Returning to Poland, 1996 – 1998

We came to one catholic parish, where they ran some shelter for the homeless. We were admitted and given a place in a small hall with two other families. They gave us warm food and some warm clothes, as well as some dry formula for Dani. It wasn’t the best place for small children, but at that very moment, we were happy to have a roof over our heads. The winter was approaching, and, on a side note, the winter in Poland is not like in the UK. It freezes, and the temperature can reach even minus 20 degrees! So, I was praying just to have a place to stay during winter. After two weeks of staying in the parish, they said they would send us to the village, to work there for food and accommodation. There were a few cows there, and a wood cutting work to be done. We just had to accept it, there was no choice.

The village was two hours by car, I don’t even remember its name. It was a real village, just small houses scattered around. It was a lonely place, there was a middle-aged man, Henryk, in the house already, looking after the property. We were given our own room with two double beds, and an electric heater. I had to cook everyday, not only for our family, but for Henryk as well, and learn how to milk a cow. It was difficult as I never did it, and with my small hands that were used to play the musical instruments and not to do any hard physical work, it was a great challenge. I couldn’t really do it properly, I didn’t have enough strength in my hands, so Henryk helped me. Vlad was responsible for cutting big logs of wood into smaller ones, with a scary electric saw that created a horrible noise. Somehow, we were still living, miserable, but had roof over our heads, and that was what mattered.

It was quite OK for two months. Every day was the same, we were working and taking care of our kids. Then, another family was brought in, from Armenia. It started to be a bit crowded. Then a woman came from the city parish. She wasn’t very satisfied with the way I cooked, and the way Vlad cut the wood. I never liked cooking very much, and especially I wasn’t very keen to serve anyone at the table. I didn’t like the idea of being a servant. I was too ambitious, having been an educated woman, and thought I could do better than serving at the table. Vlad also wanted a better place in this life, not just being a woodcutter. We started to think about getting out of that place, to seek independency.

But, well, easier to say than do. Where would we go, then? It was getting a bit warmer, so we thought about going back to Warsaw, to look further. We left that place, I guess, it was already March, but was still cold. But we were determined to travel to the capital, and try even harder to find a better place for ourselves. We found another charity organisation that ran a few centres for drug addicts. We weren’t drug addicts in any form, but we were admitted as a family seeking refuge there, and even given a separate room. However, they said they couldn’t keep us for long, only for a month. They needed a room for next ‘customers’, ie drug addicts. 

It’s very difficult to remember everything in great details, I’m not even sure where we went next. I remember us staying in another centre for homeless people, don’t remember who ran it. I only remember we were always hungry there, and at some point our girls all got sick and were vomiting. Probably, the food was outdated. I learned that charities usually got the out-of-date food from supermarkets that couldn’t be sold anymore. Well, better outdated food than starving to death, right? But there may be the price to pay. We had to seek doctor’s help to get our children well.

Why on earth I’m writing all this, right? It’s not easy for me to do so, I would rather forget all those experiences that I wouldn’t wish anyone to go through. But as I mentioned before, many people take life for granted, and think it’s obvious to have a nice house, a nice car, a good job. They may think they deserve all those things, or, maybe don’t think at all, just enjoy life. But there may be a completely different life, there are people who are struggling to get by, day by day, dreaming about a warm place to stay, a warm meal to eat, and a comforting friendly word to hear. Often, you wouldn’t get any of those things that should be normal to humans. The world’s injustice was out of my comprehension, it shouldn’t be like that, and I often thought that it would have to change at some point. Yes, it would, we just needed to await better times, and not to lose our hope!