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{ personal log }

waking in warsaw

You're never really in a place until you wake up there.

Before that, it could just be a dream. A hallucination. Before that, you've still got the smell of California in your hair, the feel of your soap from your bathroom clings to your skin, and the clothes you put on that morning in your bedroom are still there.

Before you wake up in a place, you could always turn back.


The Europejski is a grand old hotel, and like most things in Warsaw, it's had at least two lives. It was built a hundred years ago, but fell into disrepair during the war. It was entirely refurbished in the seventies, so the place has this strange feel. Classic old architecture mixes with carpet that seemed like a good idea in the seventies. Smokey mirrors are on every wall – it's a FoJM-lover's dream come true.

Hi Heather - I miss you already.

Yesterday, after a long flight to Chicago, I met up with my dad and Barbara in the airport. We ate pizza and had a few drinks with Kari (Barbara's daughter, my step-sister) and Steve (her husband). I'd gotten so little sleep over the last week and a paltry three hours the night before, I just barely managed to keep from falling asleep in my pizza.

Then the adventure really began. We boarded Lot flight 4 to Warsaw. The 767 was filled with old people having animated conversations, children giggling, and a million conversations in Polish. When the flight crew came on the PA to make announcements it was Polish first, English second (if at all). It began to sink in where I was going, and with whom.

Two weeks in Poland with my family. I must be mad.

Yesterday, after we checked into the Europejski, we walked down to the old town. Somewhere around here the Warsaw uprising took place. The Jews in the ghetto rebelled and held the Nazis off for a month. When the Nazis couldn't flush them out, they just leveled the place.

That's why they rebuilt the old town when the war was over – another place with multiple lives. They rebuilt it all in the last fifty years or so, but they did it from the original drawings to look old. So the place feels seventeenth century, but with a Disneyland vibe. It's old, yet new. Real, yet fake.

We sat at an outdoor cafe and had dinner. The weather was perfect, except the air, which was so thick with pollen you could see it moving in the wind. Dad had dosed me up with Claritin and I was still sneezing.

But the moment was beautiful. Cool night, not a cloud in the sky, drinking EB and eating "Polish-style" carp (which is, apparently, poached whitefish with Campbell's mushroom soup on top) as the sun set and a group of Polish youngsters banged out a mean version of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" on a six-string and a bongo.

My dad talked about how long he'd been planning to take this trip, his pilgrimage to find his roots. How he grew up a DP, a displaced person, and what that means. No photos of family. No graves to visit. No roots. That's why he had to come back.

I had to come back because it's my family. And I know that my love of stories and virtual communities comes from a knowledge I've had all my life that sometimes, stories are all you get from a person. Sometimes, a community, like a family, is only virtual. I'm here because this is as close as I'll ever get to meeting my great-grandparents and all the Powazeks that came before them.

And I'm here because a place is never actually real until you wake up there.

Today I woke up in Warsaw.

{ 11:53pm }



» Must've been a pleasant surprise to wake up in a place so different from SF, so far away from SF and yet......

– anisha bordoloi  { 5.26.01 @ 2:25am }

» In spite of the obvious need to Know These Things, I think you are all terribly brave. Just wanted to make sure I said that.

Pan z warmi.

– maggie  { 5.26.01 @ 6:18am }

» The most different thing 'tween europe and the US, although I've never been to the US, is the atmosphere. europe feels, looks and smells older, deeper, maybe even realer.

ohad  { 5.26.01 @ 11:57am }

» It's amazing how connecting with your family's past can happen both at home and so far away. We had dinner at my grandparent's today after doing some spring cleaning at their house and suddenly all the wedding photos of theirs and their siblings and my mom and aunts and uncles came out and it was just great. Laughing at how young everyone looked, the silly clothes (especially when my gram pulled out the hideous bridesmaid's dress my aunt wore at my mom's wedding from the closet!) and just looking back was so fun. No matter how it happens, it's always good to stay close to your family.

Stef  { 5.26.01 @ 3:27pm }

» I am so *proud* of you!

roe  { 5.26.01 @ 6:50pm }

» I hope you find a little piece of Powazek history !!! Uncle H.

– Uncle H  { 5.27.01 @ 7:44pm }

» I am, by no means, cosmopolitan enough to say that I've been anywhere outside of the US. I won't claim that I'm cultured to the standards of the rest of the world.

Instead, we have these journals of adventures to read about, and it fills me with joy to see it happen. Too cool, Derek. I applaud you, for both your intrepidity and bravery. Too cool.

Stephen  { 5.27.01 @ 9:47pm }

» Thinking about you...
Much love, Momma

– Momma  { 5.30.01 @ 7:01am }


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