Friday, January 11, 2008

from Warsaw: one last effort

We are not sleeping well. We doze off alright, but at two we are up. I write, Ed reads, we watch CNN and BBC and wait until sunrise. And then we are too tired to get going.

On this last full day in the city, we get to the lovely old (but really new) café for breakfast after they have stopped serving it. No matter. A morning, sorry, afternoon meal of apple cake and a sweet yeast roll is perfect.

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And again, slowly, tentatively, the sun comes out.

I tell Ed that I don’t think I have captured the essence of Polish life well enough here, on Ocean. I suggest a walk through my old neighborhoods. Past shoe stores, schools, bread shops, milk bars, past old churches and old women selling old everything. I take a photo or two. Not of anything unusual, not anything splendid at all. Just the ordinary stuff of an ordinary day. Here's one of women waiting for a tram.

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As the sun moves closer to the bare branches of trees, I turn in the direction of Lazienki – the most beautiful of all city parks.

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The weather – just at the freezing point, but fairly sunny – has brought out more than a handful of people. Older people, non working people, preschoolers.

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Everyone has something in their pocket for the birds that live here. My sister has given us bread and nuts too and, as last year, we are absolutely delighted to throw bits of crust for the peacocks, ducks and birds.

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The squirrels are fewer than before and they are fussier: they dispose of uncracked hazelnuts and walnuts and seem to ask us to break the shell before handing them their treat.

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When the sun finally disappeares and the chill becomes more pronounced, Ed heads back to the room and I begin what has to be described as a rush of last minute embraces. Some of my friends and family are more patient with my restless spin through Poland this winter. Others – not so much. I understand their puzzlement – why so short? Why only three days?

It is as much as I can do this time.

I stop in again at my dad's, meet up with my sister, drink tea with one special friend and eat dinner with a family of another and now I feel truly that I have never left, even as I sit there and try to bring Ed, who speaks not a word of Polish and understand little of what it means to feel Polish, into this peculiar world of close ties and long history.

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daughter, mother

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father, daughter

At the end of the day I am spent and so again, I do not sleep. At five in the morning, we are on the way to the airport. Wet freezing drizzle dirties the window of the car. It’s nice to be driving at this hour – the driver tells us. It’s nicer to be sleeping under a quit, I’m thinking.

I’ll be back soon, I tell myself. And maybe I’ll be calmer and less rushed and maybe I’ll venture out of the city and maybe I’ll capture the faces in new ways, because the old ways are beginning to feel remote, as the country distances itself more and more from the way I knew her thirty years ago.


  1. I am among those who are sad that your visit was so short. I read your blog faithfully all year in anticipation of another trip to Poland. They are your best pieces, the photos and the text of Poland, because your heart is there in your words.

    Thank you for sharing your heart with us. Thank you for showing us Poland.

  2. To see anything through your eyes is a treat, but in particular this lovely city which has such special meaning for you and is so foreign to most of the rest of us. Your trips all seem too short to me. On the other hand, you certainly know how to cram a lot in!

  3. For me, it was another week of work, sorting through problems, dealing with corporate politics. Thank you for allowing me, for a little while each evening, to be somewhere else.


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