Polish ‘Rip van Winkle’ wakes up to new world order

DZIALDOWO, Poland, June 14, 2007 (AFP) – It is the stuff of fairytales and happy endings, the story of a Polish railway worker who woke up to a new world of plenty after falling into a “coma” 19 years ago when Poland was still communist. “The only problem now is having the money to pay for it all!”

Since a Polish television station reported this month that railway worker Jan Grzebski, now 65, had roused from a coma-like state after nearly a generation, the phone in his humble apartment in this northern Polish town has not stopped ringing.

Everyone — the Chinese, the Portuguese, the Americans — wants to interview the Polish “Rip van Winkle,” the bearded storybook character who slept for 20 years.

Even warnings by Polish professor Hubert Kwiecinski, who is the health ministry’s adviser in neurology, that this may be less coma and more modern myth in the making have not dimmed the public’s interest.

“We can’t say with absolute certainty that this was a case of someone being in a coma or any form of coma such as being brain dead or in a vegetative state,” Kwiecinski told AFP.

After he was hit by a train in 1988, Grzebski was left bedridden and unable to speak, but he did not lose his vital functions.

He did no