“One day…” is a great writing prompt.
“One day, my ship will come in. One day, we’ll be together. One day, there will be peace on Earth.” The phrase offers hope.
My “one day” is that I will retire and live in Poland for at least six months. It is a dream that formed during some dark days, days when the future looked bleak. I needed a glimmer of hope, a promise of better days ahead, and a recent trip to Poland provided fertile soil for the dream to take shape.
I first travelled to Poland in 2009, and I fell in love with the place. Of all the countries I had visited, this was the first one where I felt I belonged, where people assumed I was one of them. It made sense; all of my grandparents came from Poland and so I am Polish. But it was the first time my heritage was acknowledged in such a visceral way.
Walking into a restaurant or shop, I would be greeted in Polish. At the time, I did not even have enough language skills to say, “I do not speak Polish,” so I would say it in English: “I do not speak Polish.” Sometimes that worked, but other times, my inherent Polish-ness trumped my words, and the person would continue to address me in Polish. I loved that someone thought I was a native! It thrilled me to have people think I was one of them.
When I returned home from that trip, I bought Rosetta Stone and began learning the language.
Polish is one of the most difficult languages to learn, with its two-, three- and four-letter sounds and many declensions. Nouns change based on their usage. In English, a “car” is a “car” but in Polish it could be a samochod or a samochody or any one of several other variations. My past experience of learning French and Spanish with ease did not prepare me for the difficulty of learning Polish. But I soldiered on.
The next year, I returned to Poland for a two-week language immersion program in Krakow, attending classes in the mornings and exploring the city and surrounding areas in the afternoons. The family I stayed with spoke very little English, so I was forced to use Polish.
My host, a single mother in her forties, included me when she and her friends went dancing several nights a week. The first night, when my dance partner walked me back to my table and kissed my hand, I was smitten. It was like stepping back into some long-ago time I had only read about in fairytales or seen in old movies.
It was a fantastic two weeks, and during that time, the idea of living there for a longer period started to percolate. But it was not until the next year, when I was caring for a sick friend, that the seed which had been planted in Poland sprouted. During long hours in the emergency room or infusion center, my mind wandered back to Poland, and I began to let my imagination spin this fairytale.
Where would I live? Would I be able to find a job teaching English? Could I learn enough Polish here that I could be comfortable there?
At first, this day-dreaming was just a distraction, but by the time my friend died, I had devoted enough energy to it that it seemed like a real possibility.
Now I am back to learning Polish and working on establishing my connection to Poland so that I can get a passport. My grandparents all came to the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century, so records in Poland are difficult to find, but I am hopeful that one day, I will find the church where a grandparent was baptized; and that will give me the proof I need to secure a passport.
One day, my fairytale ship will come in and carry me off to live in Poland. Until then, I am doing what I can to prepare the way.
Madeline Bialecki grew up in Detroit and recently returned after living in Philadelphia for twenty-eight years. She began writing about her spiritual journey and faith life after the death of her best friend in 2012. She likes to read, knit, bake and garden. She shares her spiritual journey here.