Anna Katarzyna Dubowska, editor
A YEAR IN POLAND
A year In Poland is a kind of not a very intimate diary to describe what was happening since today up to … we will see. The purpose to write it is to pay back for a hostile treatment of the Batras in Delhi India in 1998, which is my stay in India I’ll remember forever and found myself not enough delicate and tactful to show the same level of interest and care to maintain the contacts.
Today is the 31st of October 2009, a gloomy and quite chilly day in Wrocław/Poland. Sitting in Grzegorz’s room in our flat on the 5th floor I can watch builders repairing the roof on the opposite block of flats. It has already been the second time within this month as the previous reparation was probably bad quality what has been proved by the two days of not heavy rain. The streets of the city, which I can watch from here, are full of crowd and mainly hectic cars going to the cemeteries or giving the lift to the other cities to visit cemeteries there. It’s because today is Saturday. If it had been a regular week day people would visit cemeteries after work as to prepare graves to celebrate the 1st of November which is a seriously treated holiday in here in the mode of falling lives, covering ground and falling temperatures and shortening daylight. The world famous Halloween hadn’t been celebrated before English teachers started to teach English popularly at Polish schools replacing Russian language in early 90’s. English lessons of culture facts mentioned about this odd way of remembering the deceased but as an English teacher I’m not very proud of laughing Halloween celebration in Poland although I had often used it as a subject of my special lessons even at a Jewish School’s students’ treating it as a kind of fun. Kids, putting witches’ costumes, painting their faces and bringing coke, chips and sweets were easier to teach and not conscious the teacher’s trick studied eagerly vocabs for a little treat. In the evening it seems to get more popular for teenagers and even for more than twenty-year-old having fun enjoying a theme clubbing, occasions for having a cup of beer or a disco or fancy dress party in friends or pales company with a thrill of mysterious atmosphere. Carved pumpkins, plastic baths, ghosts, spiders’ webs and witches’ costumes bump up a sale at florists, restaurants, shops and compete with a regular that time purchasing of huge amount of candles, ever-burning fires, lamps and chrysanthemum used to decorate tombs for the 1st of November. This Halloween new joy caught by young is not very favourable for the older generations tied to serious attitude to death and charged with the memories of bloody war and post war history of Poland so we can even observe a clinch of generations when last Halloween party guest tipsy comes back home screaming in the yard first car engine start before the dusk to set for tiring journey covering sometimes long distances to lit candles at distant family graves.
In the meantime, I had a short break for a lesson with my student from neighborhood who gave some news from her former class I taught last school year and miss a bit. And again the old trick worked – she did lots of work unconsciously solving boring grammar drills only because they were about ghosts and monsters. As a thirteen-year old she did nothing about the place she lives so we talked about Frankenstein who is told to be created in a town 60 km nearby nowadays called Zabkowice Slaskie - formerly in German times over 60 years ago - called Frankenstein. She did know nothing about the biggest common tomb of Wroclaw’s (formerly Breslau’s) inhabitants frozen in February 1944 during waiting for train to the west while escaping from coming Russian army and approaching war’s front nowadays covered with bushes and grass on the opposite side of our street where we are going to lit candles tomorrow. Although the sun has appeared it’s still a poor 3 centigrades and pretty cold so decides to stay home and continue writing.
The 1st of November – silence, nobody walks in the street. Sunny morning lights frosty white roofs and cars that remain in the yard car park under yellow and red autumn trees as their drivers are still sleeping or decided to go to a cemetery on a tram to avoid traffic jams and far circles around these areas protected by the police because of thousands people’s crowds. On TV quite interesting although a bit sorrowful programmes about famous world’s, European or Polish cemetaries or interviews with wives or families of eminent people who died last year. The toplas tree completely lost its leaved during last night because of frost so I can see peoples in the opposite block of flats getting ready their breakfasts in pijamas krzątać się [to pronounce: kshontatsh shyem], go around] in the kitchens as yesterday they were cleaning windows with ceremonny probably because families coming today for a visit.