I grew up in a 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 in my family is like a ghost, nobody can quite see it but it’s there. One way to describe it would be ‘the house I grew up in has had shells marks and bullets hidden in its walls. When it was cold, the frost would glitter on the inside’.
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 realise giving up is an easy way. 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. It really was a ‘Balancing Act‘.
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 belonged to another world – 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 from both fear and excitement of stories being told, stories of war being relived once more.
“10 days” © Aldona Kmiec All Rights Reserved