Diplomatic times in Poland for Jay Martin in Vodka and Apple Juice

Jay Martin.
Jay Martin.

MELBOURNE-born Jay Martin never expected to write a book about her three years living in Poland, but then again she never anticipated becoming the wife of a diplomat.

Published by Fremantle Press, Vodka and Apple Juice follows her time in Warsaw and the struggles she encountered along the way, including in her marriage and the language barrier.

“A lot of the events and characters I came across in the diplomatic world did seem to be straight out of a novel,” Martin said.

“Luckily I kept diaries and other notes all through our time in Poland… so when I came to write a book about it, one of the first things I did was read through all of these documents. It was amazing how much I’d forgotten and how much some of the characters who ended up in the book seemed to just jump out from the pages.”

One of Martin’s greatest challenges with her story was making readers understand, despite Warsaw being an incredibly liveable city, just how difficult being an expat could be.

“I would say most people just consider that I was lucky to have had the opportunity and don’t see the downsides,” she said.

“And I can understand that point of view. Could I make people feel empathy for someone who is, on many levels, so fortunate?

“It was actually quite harrowing writing about some of the really difficult times I had in Poland. There’s one part that I’ve never read again, though. Even just skimming through it brings back the feelings of helplessness and despair I felt at that time.”

Martin and her husband bought a house in Fremantle, sight unseen from Poland, because it was next door to where he had grown up.

The first-time author wrote Vodka and Apple Juice over the next three years during her bus commute between Fremantle and the CBD.

It has won the City of Fremantle T.A.G. Hungerford Award, the first creative non-fiction manuscript to do so.

Her husband has since been posted to Alberta, Canada, but Martin said they planned to always think of the port city as home.

“The day I arrived in Canada it was snowing and the wind was so cold that I thought my face would fall off,” she said.

“I confess I had a moment of thinking ‘What have I done?’ but if there is anything I learned from Poland, it’s that life, wherever it takes you, is all about the people you meet.

“And from what I’ve seen so far, Canadians are as easy as it gets to make friends with. They even call out ‘thank you’ to bus drivers when they get off. I thought it was just people from Perth who did that, so maybe we are kindred spirits.”

Martin will launch Vodka and Apple Juice at The Local Hotel, South Fremantle, at 6pm on September 4. Bookings for the free event at www.eventbrite.com.au.