ul. Majewskiego 32

I don't normally share my creative writing here, but my good friend Nathaniel has suggested that I should and in fact, it is a nice way to formally document life as it happens. This is just some prose that I wanted to write in light of recent events.

Communist structures stand in even rows, queasy shades of grey streaked by grime. Poland's history is complex and tragic; the scars from its past will take a long time to heal. Having only spent a very short time in the country of my birth, I feel spared but at the same time, guilty that I know so little about what these streets and walls have seen.

I press the buzzer in the alcove of the entryway and enter the apartment number. Its cheerful melodic beeping ringtone is familiar, but seems out of place in such a grim setting. In the pitted and pot-holed car park, a rusty car stands half buried in the mud. It has been like that for years, I look out for it every time to see how much deeper it has sunken into the mud. The door opens and I leave the bite of winter's cold.

I breathe in while stepping into the rickety elevator. There's plenty of room for my lone body, but I feel like I want to occupy as small a space as possible. I press the button for level 4 - most of the numerals have given up their ghost - and it lights up with a retiring glow. The walls bear the abuse of decades, a shattered mirror clings half-heartedly to the inner wall and in its corner, the twinned scrawl of illegible graffiti stops abruptly at a jagged edge. I briefly consider the displaced existence of its message, the intended meaning is now fragmented and most likely forgotten.

I arrive on the fourth floor and I am greeted by a flood of warm light from an open door, spilling into the dim and dusty stairwell. A small lady beams at me from the entry way. I smile and embrace her, kissing her on each cheek. Three kisses as is customary. She holds my face close to hers in order to see me properly, her vision has become very poor. This is my grandmother. I feel very big in the presence of her shrunken frame, even more so being the giant that I am. I can't remember when it was that I went from being the young girl on summer holiday clinging to her apron, to being the tall bean pole whose head all but skims the top of doorways.

I go to sit on the living room sofa bed, the cushions are sunken and I feel dragged into its depths as if it intends to swallow me. My grandma goes off to the kitchen to make us tea, but she continues to talk to me from there. While we speak, my eyes wander around the room. Despite spending so much time away from it, I have a very good memory and it always seems like nothing has changed. The retro orange walls, the threadbare carpet, the lace curtains. I could swear that even the lampshade is skewed awkwardly at exactly the same angle it was one year ago. I notice one of the paintings on the wall is crooked, so I step onto a chair to fix it. It has probably gone unnoticed for months, but I straighten all the same. Everything else is in its place exactly how I remember, the vase on the table, the place mats with children's cartoons, the black velvet wall tapestry my cousins brought from Australia. It is strange coming back here, just once every year. You'd think that you would notice change, and Warsaw has probably changed greatly from the first memories I have of it, but in my Poland, mostly everything seems to stay frozen in-between my visits. Everything apart from the people.

My grandmother has the television on, the Bold and the Beautiful, episode #5866. I have watched at least one episode of the soap every summer I've visited from before I can remember. I am half surprised that it is still being shown, but as I say, Poland changes slowly. It is even dubbed the same way it has always been, the same monotone male voice speaking over the voices of the beautiful, larger than life American actors and actresses. You must put the original voice in the background together with the translation for the characters to work, but it is still just as unnatural to hear every line spoken in the same grave drone, with no intonation.

The image on the screen is grainy and has ghosts, but with my grandmas poor eyesight I know she doesn't really watch it any more. She tells me she likes to hear human voices in the house, and I don't blame her. It must be so lonely living by yourself, and she seems so fragile. I can't really imagine what it must have been like to look after an alcoholic, all the while struggling with her own failing health. Now, things can't be much better. I was blind to these things when I was younger, but now I half understand all those moments I could not fathom in my youth. As I've grown older, my family has too, and now I'm filled with a regret for not being able to understand things sooner, and a tinge of guilt for missed opportunities.

Today my grandmother has left this world, but my memories and my families memories of her will continue. I will remember how we hid things around the tiny apartment and played hot and cold to find them. My memories will be of the long and pleasant walks through the woods of Dziekanow with Traper, the dog., picking wild mushrooms and blueberries. There will be the setting of a summer sun over fields of golden wheat, criss crossed with paths of sand and clay. We will gather humble bouquets of wild flowers from the fallow fields as the dog chases rabbits through the haze of sun, and smoke, and memories.