If you read Reminiscenses from Poland, you know that I reached Bełchatów, almost without mishap. Immediately I was enveloped in a warm Zawady welcome, in the place that Dad once called home. His only remaining sister, Aunt Lusia, lives there still, daughters and grandchildren close at hand. A long summer evening was spent in her garden, rabbits proliferating, and a cardboard box sheltering the tiniest kittens you ever saw. I could feel my ankles being bitten, the pond and the sultry air an open invitation. All in a good cause. Her arm tucked through mine, we took a gentle turn beneath the apple trees. Not long since she was in hospital, with family fearful that she would not recover.
As darkness fell and eyes began to droop, I was returned to cousin Jadzia’s house. Halfway through my Polish adventure. I had scoured timetables, and lost sleep over how I would get from Bełchatów to Kraków. In the event, the problem was solved for me. Jadzia’s daughter Ania and family were driving to the Tatry Mountains, south of Kraków, for a few days holiday. If I didn’t mind being a bit squashed, they would take me with them and break the journey at Adam’s house. I’ve never been one to mind a squeeze. And so it was that me and 2 little girls, with 2 sunhats and a furry green frog, shared the back seat on a 4 hour journey.
We took the scenic route to avoid roadworks, but it was market day in Radomsko, and the car crawled beside the brimming stalls. Once out in gently rolling countryside, Hubert slipped a CD in and we sang along to Polish nursery rhymes. Two year old Nadia’s eyes sparkled as she sang, but all of a sudden they were filled with distress and she was being sick. Swerving off the road into a field, operation clean up began. “She’s never done that before” Hubert ruefully observed. “She’s normally a good traveler”. Five minutes later, in fresh clothes, she was beaming again, and munching a bag of crisps.
At Adam’s house all was suspiciously quiet. No sign of the two little boys who lived there, but the playroom overflowed with toys. A lovely respite for two little girls, who didn’t stop till every shelf and cupboard was empty and there was no space to play. Out into the garden for a quick burn off energy then, fuelled with coffee and cake, Mum and Dad round them up. Time to say goodbye….
I had a luxurious hour to myself before the onslaught. Toys swiftly back on shelves, a peep at TV (Rafa was playing in the French Open) and I was sitting on the balcony, waiting. Hot and mildly harrassed, Weronika and Marta shepherded two small boys through the gate. Bedlam! But in such a good way. My turn to play with Marti, 18 months old and a happy soul, and his rather more cautious brother, Bartek, aged three. Gradually the household filled as first Adam returned from work, then Wojtek, Weronika’s husband, and finally my lovely neice, Ula. One member was missing. Łukasz now lives with his girlfriend and I was promoted to his bedroom. The buzz of chatter, and patter of slippered feet on the tiled floors, filled the evening as we ate and drank. And finally, collapsed gratefully into bed.
Fluffy clouds greeted me through the skylight next morning. Sniadanie (breakfast), and an outing to the park, followed by wolny czas (free time). When I returned from the city, preparations were in full swing, the house full of bustle. Adam’s pride and joy is his barbecue room, a design wonder of wood and folding glass panels. The end wall is solid brick to enclose the grill and a smoker. Marta’s pride and joy is her garden and the delicious meals she provides for her family. Between them they conjure up many a feast.
That evening there was a guest of honour. A gentleman to whom I will always be in debt. Tomasz, Adam’s business partner, a warm and generous man and an impeccable English speaker, made the phone call to Dad that reunited him with his Polish family. (A night I will never forget, my tearful Dad hardly daring to believe his luck). Taste is of supreme importance to Tomasz, and is one of the foundations of the bakery business. Fond of wine and good company, with many tales to tell, you can imagine how our evening progressed. Adam provided salmon and garlic bread from the barbecue and smoked sea bass to compliment Marta’s salads. Wine flowed, and then Łukasz arrived, affectionate as ever. He had spent the afternoon sleeping after an early shift. The children played. Sandpit, bubbles and swing, until it was time to haul them off to bed….
Last day…ostatni dzien… and one last trip into the city. A tram ride home, stopping to collect a deep red rose bush for Marta, and a bag of cherries. A whirl of emotions. Adam, watering the garden after another hot one. Marta, pottering beside him, relaxed after feeding everybody again. The children at a birthday party in the neighbours’ garden next door, laughter and occasional tears drifting our way. The evening settling around us. Time for more goodbyes… we don’t know till when. In halting Polish on the way to the airport, I try to tell Adam how very grateful I am. His eyes twinkle as hugs me….