I grew up in the fall of communism and start of democracy in a small village of Biezen near Czestochowa, Poland. Like most people, our family had nearly lost everything during the WWII, when both of my grandparents were sent to the labour camps. Such a common story. Upon their lucky return some six years later, the house above was occupied by a number of displaced people. Only thanks to other locals who returned to the village, my family was able to reclaim the farm, or rather what was left of it. One day in the 90s me, my sister, dad and grandma drove to visit the place where my granny spent 6 years during WWII as a farm slave. Despite being quite young, I remember it clearly and felt it was important.
When I was growing up, I was surrounded by nature, hard physical labour and rather harsh Polish climate, which I loved and hated at the same time. You know what hardship is when you’re close to giving up, but somehow, deep inside, you know that giving up is a too easy way out. Looking back, this mindset has helped me to push forward.
Where I grew up, in our working class neighbourhood of the communism era prior to 1989, nobody had much money to go out. Our social life happened at a house or while working, or on a street outside your home. No internet, no phones, just close knit community. I had a 2nd hand piano accordion and together with my childhood friend, we would play to anyone who was passing by.
I also vividly remember queuing for hours outside Sklep (the grocer’s) to buy rationed food. The queues sometimes buzzed with lively conversation, more often with obstinance or resignation.
As a child I made a promise to myself to learn foreign languages, leave my neighbourhood one day and explore the world. It was a ridiculous dream to have at the time, but it was my dream. My dreams lived in another dimension – the world we grew up in was the world where men played cards, women cooked food and children listened to stories about the war, memories veiled in a thick smoke of cigarettes. I wish I had a camera back then, when hidden behind the bed, my eyes were wide open from fear and excitement of stories being told, stories of war relived once more.
“10 days” © Aldona Kmiec All Rights Reserved