I grew up in the fall of communism and start of democracy in a small village of Biezen near Czestochowa, Poland. Like with most people, our family had nearly lost everything during the WWII, when both of my grandparents were sent to labour camps. Upon their lucky return some six years later, the house was occupied by a number of displaced people and it was only thanks to other locals who returned to Biezen 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. It was a huge day for everyone. Despite being quite young, I remember it clearly and felt it was important to us. The intergenerational trauma resulting from the war is like a ghost, nobody can quite see it but it’s there, hopefully stopped before the next generation.
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 know deep inside that giving up is a too easy way out. This experience made me push forward.
In our working class neighbourhood of the communism era prior to 1989, nobody had much money to go out. Social life happened at a house or while working, or on a street outside your home. No internet, no phones. I had a 2nd hand German piano accordion and together with my childhood friend, we entertained anyone who was willing to listen.
I vividly remember queuing for hours outside Sklep (the grocer’s) to buy rationed food. The queues sometimes buzzed with lively conversation, more often with resignation.
As a child I made a promise to myself to learn foreign languages, leave my neighbourhood 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, all veiled in a thick smoke of cigarettes and stories of war that stay with you forever. 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 being relived once more.
“10 days” © Aldona Kmiec All Rights Reserved