Book Review: Award-winning journalist Witold Szabłowski collects oral histories of Eastern Europe in Dancing Bears: True Stories about Longing for the Old Days

For hundreds of years, Bulgarian Gypsies trained bears to perform. Following the fall of communism, the practice was outlawed in the early 2000s, and the bears, who had only ever known their human family, were released into a reserve. Even now, years later, the bears still stand on their hind legs to dance whenever they see a human.

In Dancing Bears: True Stories about Longing for the Old Days, Polish journalist Witold Szabłowski meets with owners and trainers, workers from the reserve, and other personalities from across Eastern Europe’s former communist states, taking down the stories of people who, like the Bulgarian dancing bears, cannot quite shake the old ways.

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