finally received the long-awaited letter saying that we would be allowed to come and live in the United States of America. Less than a month later, we landed happily in Colorado, heartily welcomed by people we had never seen before in our lives. When they decided to help us the year before, the only thing they knew about us was that we needed help. Thanks to them, we were able to start our new life on the American soil.

But some thanks also must go to that little magic box called a computer. I am often asked how it happened that we ended our long journey in Colorado. Before giving any more detailed answer, I always reply "Thanks to Atari!" and I watch the confused looks.

When you are starting life over again from the very beginning, there are many important things to take care of. But although it will definitely be some time before we can afford to buy a computer, I know what make I will choose when the time comes. I owe you too much, Atari, to trade you for something else!

P.S. I would like to assure everyone who sent Atari materials to Poland in answer to my 1986 I/O letter that it is still being used by my friends living there. This has been a great support to those needing helpful information that would otherwise be unavailable in Poland. Thank you once again.

Tadeusz Menert, former English professor and present janitor still welcomes any letters from Atarians willing to write to him at: 4040 S. Garfield Avenue, Loveland, Colorado 80537.