A lofty bay with a shaft of sunlight peeping through the leaded windows but outside the garden had rampaged to obscure the view. The chairs in the bay were rigid and upright, but she chose to sit where she could see more than just decay. Eight years. That’s how long it had taken to keep the promise she made as her grandmother lay dying.
‘Go to Krasne, take my diaries . . . in the bureau, and all of the photos’
‘Where is Cratchnuh Gran? I’ve never heard of it’
‘In Podkar, find your aunties and uncles, you have seven.’
‘I am Polish Anna and you must go, there is a home for you there.’
She turned away and closed her eyes.
Anna married, and lived her life in a small Devon town but she often wondered who might be out there and why her grandmother had left them behind. She found herself alone after an amicable divorce and decided now was the time. Researching on the internet she tried every possible spelling of the place names and got nowhere. The language was difficult with its alien sounds but she tried to learn a few words and when a Polish grocery shop opened, she became a regular customer, just so that she could listen. Of course the people there were bemused by this local woman, picking up tins to read the labels, but they would smile benignly and practise their English on her. Anna told them that her grandmother had been Polish and from Cratchnuh or Podca ‘Have you ever heard of it?’ They were delighted but frowned and shook their heads. ‘Podcarpahtzee’, another shopper said smiling, I have heard of this place’, it is spelt like this, and wrote it down for Anna, Podkarpackie. Anna booked a flight to Krakow that evening.
Travelling alone held no fear for her. Her grandmother had brought her up after her parents died and money had never been a problem, she had used part of her inheritance to backpack around Australia. Arriving at Krakow her first thought was to get to Krasne as quickly as she could, but negotiating the language was a lot harder than trying to buy bread in the Polish shop at home. She would see what she thought must be a post office, and it would turn out to be a Vets surgery instead. She decided to settle in for a couple of weeks and enjoy Krakow, getting on and off of bus’s, finding out how they worked and each day going a little further. In her hotel, her patience paid off when she became a familiar face and people began to talk to her.
Of course they would help her get to Krasne, ‘Why hadn’t she said before?’ The manager helped her find the bus, buy tickets and wrote detailed instructions for her journey. The hundred miles of countryside were stunning but her nervousness spoilt her ride. She had no idea what she would find at her destination, a small town with barely any internet information where no-one knew her. Would they remember her grandmother? By all accounts she had left there at least fifty years ago and never returned. Her hotel there was not the cosmopolitan experience she’s had in Krakow and she thanked Bazyli silently for his notes in Polish.
The taxi driver waited until the studded wooden door opened to her and then gestured that he would return in two hours. She smiled down at the woman who looked puzzled at first, but then spoke, ‘Bo . . . Bozena?’
Inspired by this photo by Barbara Fritze (Beelitz Heilstaetten), courtesy of Frizz text http://flickrcomments.wordpress.com/2012/02/04/looking-back-christopher-hall/
more of Barbara Fritze’s work can be seen here