the story of w & w
Some time ago I decided to ask my grandma about my grandfather who passed away almost 20 years ago. When he died I was very young and there are only a few things I remember about him – he smoked very “heavy” cigarettes, he used to sit at the kitchen table (a very small one) and read, he didn’t have two fingers and every time we would ask him what happened, he would say: A frog bit them off. Oh, and there was a shed, just below the flat, where he used to keep all his tools and sometimes we would see him there. That’s it. I can’t recall anything else.
I’ve never asked my granny about him before and for all these years she’s never been mentioning him. In the beginning we used to visit his grave
a lot but we never actually talked about him. So, since my granny’s memories are still pretty much vivid and I love to listen to her stories, I decided to record some of them.
The story of W & W
After the II WW, my grandmother’s family moved to a village in the west of Poland. She was born and raised in the east, on the land that belongs now to Ukraine but back then it used to be Poland. When, after the war, the borders shifted to the west, a lot of people from the east where resettled to the west. Her family was one of many. She lived with her mother and 3 brothers (two of whom were her half-brothers) in a village 90 km away from Wrocław. Her mother used to send her only daughter to Wrocław, where the young W worked hard for her uncle. It was mostly field work and she was barely getting rewarded for it. Sometimes she didn’t have anything to eat for the whole day. Sometimes there would be flies in the soup left on the stove, so it was not eatable at all. She worked from dusk till dawn and when she finally had enough of it and went back to the village, the uncle came for her the next day. Truth is nobody really cared about her and what is going to happen with her in the city.
She met W at her uncle’s house but did not even bother to talk to him. My grandfather used to come over there quite often. After some time my granny finally went out with him, as she says, to have some peace of mind. She was not really interested in having a boyfriend at that time. However, they would go to see motocross together from time to time or go for walks. Sometimes she would go dancing with her friends and party until 5 am, while he would stay alone and read books. According to my grandma, he was not a very sociable kind of person.
When W & W were 24, my grandfather asked my granny to marry him. She didn’t think for long and agreed only to think “what the hell am
I doing?” the next day. She was not convinced it was such a good idea but she already said yes. You see, back in those days once you said A, you had to say B. She was not sure she wanted to be with someone, whose family encouraged him to drink with them on a regular basis. She was not sure, whether marrying a guy with one pair of pants was a good idea.
Nevertheless, they married in 1953. My grandmother looks upset or serious on every wedding photograph. She didn’t want the wedding party and she didn’t want to see her half-brother’s family there who after arriving, run from the bus to the table without even greeting the wedding couple. She had to borrow the money for vodka from her neighbour because my grandfather brought only 25% of what he should. Not to mention that it was my granny who had to buy his clothes. The day that is supposed to be one of the most important and happy in one’s life, turned out to be a hustle for her.
First two years after the wedding were relatively good. One of my aunt’s (my mum’s eldest sister) was born one year after W & W got married. But my grandfather used to visit his family’s home almost every day, where the streams of alcohol were floating continuously. Years passing nothing changed. It actually was only worse. There were days my granny didn’t have money to buy bread and feed her three daughters because my grandfather would spend his pay on booze. Often he would be getting home wasted, not able to stand on his own two feet. My grandmother felt helpless, ashamed and angry. She worked in a laundry run by Russians. Again, it was a very hard physical job. My grandfather was a driver. When he was getting some extra money for the gas scams or for giving someone a lift, he would either give it to his family or simply buy alcohol. He hit my grandmother once after she slapped him and pulled his hair on a moor outside the house when she found him drinking with his mates. The only time.
She didn’t let him do it ever again.
It seems to me she was never truly in love with
a man. And she never experienced a true, unconditional love in a relationship either. She doesn’t deny those two years after the wedding but the other forty were a constant fight and sorrow. After learning about this, it doesn’t make me wonder why I never hear about my grandfather.
All of my granny’s life was a struggle. First, when she was a kid. Then when she was growing up. And finally when she was an adult. I admire her for her inner strength. For the will to fight after all she’s been through. For her efforts to provide her kids with food, clothing and education. She is
a strong woman. I think this is our family’s trademark – all women are strong. All of us have gone through a lot. In different times, with different things but all did. Sad as it is, most of those things are related to men from our family. Husbands, fathers, sons, brothers. Most of them are gone by now but the thin thread that still connects us may be invisible but it does exist. Sometimes it is just impossible to cut it. Just like my granny couldn’t cut hers.