Chapter X

England-Beginning My Life With Olek

 

 

Finally in the middle of April 1948, the weeklong train journey from Bullowayo to Cape Town began our journey to England. The waiting was over. Once again I admired the beauty of the African landscape of Rhodesia and South Africa which sheltered me from the war during the five years. A feeling of gratefulness and nostalgia filled my heart. However, making a permanent home here would be difficult and unsafe.The inequality among the people would surely lead to trouble.

The ship which we boarded in Cape Town was very comfortable, much more so than Dunera (1942). Food was good and recreation exciting. Unfortunately, seasickness spoiled it all for me. However, it was interesting to admire the beauty of the ocean and the sky. Interesting stops in Casablanca, Canary Islands, and other ports provided a great deal of excitement.

At the end of a second week, the ship docked in the port of Southampton in England. The question of what awaited us stayed in my mind constantly. When would Janek and Olek visit us? After the warmth of Africa, England seemed damp, cold, and unfriendly. The uncertainty of our future weighed heavily.

Trucks provided transport to a temporary camp, Daglingworth; again, long barracks, strange people, rows of beds. Terrible headaches, dizziness, and constant shivers landed me in a hospital the very first day. There I spent three weeks. The doctors felt that it would take about two years to get over all the tropical diseases, which made me ill for such a long time.

There were no letters from Janek, my brother, or Olek and it was difficult to understand why. Olek promised a visit and our permanent location depended on Janek's whereabouts. Finally, after a few weeks we heard from both. They both changed the address and did not receive our last letters from Africa. Our arrival in England surprised them.

Janek was not a very keen correspondent. His letters were infrequent and photographs even more so. In the last one, he looked thin and small. To see a "giant" arriving in the hospital for a visit was a real surprise. It was difficult to believe that it was my little brother whom I last saw seven years ago. Now he was significantly taller than I was. After all, Janek was now 18 years old. It was wonderful to see him again.

Soon after Janek's short visit, Olek wrote that he was coming to London for a meeting and at the same time would visit our family. My feelings of expectations were very unclear. There was a certain friendly bond between Olek and me. After two years of living in the same quarters, I ended up having a crush on him. Olek did not even suspect it. How would he treat me now? I was a grown up person. Would he still try to embarrass and tease me as he did in Russia?

It was Sunday morning. My friend and I were walking in front of the barracks. Olek, carrying a small suitcase, approached us and asked if this was the barrack where a Lukaszewicz family lived. The friend gave the directions. Olek did not recognize me. After a while, I went in and when I greeted Olek, I noticed that he had lost some of his beautiful hair. Comparing to what he looked like when I saw him seven years ago, now he looked quite old. Looking old at 27?

The afternoon was spent listening to Olek's chatter. It was also necessary to pack for the next morning. The family was being moved to Kelvedon in Essex. Thinking that it would be on the way to Cambridge where Olek lived now, I invited him to travel with us. Later he enjoyed teasing me that in this way I encouraged his interest in me. He was stretching it a little, but travel was spent in pleasant conversation.

The arrival in Riverhall took place in the late afternoon. Olek helped with the luggage. The shelter was provided by tin, half-barrel barracks which once housed US Air Force personnel. A small tin coal stove supplied some heat. The meals were cooked in the common kitchen for all the inhabitants of the camp.

There were seven sites of such "barrels of laughter" (as we called them), spread over a large area. People from all directions walked to the common kitchen for their meals. Some ate at the small dining hall. Others brought their meals home to share with the whole family in the privacy of their new home.

That night, Olek was invited to friends for supper. We both knew the man in Russia and Olek met him sometimes in Italy as they both joined the Polish army. My stepmother felt that Olek should have not accepted an invitation that did not include me. It was a bit strange. After all he was our guest.

Since we were tired after the journey and my year old half brother Zbyszek needed quiet, everyone went to bed. I was not very sure what my role as a hostess was, but I decided to stay up.

Olek came in quite late and being in a good mood decided to flirt and offered to kiss me. Since we were (so far) only friends, I felt that he expected a little too much. But, I thought, here I was 23 years old and until now I never let anyone kiss me. It would be interesting to find out what was it all about. What happens when the people kiss? After prolonged pressure, I decided to find out and was somewhat surprised that some of it was pleasant. However Olek's good night hug and a kiss left me somewhat disturbed. But my resolve was still, that I could not marry him because he was a flirt and a womanizer. I felt like chuckling when Olek said, "You know that we cannot get married this year", he added after a pause. What did he think? He did not even propose or ask me if I would even consider being his wife. He took me for granted and I was too shy to say anything about it.

Next morning Olek left very early waving goodbye from the distance. He promised to visit us sometimes. That was all. I expected only that much but why was I disturbed. In the late afternoon, a girlfriend whom I met on the ship came to visit. It was raining but it did not stop us from going for a walk. It was necessary to find out a little more about the camp, which was to be our new home for quite sometime.

First of all, we decided to look for a chapel. As we entered it and said a short prayer, a priest invited us into his head quarters. Since we had many questions about work possibilities and life in general the visit lasted quite a long time. When finally we decided to return home it was pitch dark outside. Only then I realized that I did not know the number of our family's barrel (a barrack constructed from a metal). Peering in the windows, walking around and around somehow we managed to locate the right place.

Next day an official announced the place and the time for the job interviews. This was the reality of life. What would I have to do? My health was poor. I had no energy. Any physical work would be too much. Poor knowledge of English and lack of training made it almost impossible to acquire an office position.

Almost all of us were offered a job in a Courtould cotton factory in Braintree. There was no other choice. The meals prepared in the common kitchen had to be paid for. To get to the factory it was necessary to walk 1 miles to the bus. The bus trip lasted hour. Since the route to the bus was all uphill, I was exhausted at the end of it. The work in the mill was demanding. Walk back home at the end of the day took the rest of my energy. I could not wait to collapse into bed. The next day was the same routine. No wonder that after two months, I ended up in the hospital suffering from ulcers and severe anemia. I was discouraged and depressed. My hopes for going to university had no possibility to materialize. A future without health and education seemed very bleak.

Olek came to see us in July and made it clear that he wanted us to have a future together or so he said. Since I considered him to be a bad boy, I was afraid that he would not be faithful and decided to end our relationship. I asked him not to visit us but later changed my mind and told him that I would enjoy seeing him since we had known each other for such a long time, and faced so many difficulties in the past. I was glad when he visited me in the hospital and could not ignore his attention. We became closer and closer as we saw more of each other. For months I had to take treatment and was not able to work which upset me a great deal. Olek's visits were a welcomed diversion. Going to dances and the theater, although very seldom, visiting friends together lifted my spirits. I continued to ask Olek to behave like a grown up and be more serious but he told me, "It bothers me when I am serious" and went on joking and clowning around. He was working in Cambridge. His work was not very satisfying but again, without knowledge of English, it was impossible to get anything better.

In October, three of my friends and I were invited to visit Olek and his friends in Cambridge. It was a very happy event. At that time I realized that the future without Olek would be very unhappy. I was in love with him and fell in love with Cambridge. If only I could study there. But poor health and lack of funds still made it only a dream.

Since Olek could not get free time we had to wait till December 12th (Olek's name day) for his next visit. His letters were very frequent and welcome. We made plans for Olek to spend Christmas with my family in Rivenhall and were very happy about the prospect of being together. Janek was coming home too. Mr. and Mrs. Chmara, the parents of our friend (Olek's and mine), who died in the army, came from London. My father knew them from Poland. We enjoyed being together.

Christmas of 1948 was a very happy one for me. Finally it was a Christmas with a family. I missed my mother and my older brother (now in Argentina) and Olek missed his parents and brothers. However, we were now thinking of creating a new family and became engaged on the New Year's Eve. I even forgave Olek when he volunteered to vote for my friend if she entered a beauty pageant when we attended our first New Year's ball together. Taking me for granted, he forgot that maybe I would have some chance and needed his encouragement.

Everyone was concerned with the future. Poland was still overrun by the communists. That made it impossible to return there. It was time to make more permanent plans for a home in England. Mr. and Mrs. Chmara had no other family or friends and asked Olek to buy a house with them. They had chosen him to take place of the son that they had lost. It was decided that both Olek and Chmaras would come back in a few weeks to look for a small house in Braintree. After that was done, I was chosen to be an interpreter in the procedure of arranging the deal, price, contracts, rates, down payment, etc. Although Olek and I were engaged, no one thought of writing my name into the contract. Olek and Chmaras were full owners. However, when I asked for permission, Olek let me move into the house at the end of January 1949. Olek was still in Cambridge and I began working in a laundry since my health slightly improved and I even gained some weight. I was no longer a 103 pound skeleton but all of 112 pounds.

Staying in Braintree was beneficial in many ways. It took only 10 minutes bicycle ride to get to work. Not much effort so I had enough energy to carry on with my duties. After supper I went to bed early for much rest was needed. I wrote letters to Olek for I missed him very much. His letters were also frequent reassuring me of his love. This reassurance meant a great deal, because I was still unsure of my future. I was lonely, unhappy, unhealthy much too long, and had experienced so many tragic events that it was difficult to embrace better times very easily. Olek was a much easier going person due to his optimism, clowning around and a sense of humor. He came out of the war time nightmare a much stronger person and very generously shared all these traits with me. From then on, he became my source of strength in more difficult life experiences. Sometimes, even Olek became impatient when with me doubts crept into my letters whenever his were late as much as one day. I realize now that my emotional as well as physical strength was spider web thin. Was Olek a hero for having to put up with me? Even now I hesitate to be sure and to admit that Olek had strong love for me. Could anyone really love me like that?

Writing the above, I wanted you to know and to understand how complicated my emotional state was at the time. Some of it unfortunately remained with me for the rest of my life.

Letters from Olek was my only form of entertainment. There was no radio or television. Going to a movie by myself was not feasible. Luckily Olek's visits were more frequent because the travel between Braintree and Cambridge was better and took less time than between Cambridge and Riverhall. In February, we set the day for our wedding. Our letters and visits were filled with plans for it.

Since Olek spent his savings on the down payment for the house I decided not to buy a wedding dress or a veil for these were very expensive and I had no money. It was too showy anyway for my taste. Luckily I brought a light colored linen material from Africa and had my friend make a two-piece suit. A lightly veiled white hat completed my attire. White shoes also bought in Africa (two years before) had to do. However, we borrowed money from a friend for a new suit for Olek. He felt he had to have it. Even now I tease him that instead of him buying a dress and veil for me, as European custom dictates, I bought him wedding clothes but we had to pay it off when we were married.

April 30th was approaching, not fast enough for me. Olek managed to buy a double bed, build a dresser and a bookcase, with the help of a friend, and shipped them from Cambridge. Now I had a place for my clothes, which until now was spread on boxes and such. We shared a dining room table with Chmara's so we paid for half of the table. As a surprise for Olek, I bought two nice dining room chairs.

All this may indicate to the reader that we were very poor and yet, we felt truly rich. Most of the Polish people still lived in the camp barracks. We had a house, shared yes, but a house with a real fireplace. Sharing a small kitchen and a dining room, having two rooms to furnish as we wished was really wonderful. After all, we both remembered very well our room in Russia, which housed three families; Romankos (3), Lukaszewiczs (5), and Nowaks (6). Indeed we now felt very wealthy and secure. Looking forward to the day when we would be able to bring a child to our own home instead of rented quarters where the owners often accepted people with dogs rather than children. That was something that bothered Olek very much.

On our wedding day, we invited 25 people, my family, and our friends. Food was rationed very strictly. Arranging a small reception needed unusual ingenuity. A friend of my father bought a ham from a farmer, which was considered a criminal act punishable by prison. The friend was lucky and we had a "stolen" ham for our wedding reception.

Olek came from Cambridge two days before the wedding and was working very hard with my stepmother preparing bigos, galareta, sledzie and other dishes, which did not require much meat. Lard was not rationed, neither was fish. Olek had to look after borrowing extra furniture for the reception and had a great deal of trouble buying my wedding bouquet and keeping it fresh without a fridge for it was now quite warm. It was necessary for me to work until the last day because we could not lose my salary as Olek had left his job in Cambridge.

The 30th of April was a beautiful day. Olek remembers the morning as the time when Mrs. Chmara found it difficult to wake him up. Exhausted by all the preparations, he went to bed very late and when the milkman came at six o'clock, to be paid, Mrs. Chmara had to shake Olek to wake him up. I slept in another room and did not hear the commotion. Poor Olek was teased about it for a long time. Everyone reminded him that he did not want to wake up to get married.

Two Packard taxis, decorated with white ribbons and bows on the door arrived at 140 Coggleshall Road, Braintree, Essex, England at 1:30 p.m. to take us to the church.

The two best men, Olek's friends, Tadek and Klaudek came with me in the first taxi while Olek and two bridesmaids (sisters Marysia and Gienia) followed in the second taxi. According to one of the customs in Poland, two best men accompany the bride and the groom came with the bridesmaids. In the taxi, very discretely, I was organizing my clothes to make sure that everything was in place because I had only 15 minutes to get ready. During this time, I also helped my bridesmaids. All morning was spent in the kitchen. Then according to Polish custom, we had to ask our parents for a special blessing. Kneeling down before my parents, who were holding a Bible, we heard them bless us in "the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit". It was a significant moment in the life of newlyweds and in our case, it was also a very sad moment which brought tears even to Olek. His parents and my mother were not with us. Only my father and stepmother performed the ceremony.

The marriage service was very short and very simple. The guests made comments that I said my vows very loudly and clearly and that they could hear me better than Olek. Was he still hesitating? I remembered that in October 1948, during our walk in the Cambridge park, when I thought him committed to me, he told me that maybe we should not get married because I was a sickly person and we may not be happy. An hour before he gave every indication that he did want to marry me. Try and understand that! No wonder I had my doubts. But this conversation, I must have not taken seriously. The ceremony was over and Olek was not going away. We were both committed to spend the rest of our lives together helping each other. I knew I was very much in love and hoped that Olek was too. A five year old girl, Dzidzia, summarized our vows to her parents as follows, "Olek said to Alina, I am taking you to be with me because I can not live without you."

During the reception in our home, I wanted Olek to stay very close to me and was very unhappy when he socialized with other girls, which made Olek very angry. He went into a bedroom, threw my bouquet at me, and pulled down the bed cover. At that moment, Olek's friends looked in through the door wanting to say goodbye. When they saw Olek's action, they came to a wrong conclusion. Thinking that Olek was impatient for the honeymoon, they quickly retreated and I followed them out leaving Olek to his tantrum. Mature behaviour?

But why was I clinging to Olek so much? Well, there was an old belief in my country that if the bridegroom wonders away from his bride during their wedding day, he would be unfaithful to her later. It was crucial for the bride to keep close. I was not going to take chances!

The guests and the members of my family departed the next day. The house had to be cleaned. Our floors were bare boards, as we did not yet have money to buy linoleum. On Monday, Olek went to London to a meeting, as he was quite involved in the politics of the Polish government in exile. Chmaras went to work. I took out a scrubbing brush and made all the floors shine. Some honeymoon, one might say. Doing chores in my own home and making it a pleasant place for my husband to come home to was true happiness. We were a family and we did not have to wander from place to place. We were truly home!

During May, the weather was beautiful. Every free moment we spent together; walking in the fields, going to movies, visiting friends. Happiness and new sense of security improved my health. Olek earned only four pounds and ten shillings a week and my wages amounted to two pounds and ten shillings. It was not much but we managed to pay our basic expenses and even began to safe a little.

When I gained weight, it made Olek and my doctor happy. Olek helped me to cook dishes with considerable amount of fat saying, "I will fatten you up". Unfortunately, this process works too well now. The fattening, I mean. However, Olek stopped taking pride in it.

At the end of June, I fell off my bicycle and became quite ill. After examination, the doctor told me that I had a miscarriage. Although it was only a very early pregnancy, losing a baby caused much suffering. Would my luck and happiness be so short lived? Would I be able to have a healthy baby? The feeling of doom returned. For so long, only bad things happened to me, it was difficult to believe that lasting happiness could be a part of my life. Because I was still anemic, I had to be hospitalized. Olek was very loving and attentive. He thought of many little things to lift my spirits and I slowly recovered. Because my health was improving, I hoped to be much stronger before my next pregnancy.

Finding work in Braintree proved to be difficult. Not knowing English was a barrier. After a while, Olek began working as a driver for a coal business. The work was demanding and not very pleasant, but it did not dampen his spirits. He was always happy, planning the future with great expectations and optimism. Since I was working too, we had some money left (after paying the mortgage and utilities) to buy some pieces of furniture for our living room. Many of Olek's friends, now also mine, visited us often and complimented us on our accomplishments.

Olek and his friend Bozek Domanski planned our trip to London as our delayed honeymoon. Visiting various museums, evening in a theater, tea at Savoy impressed me greatly. After the first visit, revisiting London became more frequent. The opera: Madame Butterfly, Ice Capades with Barbara Scott, an American variety show, sightseeing, and visiting friends enriched our life even more. However, my favourite event was a visit to Cambridge. Its beauty and educational environment was good for the body and soul. Olek's friends, Tadzik, Franek, and others arranged many exciting activities. Visits to various colleges and rafting on the river were only some of them. Once we attended a political rally organized by the Polish Government in exile. Political action was necessary to remind the world that Poland that fought from the first to last day of World War II, was now a puppet of the Soviet Union. This was the only way to serve our beloved country Poland to which we longed to return.

Time seemed to go so fast as life was so good. My illness in the summer of 1950 was again an unwelcome event. The ulcers (acquired in Russia) opened up again. Dr. Wright and the surgeon planned to operate. However, the ulcer disappeared after a few months, but I felt even worse. Back to the doctor. Great news! I was expecting a baby. I was happy, strong, and optimistic in spite of awful morning sickness. I never stopped praying for a normal delivery and a healthy baby. At that time, everyone wished for the first born to be a male. Olek did not show his feelings as openly as I, but he did everything to keep me well and was busy constructing a little crib, shopping, admiring the embroidered articles which I was preparing for the birth of his son - the heir!

In spite of strict rationing of food in a post war England, expectant mothers experienced very good medical care. I was given a special orange powdered vitamin and nutrition supplement, was allowed to buy one banana a week and three more eggs than Olek. The grocer across the street who knew about our war experiences (or Russian experiences) sold us extra ration not used by some of his customers. But physical nourishment was not the only concern. I also read only very good classical books thinking of my baby's intellectual development. The loneliness disappeared. When left alone, when Olek worked, I talked to my baby, who already was wonderful company and source of joy and great expectations. From time to time, I was concerned about the actual birth and prayed hard for it to be a happy event.

A seven and a half pound baby boy was born to us on April 24, 1951 about 12:30 p.m. The night before, we attended a name day celebration of a friend and returned home about 9:00 p.m. After scrubbing and preparing the white articles of clothing and leaving them to soak over night, I began to prepare myself for bed when suddenly, a sharp contraction took my breath away. The contraction came every five minutes and lasted 14 hours. The pain, exhaustion and everything else disappeared at the instant I heard the baby's cry. The midwife was saying, "Take a look at his big hands and feet." Why is he so blue? What did it mean? Is something wrong? But my heart told me that everything was very right. Untold happiness filled my heart and I was anxious to share it with Olek. Unfortunately, he would be allowed to see me after a few hours. "You don't look tired", he said. Too bad he didn't see me when I was screaming my head off during the labour. When the nurse said to me: "There is a priest in the hallway". I half screamed back: "I could not stop even if it was a Bishop".

At that time, new mothers had to stay in the hospital for ten days. Seven days I had to sit in bed, very upright and suffer the pain caused by the stitches. The baby was brought to me only for nursing but I longed for him to be with me all the time. Discomfort or not, I was on cloud nine. Olek, after a visit in the hospital stopped at the bar to do some of his own celebration. His joy and pride was very apparent. On the seventh day, I was permitted to get out of bed and visit my baby in the nursery. The next few days were set aside for "training" a new mother. I was taught to bathe my baby and change his diapers.

The homecoming was a glorious event. Three of us were at home together as a family. Our wonderful baby boy erased all the past sufferings, made up for all losses and put our life together again. All we could do was to praise God for this wonderful blessing and enjoy each other to the fullest. We named our precious little boy, Bogumil (meaning loved by God) the name of our very good friend Domanski and Ferdynand for my headmaster general Zarzycki who was a caring force during the absence of my parents. Bogumil Domanski was a Vice Council of Poland (before 1939) in Latvia and France. Both men were respected, intelligent, knowledgeable and good models for our son. When we baptized our baby in June, my brother Janek and Bogumil Domanski were the godfathers.

Bozek was a very happy baby. He smiled all the time. When he began to walk at 10 months, I had to stop polishing the linoleum floor to prevent injury as Bozek quickly changed his walking steps into fast running. Even at that, the accidents did happen resulting in scraped knee, cut lip, etc. Did Bozek cry? Oh no! He picked himself up and was on the go again. He began talking early and by the time he was 2 years old, he knew many poems by heart and could recite a prayer "I believe in God" which in Polish contains many difficult words. On everyday shopping trips, left in the baby carriage (while I went into the store) Bozek spoke Polish to everyone who passed him. Often when I came out, I saw a group of people around Bozek talking to him and laughing happily although they could not understand what he was saying. This way, he made many friends. Many of them became family friends.

Anxious to raise our little son to be a gentleman, we decided to use reasonable discipline. Table manners were important and the child was to learn and practice them, probably slightly too early. Bozek displayed an exceptional sense of humor and used it even in the most difficult situation. Once when he broke some rules, Olek said, "I will take my belt off and spank you if you don't stop". "Yes" answered Bozek sadly", but you will lose your pants". And that was the end of the spanking.

A very small enclosed yard (they were all small in the over crowded England) was shared with Jamisons our next door neighbors. Luckily they had a little daughter Patricia, who was only ten months older than Bozek and was a wonderful playmate to him. Bozek's vivid imagination and Patricia's happy disposition made their play with toys a real adventure, watched with interest and amusement by their doting parents. I watched over our son with so much love and wonder never forgetting to thank God for this wonderful gift. Whenever I was unhappy (bad memories or argument with Olek), I would hug my little son and he would make everything seem better.

Seeing Bozek becoming moody sometimes while playing alone, we decided that he needed a little brother to grow up together to be his constant companion and friend close to his age. Our wish (Bozek's too) came true on April 10, 1954 at 1 o'clock p.m. at the Julian Courtauld Hospital. Our second son was born. He was a healthy 8 lb., 10-oz. baby and we all loved him very much from the first time we looked at him. Lech Julian was always hungry and it was a real pleasure to nurse him. There were no stitches this time so that my stay in the hospital was quite pleasant. The only drawback was that I missed Bozek very much. He was attached to us and would not stay with anyone so Olek took him to work. Driving in the truck with his father was a real treat, but I did worry about both of them. Sometimes Mrs. Chmara looked after Bozek for he liked her very much. It was no wonder as she spoiled him outrageously!

At last, after ten days, we were ready to come home. Bozek and Daddy picked us up in a taxi and here the two brothers made their acquaintance. Leszek gave Bozek a beautiful Easter egg, which played various nursery rhymes. Bozek liked it, but he loved his little brother more and took keen interest admiring his little hands and feet, asking hundreds of questions about "his" baby. The first meeting went very well and there was no trace of jealousy. How can one be jealous of a little brother who comes bearing gifts? Since we came home on Easter Sunday, the whole family was there to see the new baby. Again, it was a wonderful homecoming. My father and his wife, Zbyszek, Janek and his wife Wanda were there to share in our happiness. Janek married Wanda Gawlak on December 26, 1952.

There was so much love among the four of us that it overshadowed the little and bigger worries and problems. Leszek was a hungry baby and had to be nursed every three hours day and night. As soon as I would fall asleep, Leszek would demand his meal. The lack of sleep left me very tired. Bozek lively as always would not have his afternoon nap, neither could I. After all, he was a "big boy" at three! No matter how tired, I was happy to nurse my baby and loved holding him in my arms.

Leszek rewarded me by many smiles. Leszek was also baptized in June at the same church as Bozek's baptism in Braintree. His godparents were Ciocia Wanda and Wujek Jan Gudynowski, my cousin. The whole family enjoyed again getting together to celebrate this happy event. Mr. and Mrs. Chmara divided the boys for the purpose of their affection. Mrs. Chrmara chose Bozek but Mr. Chmara spent much time with Leszek. Both boys had surrogate grandparents to spoil them, which sometimes created some problems for their parents.

Unfortunately, we had some worries about Bozek who suffered with infected tonsils. The attacks were quite frequent and soon the doctor decided to operate. We took Bozek to the hospital in Chelmsford, about a half-hour bus drive from Braintree. During the weeks prior to the surgery, we tried to explain to our son what awaited him. Inquisitive always, he had to know why he had to have the operation and accepted easily the explanation that it would stop the pain in his throat. However, before the surgery, the infection had to be taken care of. As a result, there was no soreness in a little patient's throat as he walked away chatting in Polish with a nurse who spoke only English. Parents were not allowed to stay in the hospital and it broke my heart to leave my precious son in the care of strangers. Next day, when we saw Bozek, his heels were bandaged because he injured himself kicking and protesting against the anesthetic mask. In a very small voice, my sad little boy whispered, "Mommy, you told me it would make my throat better. Why does it hurt even more?" Saying goodbye to him took all my strength to hold back my tears as Bozek was held back from running after us crying his heart out. These were very difficult times for parents with sick children because the hospitals did not allow them to stay together. We knew that it changed Bozek's personality. He loved, never complained, or reproached us. It was difficult to know how much blame he attributed to us. He became serious, very grown up, smiled less and cried more often. But the tonsillitis was not bothering him, which improved Bozek's appetite. He grew and developed better and gradually became the happy little boy again. Leszek loved to have Bozek play with him. When he was six months old, he took his drinks from the glass. When Bozek was close,

Leszek would drop a toy on the floor and when Bozek bent down to pick it up, he would drop his glass on his brother and laugh for a long time. Since Bozek went on serving his brother, I tried to stop this game, but Leszek already was a determined little man, so we taught Bozek how to duck. The children grew and filled our hearts with joy uniting us into a very happy family.

The horrors of war were difficult to forget and the existence of an atomic bomb which caused such devastation in Japan, made Europe very unsafe. England was very overcrowded. Our future in this foreign (to us) country was very uncertain. After the death of Stalin, no political changes for the better took place in Poland. It was now obvious that our return to our homeland was very unwise, as the evil force of communism was still dominant there. Many of our friends left England for America, Australia, and other countries far away from Europe. Olek and I began thinking of taking our little sons to some place where they would grow up in peace and freedom.

In the summer of 1954, the three of us went to the Australian Embassy in Colchester. We passed our medical and were accepted as immigrants. However, since Australia did not accept expecting mothers, we had to wait until Leszek was born. In the meantime, Olek and I went to London where we visited a Commonwealth Museum. The life size display of four seasons made me want to live in Canada. I was tired of constant heat in Africa and constant rain in England. I longed for four seasons like in Poland. After thinking and discussing matters for a few months, we decided to emmigrate to Canada instead of Australia. By the time Leszek was born, we had most of the formalities taken care of.

As we prepared for our journey, we experienced much anxiety. Our very own home, the first we made together was nicely furnished by now. It was warm, comfortable, and safe. Our family and many friends were here. What awaited us at the end of the long journey? Was it safe to undertake it with the two children, one almost four years and the other only 10 months old? But we were young and confident, although worried at times. It was difficult to part with our furniture, which we acquired with hard-earned money and much care.

On February 10, 1955, with fond farewells, we left our beloved home to stay with my parents in Rivenhall as all our furniture was gone. After a few days, we took the train to London. It was also very difficult to say goodbye to my father and Janek's family. Since Wanda was still in the hospital where their little baby girl was born, we could not even see her before our departure. There simply was no time to take a detour to the hospital and make a train, which took us to Southampton. It was necessary to spend the night in London. Bozek Domanski (Bozek's godfather) and J. Wnuk invited us to stay at their house. As most of the rooms in the large house were rented out, our family stayed in one room.

Early next morning, Bozek D. came with us to Victoria station and here we said our final goodbyes. Bozek was a good friend who enriched our lives with his cultural personality. There were many political discussion as well as historical and geographical information exchanges. Jozef Wnuk was also a wonderful friend and mentor. We knew we would miss their presence in our life and were reminded again that they did not approve of our journey into the unknown. Taking small children out of a safe home on the long journey in the middle of the cold winter was really asking for trouble! But we were on the way and there was no turning back now.

Somehow we managed to board the ship Samaria with our heavy luggage and extra clothes for the cold Canadian winter. Samaria left English shores a few hours after our arrival. We watched the land disappear with our hearts filled with strong feelings of nostalgia and hope but also some doubts and fear.

However, the children demanded our attention. Bozek took his Daddy all over the place exploring the ship. My task was to stay with Leszek who needed his food and diaper change regularly and on time. Unfortunately, seasickness made my journey very difficult. Very often, I could not go to the dining room for the meals and Olek had to take care of the children. Sometimes he did not do a very good job of looking after Leszek, who managed to slide out of the high chair and land on the floor. Bozek reported this incident to me. Olek did have a chance to socialize while I managed to find some strength only to wash the diapers and clothes. The formulas had to be made. Needless to say that I was drained physically and emotionally which brought some criticism from Olek. The end of the sea journey, which lasted a week, was very welcomed. As the time when Olek could travel free as an ex-serviceman expired we paid for his journey out of our savings. It would have been nice to have this money to start our new life in Canada. There were four of us our savings were small, we had no home or job to come to. However we were glad that we arrived safely on the shores of our chosen land.

 

go back

go to next chapter