Sunday, March 2, 2014


Self-portait at the train station by Dorota Quiroz
My training as a nomad began very early back in Poland, where I was born and lived for 18 years.
I was very independent girl and traveled with my parents'  permission on my own by bike, bus or train in Poland by the time I was 14. I never felt in danger, insecure or lost. This ability to experience the world on my own, without a mandate from an adult made me self-reliant, confident and more curious to see the rest of the world.

As long as I can remember, when I was in my school age, we were always on a go, moving. It wasn't for recreational reason though, except for sporadic family outings, school trips, and summer camps, but specifically to go with the housing offered to medical doctors like my mother. She specialized in industrial/emergency medicine so very often such a position at the mining town in a south like Nowa Ruda-Slupiec, or in a north (Wejherowo) would come with assigned apartment with 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom and a phone line which was quite a benefit.

Tribute to my grandmother by Dorota Quiroz
I knew my beloved city of Gdansk, Old Town and especially Wrzeszcz like my own pockets. I cruised old cobbled streets, parks and woods being pushed in a stroller by my grandmother, rode streetcars and metro trains between Wejherowo, Sopot and Gdansk, to go between high school, private art lessons and rock concerts. I loved the Tricity Gdansk-Sopot-Gdynia, its big city upbeat pulse, places to be and people to meet. This is where I developed my preference for urban living and pride to come from the same place where Solidarity movement began. To see more complete picture of Solidarity movement go to great feature on Google Cultural Institute Great Moments.

Self portrait with a monkey by Dorota Quiroz
 (in the background there is the Monument to Fallen
Shipyard Workers and Gdansk's the coat of arms)

Ration card for November of 1982 for flour, sugar, candy, oats,
soap, lard,chocolate, cigarettes, liquor
source: Wikipedia
What sticks in my mind today, is that we had so little, yet we made through the horrific communist tyranny. Among many daily doses of this "wonderful" system, we experienced food rationing, shortages of basic necessities like toilet paper/soap, standing in never ending lines for those necessities, censorship, propaganda, marshall law, and other things that my parents protected us from knowing… yet, despite all, we found a way to read good books, to educate ourselves beyond government schools, to turn off two crappy TV channels, to pray, laugh and to live our lives.

There are plenty of movies that show horrors of socialism like Doctor Zhivago (1965), Man of Marble (1977), Man of Iron (1981),  but one that really spoke to me was most recent one titled "The lives of others". It was directed by German film director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and it's about the East Germany's Stasi spy network surveilling the world of artists. It portrays beautifully a heavy duty state of depression, where really there was no future, no hope, just survival, oppression, and/or death, especially suicide by those who had nothing else left to live for.

How does one survive such horrors? One finds hope and beauty around. One creates beauty through writing, song or painting. In this movie, a poem by Brecht "Reminiscence of Marie A." and music like Beethoven's Piano Sonata no.23  are the awakeners of consciousness, humanity and the return of hope.

The survival instinct of escape works in its physical sense as well as mental. We try to run away from tyranny with our legs and fight its destructive powers with our mind by nourishing hope, creating and cherishing beauty around us.
I had only one suitcase when I left the communist Poland and it was fully packed with essentials I would need for my new journey: sturdy shoes to escape evil, binoculars to search for beauty and a compass to guide me to liberty.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Start a conversation here!