Saturday, January 18, 2014

Our Polish friends

I noted before that this trip has been mostly about Susan’s teaching, not tourism.  But it has also been about friendships new and old.  In the latter category is Kasia (Katarzyna Broczek) who we met the last time we were in Warsaw. At that time, she escorted us on visits to a nursing home and adult day facility, and we hit it off well enough to spend part of our final day off that visit with her.  We have stayed in touch, and were eager to see one another again.

How to describe Kasia?  She has an MD and a PhD, a practice in geriatric medicine (making house calls on her most frail patients) and teaches medical and nursing students. (Susan did a guest lecture for some of her students this week.)  She also writes scholarly articles and studies mime in a focused way.  She holds street mimes and poseurs in contempt; her focus is on translating thoughts into emotions, and emotions into actions.  In her spare time, she cares for her 75 year-old cousin and her 102 year-old nanny.  Oh, and she raises marine fish.  (Only after we got home did I learn that she also studied theology for five years!) She lived in Tennessee for a year when she was a teen, and traversed most of the US via Greyhound bus.  She is intense, brilliant, funny and kind--a true and dear friend.  We will likely return to Warsaw, largely because Susan finds meaning in her teaching here, but also because of Kasia.  We had two dinners together, each more delightful than the other.

A word about having friends in or from Central Europe:  Gifts are important, and those of us American-born, no matter how thoughtful we try to be, will always be out-gifted.  We brought Kasia chocolates from Wilmar’s, a copy of our book, and a beautiful hand-crafted wooden bowl from the woman who sells them at the Appleton Farmers Market.  We thought we had the gifting thing licked.  Kasia gave us two ceramic teapots, three books…  Trumped again!

Then there is Anna (no picture available yet), the PhD student assigned to be our host.  She is lovely, brilliant, adventuresome and, as we were told in advance, very Dutiful.  She picked us up at the airport, settled us into our apartment, and provided us with groceries.  I had written to her asking for help in acquiring Polish SIM cards for our phones.  She arranged for us to have Polish cell phones.  I inquired about the most affordable way to ride the buses and trams.  She borrowed our driver’s licenses and used them to get us “senior passes” that gave us unlimited access to public transportation all week for less than 50 cents.  She spent four days hounding down my missing luggage.  We took her out to a delightful dinner and learned more about her.  She does her academic writing in English because she finds the language more versatile.  She has lived in Malta, Spain, and Long Island.  She has a brilliant academic career ahead of her, and we will stay in touch.

Then there is Jasia, the former director of the WISP program where Susan taught, who was disappointed that we had no free evenings for dinner, so instead took us to lunch.  She got her PhD at Columbia, and studies various forms of prejudice – she is kind of a Polish New Yorker.  She rides her bike everywhere until the snow gets nasty, and is giving serious consideration to putting snow tires on her bike. 

This is not to even mention the great people Susan worked with in WISP.   There are many reasons that Warsaw has become an important part of our global map, but these friends are certainly significant contributors.

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