I was born on the 8thof November 1976 in Krakow, Poland. My early memories there arealways grey and unpleasant. I remember being moved around and made tofollow ways dictated by my parents and theirs in turn were made up bythe stress of survival in a post communist country, their own baggageof harsh childhoods as well as the all round feeling of shitty life.They both tried to make the best of themselves by pursuing chosencareers, completing universities and working in their field. Itwasn't easy because there was very little work despite the high levelof qualification they held. Our first accommodation was a 32 sq metrestudio for the four of us that is, including my older sister, in asmall village on the outskirts of Krakow. The place always felt'alien' to me like I was on the edge of an unpleasant, unfriendly,outcast world. I remember the fenced off vegetable fields which wasthe key enterprise of the village and the excruciating sirens whichwould frequently sound for unknown to me reason and made me want todisappear. Then I remember spending large chunks of time at mygrandmother's house in Zakopane. She gave us room to play and be,partly because of her age and partly because we didn't take herdiscipline seriously. I liked the mountains surrounding the smalltown and we did a lot of walking and climbing to some reasonableheights. My grandmother loved me and I felt she was my ally. Thencame the new flat in Nowa Huta, Krakow. A three bedroom box in themiddle of hundreds and hundreds other boxes surrounded by blocks ofmany more boxes, with several people in each one. It was anurbanization en mass. Few trees and some swings, most of the gameswere self generated. Sharing of the room with my older sister was theworst part of living there. As she was getting older her meanness wasgetting fiercer: she'd steal, lie, manipulate, destroy my stuff,backbite, initiate fights and hurt me, daily. I was never at peace.I always had to be on guard, anticipate and be prepared for anyoncoming cruelties. My parents didn't help much, not effectivelyanyway. And they had their own battles to fight: keep a roof over ourheads, succumb to unkind working conditions for not enough pay whilewatching corruption brewing everywhere. I didn't like school either;forced to be certain places starting way too early, sit still andlisten to what I didn't want to learn under a fierce threat of apunishment if I didn't. It wasn't what I wanted to do, it wasn't whatI would have liked to do. By 12 I was acutely aware of the olderpeople/friends looking forward to and about to leave school to moveon the secondary ones and I was beginning to feel a sense ofabandonment. I remember thinking how will I spend the last year ofschool with no older people in it. How will I get through? I spentmonths wanting to leave, wanting to not be there. I was of coursealready getting ready to leave Poland altogether but I didn't know ityet. I was dreaming and escaping to some other life away anddifferent to what I had. At 15 I spent the whole summer holidayabroad with several friends hitch-hiking and visiting othercountries. I didn't want to come back but I did having reassuredmyself that leaving Poland is the only option. The following year Ileft for summer holidays abroad and never came back to live inPoland.
I never told this story sohonestly. I always felt ashamed of my childhood especially with thecommon understanding that it is the most wonderful and blissful partof our lives and many people I met confirm it with their personalstories. However, I know that if you acknowledge something as it is,you can let go. It's been hard to build an adult life on shaky androtten foundations.