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Bernadetta Stasińska

 

In the consulate in Poznań I had with me a document stating my father’s birth in Chicago. It was in February 1989. Outside in front of the building there was a long queue of waiting people. Although I came to Poznań with my mother, I went to the consulate on my own. My mother went to her friend from the times of the occupation. Someone was talking to someone, someone was happy and laughed merrily, others came out with tears in their eyes. Standing for a while, someone came up to me and asked: "You’re definitely going to get it?". "Yes, I am." - I replied. I do not know who it was because I did not see the man anymore, he left somewhere in a moment. At the counter, of course, I showed a document and a man said: "Wasted situation." My dad died in 1984, he longed for the US and my visit there was supposed to satisfy his longing. I got the visa. Happy, I almost ran to my mother a few streets away.

Flight into the unknown

Then a trip to Warsaw for the airline ticket. My husband with children drove me by car to the airport. Children all the way asked me about the meaning of English words, and I wasn’t able to choke out anything, with eyes full of tears and a lump in my throat. Earlier I organized lodgings and school for children. For daughter – cosmetic school, for son – car painting vocational school, both in Poznań. I sent from Warsaw a telegram with the date of my arrival to a friend, and the other one to a different address. Three days before the flight, just in case, I again sent two telegrams from another place to exactly the same addresses. On the day of the departure I felt joy that I was flying to the US, the place of birth of my father, at the same time I felt uncomfortable, I was sad because I was leaving my children - although they were already not small. My husband and mother-in-law stayed with them.

When the plane landed at the airport, I felt happy that my friends would come to pick me up. Unfortunately, no one was waiting for me. The telegrams were not at all sent from Poland, and in Warsaw, in a travel agency, I hadn’t been given some relevant document. At the airport in the US I had to wait over two hours until someone came to me and it filled it in. Then I could go. I was still convinced that someone was waiting for me. Unfortunately, there was no one.

I went to the phone booth, but I was not able to call, I didn’t know what to do, I stood with tears in my eyes. Someone from the service came up and said that I was supposed to go outside - I guessed so. Taxis were drawing up to the very door. I showed the address and got in, the driver answered: "There is no such an address.". "There is!" - I answered firmly. We went and it turned out that the address was not far from the airport. The taxi driver dropped me at the door and drove off.

There was no one at home, no one was waiting for me at the given address, because the telegrams hadn’t been delivered. I put the suitcase at the door and decided to wait at the crossroads. After a moment, some lady with a child in a pram called out from a distance: "Probably you’re from Poland?". She took me to her house, she knew that the neighbors were not at home because they worked. She called their workplace – my friend was struck dumb. They didn’t know that I would come, and I didn’t know that they didn’t know about my arrival.

Working with family

I was nicely welcomed by my friends. After a few days they found a job for me - I took care of an elderly person. I went for an interview with one of them to Highland Park to a family who just had mourned the death of the father. They talked about family, I didn’t understand anything at all, my friend was talking about me. The dog which they had at home sniffed me. I showed him my lap, so that the dog could jump on it, and not thinking too much it did and started licking my face. Everybody laughed and they accepted the choice of the dog.

The elderly lady from that family was born in Poland in Ciechanów, she came from a Jewish family. In her house worked one more woman from Colombia, she dealt with housework. She was also raising grandchildren of that lady. The lady ate only kosher food, so I had to learn how to cook this way. The family were very nice, one son was a family doctor from Los Angeles, the second a lawyer working in Chicago, the third - a physicist. I absorbed everything around me with my eyes and heart, and deep down I was jealous that we didn’t have as good life in Poland, when I was leaving the store shelves were empty. The cleanliness and order were eye-catching. Precision, punctuality and smiles of the people and children. I took to that family, and I knew that I was liked and accepted by them.

The elderly lady suffered from PD and asthma. We went in a limousine to doctors to downtown Chicago. They asked me whether people in Poland had washing machines, television in homes and many other things - of course we had, such blatant poverty was not seen in our country. The TV shows annoyed me because I could not understand what was somebody’s point to show the poorest people from the area of Lublin. After all, our big cities already had something to be proud of: buildings, universities, educated and very elegant people on the streets. I felt even offended by those programs.

I worked for the family for almost two years, until the death of the elderly lady. I was also at her funeral and wake. They thanked me very politely for the care about their mother. Once we were sitting together at a table, the elderly lady said something to me and walked away, I thought to myself: "Grandma, you're old." At the same time she turned to me and said: "Don’t think I'm old." I was speechless.

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The logic of the return

Throughout the period of my stay, every two weeks I wrote letters to my husband and mother- in-law. I also wrote separate letters to each of the children, son and daughter. From a distance I wrote to them advice and tips on how to live and learn, what they should do to persevere in the separation.

After returning to Poland the roads were too narrow for me, I was afraid to sit in the car, I thought that in a moment someone would crash into us. I missed centerline marking, the signs warning about the end of the asphalt, toilets along the roads for long distances. I did not like many things. The dirt around and dilapidated fences, mutilated walls with scratched plaster. I came to Poland full of enthusiasm, I wanted to be active, because I was always busy and I had a lot of willingness to work.

I was in the US full two years. At the airport I told myself: "I served for the glory of the Fatherland." But in a moment I felt bad when I started looking for a job and I registered at the Labor Office in order to receive unemployment benefits (I was dismissed from work). I saw dissatisfied, angry, arguing people. In my family there was also some confusion. My mother-in-law was arguing with me. I came longing for home and children, I started doing everything at home on my own, and she felt unnecessary. I was glad that I was already at home. My husband spent all the earned money to buy a luxury at that time car - Audi Turbo Diesel, not leaving a single penny on the account. We didn’t break up, but it was never again the same as years ago, the spell was broken. I still keep in touch with my family as well as with the family of my husband, even though it’s been now 11 years since his death.

I opened my own bookstore with money borrowed from my daughter, who for many years has been living and working in Germany. My success is that I am always the same: honest, hardworking and caring for friends, not losing my dignity at the same time.

I think that every trip is needed for almost every person. To look at the world, at yourself and at everything that surrounds it. I personally wish everyone such a trip.

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