Monday, August 21, 2017

The sense of duty

It was at the beginning of May...

Early morning, I just left home walking to the tram stop and passed by our neighbours house. Quite fresh neighbours, a Chinese couple with two small kids. The house also freshly built.

There was a strange scene. Kids, girl and boy in good schools uniforms were knocking at the door of the car. They also tried to pull out a garden hose stuck in the narrow gap in the car window.
My first thought was - they were watering some plant in the car and accidentally locked the door.
"Can I help you?" - I asked, but the kids did not take any notice.
Then their mother ran out of the house, still in her nightgown, she tried to force the car door, to pull out the garden hose. No effect. She ran back into the house.
A minute later she ran out again, with the car key, she opened the car door and switched off the engine. Only then I noticed a person inside the car and realized that the other end of the garden hose has been placed in the exhaust pipe. Finally I understood.
"I will call the ambulance" - I offered..
"I called it already" - answered the woman not turning her head towards me.
At the same time a neighbour came out from the house on the opposite side of the street. I explained to her what happened.
The woman, mother of the children, was talking to them in their language, an older woman, grandmother ran out from the house carrying the school bags.
"Can I help somehow?"  - asked the neighbour.
"No, I will take him to the hospital" - answered the brave small woman and was pushing the man in the car onto passenger seat.
I decided, that I was not needed there and walked away.

Few days ago I met the neighbour, the lady who was with me at the accident site.
"Sorry, that I left you alone, but I felt of no use, only adding embarrassment. How it ended?".
"Well, I offered help with the children" - answered the neighbour - "they were quite upset and crying. I hugged them, but then their mother called them to the car, to get to school. In the evening she knocked to my door with thanks, even brought me a small gift".
"And do you know how the man recovered?"
"He was treated in the hospital and recovered quite quickly. Actually the same day in the evening he flew to Malaysia as the next day he was to start a new job there".

Polish version HERE.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Very short happy life

Few days ago I had a meeting of our library book club. One of participants became a grandmother a week earlier. After congratulations there was time for some details.
There were twins - two boys. Unfortunately, already few weeks before a birth doctors informed the mother that one of the boys has serious body defects and will not be able to live outside mothers body.
He was born first - a messenger - Gabriel Thomas. The mother kissed him, dressed, hugged, and his life ended.
Less then one hour later, the second one was born - John Thomas.

Polish version here - CLICK.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

50 years (and 1 month) ago - 6 days war

Over a month ago I noticed it on newsagency shelf...


6 days war.
Some facts: end of May 1967, United Arabic Republic - short-lived political union of Egypt, Syria and Jordan under leadership of Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser -  blocked Israeli Tiran Strait and concentrated mighty military forces on the border with Israel. Israel responded with surprising preemptive air strike followed by land operation.
Within 5 days Israeli forces overwhelmed totally disoriented Arabic forces and captured previously Egyptian Sinai Peninsula, Syrian Golan Heights and Jordanian West Bank including entire Jerusalem.
Details HERE.

Before looking inside the paper I retrieved my memories.
Late spring 1967. It was memorable time. We moved into out first flat after almost 2 years of living in the corner of my in-laws flat. We moved to a block of flats where lived also a number of employees of the factory where I worked. 
There were some interesting discoveries. A person who held some rank in a local branch of Communist Party showed us his flat. One, very small room was decorated as a Catholic chapel. 
At the end of May one guy invited me to his flat and opened maps of the Middle East. 
- Look here! What these Jews hope to achieve? They will be smashed.

The official press (there was no other) followed the position of Soviet Union, which strongly supported socialist oriented president Nasser. Worth to mention, that Soviet Union armed Egypt, Syria and Jordan.

Victory of Israel was a shock. I do not remember reaction of the press, but the general reception of the crowd was disbelief mixed with admiration and some satisfaction that Soviet Union ally was defeated.
Some people declared with pride that in the core of Israeli army were some 2,000 soldiers who left Polish Anders Army when, after evacuation from Sovier Union, it crossed British Palestine. Most notable of those who stayed in Palestime was Mieczysław Biegun who, as Menahem Begin, became Israeli President in 1977.
There was a joke: Arab intelligence could not break code used by Israeli Army. Explanation was simple - messages were written in plain Polish.

Few weeks later the papers raised a new issue: in Polish Government there are many people whose political orientation is in conflict with the general line of politics in Soviet bloc.
At the end of 1967 the witch hunt started.

I looked into The Australian Jewish News.
The photo on front page shows three soldiers who first reached the Western Wall. All of them are still alive. Their relation: "We were in narrow lanes with Arab houses, we didn't know where, and suddenly we came through the small iron gate and saw it - the Kotel. It wasn't open as it is now, it was surrounded by houses on each side (...) my friends had tears in their eyes when they realised what was happening, that we came to the place we've been waiting for for 2,000 years".
Moshe Dayan, Israeli Minister of Defence in 1967 said: "Yesterday I was not a religious man, and tomorrow I will nor be, but today I cannot but say that we have witnessed miracles". 

I look at the further pages...



Discussion continues.

Polish (extended) version HERE.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Ghetto Cabaret


Last Sunday we visited Kadimah - Jewish Cultural Centre in Melbourne - CLICK.

The reason is shown on a poster above. It was also some extension of emotions experienced at the movie The Zookeeper's Wife - see the previous entry. To see this world from the other side.

First impression confirmed out expectations.
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Yellow Stars of David, general commotion, expressive mimic and gesticulation.

The performance hasn't started yet, but the climate around the stage was an integral part of it. Stage manager was full of worries:
- Bronia did not come yet.What happened to her? - she looks helplessly at the actors and we realize, that terrible thing could happen to people in this place, at this time.
- The show must go on! - nobody has doubts about it.
Yankele, a clown - character based on Yankele Hershkowitz from Łódź Ghetto - is cruising between rows of chairs
- Give me ein Grosch, I will tell you a secret.
Not everyone knows what ein Grosch means.

Finally the show starts. It surprised me. I expected to hear some songs from suburban Warsaw, from Eastern parts of pre-war Poland. Like Małe miasteczko Bełz (Majn sztetele Bełz) - CLICK. But no, the show was based on tradition of Jewish cabarets in Berlin and Amsterdam.
MC of the show played a bit in the style of unforgettable Lisa Minelli (movie Cabaret).
All songs were sang in Yiddish which reminded me a book by Isaac Bashevis Singer - Love and Exile - memories from writer's life in Warsaw. Only then I realized, that Jewish diaspora in pre-war Poland led completely self sufficient life, without any need for contact with social and cultural life of Poles.

The show ended, actors mixed with the crowd and I felt a bit like in Warsaw, and in Melbourne.


I asked musicians and somebody from the crowd if they know Yiddish - only few words - was the answer. Same as me.

Webpage of the show HERE.

Polish version HERE.

The Zookeeper's Wife

When I was about 10 years old at least once a year I visited Warsaw. I stayed in my uncle's home, usually for one week, and every time it was an opportunity to visit Warsaw ZOO.

I did not enjoy these excursions. On the first time of course there was strong curiosity, but there was a disappointment from the first glance. These were not animals, which I remembered from adventure books. Behind bars, lethargic, in prison.

These memories returned few weeks ago while watching movie The Zookeeper's Wife. The movie is based on a book written by Diane Ackerman, which in turn is based on memories of Mrs Antonina Żabińska, wife of pre-Second World War director of Warsaw ZOO, dr Jan Żabiński.
Movie trailer here - CLICK.

The movie tells the story of Warsaw ZOO during the 2nd World War.
First ruined during barbaric bombing of Warsaw by Germans. Then all valuable animals were robbed by dr Lutz Heck, director of Berlin ZOO, personal friend of Goering, member of SS.
After the war he continued his work as Berlin ZOO director.

Director of Warsaw ZOO, dr J. Żabiński put a proposal to convert ruined Warsaw ZOO into a pig farm. The food for the pigs were to be scraps from Warsaw Ghetto. Practical Germans bought the idea. In this way dr Żabiński got access to the Ghetto and under the scraps of food smuggled out Jews, who were later hidden in the ZOO, in tunnels for animals, in the cellar of Żabińskis home. They stayed there until false ids were produced for them and when Polish families were found, who would keep them in hiding to the end of the war.

It might be worthwhile to mention, that Poland was the only country in German occupied Europe where for hiding a Jew a whole family of the host was sentenced to death.
Dr Hans Frank, a governor of German occupied Poland, stated: "In Prague, big red posters were put up on which one could read that seven Czechs had been shot today. I said to myself, 'If I had to put up a poster for every seven Poles shot, the forests of Poland would not be sufficient to manufacture the paper." Source Wikiquote - CLICK.

In this way Żabiński family smuggled 300 people. After the war they were awarded a title Righteous Among the Nations by the State of Israel - CLICK.

The movie concentrates on directors wife - Mrs Antonina Żabińska - which highlights a sharp contrast between the cruel world and charm of animals and gentleness of director's wife.

Great movie. It brought back memories from my childhood. Relations of the people around me, who witnessed the war. Sad relations, but so valuable.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Brain gymnastics

Lately we have more contact with our oldest grandson - Felix - 13 years.
He attends an artistic school, which combines high school program with ballet training.

As a principle students do not have any homework, they should complete all tasks in normal school hours. No wonder, he returns from school at 5, very tired and hungry. He is in bed by 8 pm. Morning alarm at 6.

Old habits do not die easily. I ask him regularly what was at school, what homework he has.
Answer is always the same: nothing Dziadzia (Grandpa). Doesn't matter.

Still few days ago he was searching for a Maths homework.
- What was it about, Felix?
- Something about angles. Does't matter Dziadzia.

But I already put my foot in the gap in his defense.
- Do you know how many degrees is a sum of all angles of a triangle?
- 180 degrees Dziadzia.
- And of quadrangle?
- 360 degrees. We learned all this Dziadzia.
- And of pentagon?
- Also 360 degrees. Cannot be more as full circle has 360 degrees.
- Well, angles of a polygon is something different, look here:


- You see? 3 triangles. How many degrees?
- 3 times 180.
- Right, 540 degrees. And hexagon?
We both focused on drawing. My drawing looked like this:


Felix smiled and showed his sketch;


- What is this Felix?
- Simple. I stretched your hexagon into two straight lines. In fact they are not parallel like in this drawing, they overlap into one line. On both ends (A, D) there are angles of ZERO degrees. And remaining 4 are straight angles - 180 degrees. 4 of them Dziadzia.
The only thing I could do was to multiply (720 degrees). This I learned well in a primary school. But to stretch polygons into straight lines?
For this you need a ballet dancer flexibility. Of the brain.

Polish version here - CLICK.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Seven years itch

If it was a first Sunday of June, and it was, then I participated in MS Walk.
For a seventh year  - thus the title.
This time the weather was the best possible.

As for walk there is not much to say - just easy stroll in beautiful surrounding.
Instead of words I will use photos...

As usual large colourful crowd...



Approaching start


Eastward view of Albert Lake


Friendly volunteers.


Westward view of Albert Lake



Some characters.


My companion from a ski club


End of fun.


To be continued next year.

PS. The only negative was a failure of my fundraising efforts. I set my target extremely low, just $450 and reached barely 70% of it. I understand that people are worn out by constant appeals for help from various sources. Apparently I am less and less attractive source.