“We should walk here.” Iryna, a friend from volunteering, said. “It would be good for you to see this.”
It was a market with handcrafted items. Booths were set up around the Main Square in Old Town in Krakow, Poland where I have been living for the past seven weeks. Today is my last day in Poland.
On Wednesday I fly home.
I pointed to a woman sitting outside a stall filled with either handcrafted goods, or machine made goods that looked like they were handcrafted and said, “Do you think that she made all of that stuff?”
Iryna looked at the stall.
It was filled with crocheted doilies. The woman was working a piece of string and two bobbins, unrolling the string as she worked.
Was she finger weaving? I’ve never seen anything like what she was doing.
I had decided that I wasn’t buying anything unless there was someone making one right in front of me, so that I knew it was authentic.
Iryna said that she thought the woman did make all of the items there. She pointed out her favorite.
I loved it too. It was a large round doily with pointed edges, like a star with many points.
I asked the woman how much, knowing that by asking her in English I was going to get an inflated price.
100 Zlotys. ($21.77)
That’s a high price for Poland, but completely worth it. I didn’t barter, but asked if I could take a video of the woman making one so I could show my mom.
She agreed and modeled her process for a few minutes and then placed Mom’s new doily in a Ziplock bag.
Later I would wonder why I didn’t buy one for myself. Hello? Holly? You can have nice things too.
Iryna talked about the book she was writing. Her ideas. How she was organizing her ideas.
“Just keep writing.” I said.
“But I don’t know how to write a book.”
“Right now your only job is to write. You can write about being a refugee if you want to. You can write about your premonition of war that came a year before the war started if you want to. For now, just write what you want to write. Write your story.”
“When am I supposed to write? I have three children.”
I suggested she steal an hour for writing, either before the children woke up or after they went to sleep.
She told me about people who wanted to buy a copy.
I laughed at her. “Just keep writing. You have fifty pages, that is an amazing start.”
I refused to plan my last day in Krakow, deciding instead to let it unfold like the gift it was.
To celebrate my last day in Poland, I walked back to my favorite ice cream shop. It was closed. So I walked to my favorite gluten-free bakery. It was closed, too.
Since I couldn’t eat sweets, I switched gears and walked over to the old cathedral on the pedestrian walkway in Old Town. They have classical music concerts every night.
There are many ways to treat myself.
I kept putting off the concert because I’ve been so tired from lingering Covid symptoms. I love classical music and any excuse to sit in an old church was good enough for me.
Five musicians. Piano. Violin. Cello.
Solo cello. Then cello with violins and piano. Solo piano. Then all of the instruments together.
The sound expanded through the church and settled around the audience. Lovely. Vibrant. Exciting.
I studied the church as the music played. Ornate. Hand carved. Artistic. To sit in a beautiful space and hear beautiful music overwhelmed my senses in the best possible way.
This. Was. Beautiful.
At the end of each song the audience clapped fast and loud. And then after an hour or so, someone turned down the lights.
No amount of clapping could earn another encore.
It was over.
I could have listened all night.
I walked through the Main Square one more time.
Goodbye Poland. How I love you. Thank you for sharing yourself with me. Your people. Your food. Your delights. Your beauty. Your history. Your joys. Your all.
I set a goal to write every day while I volunteered with Ukrainian refugees, and I met my goal. Some people read everything I wrote, others read the headlines.
It's all good.
These writings will become the basis of a book. To stay in the loop of when these writings have been reworked and perfected and published into a book, sign up for updates at my publishing company: Winuply Press. (Same goes there as here: I never spam people. Random updates.) Click HERE.
There is no required reading list to be my friend. And no tests for comprehension.
Thanks to many, many people for all of the support of this writing project. Those who read learned a lot about refugee issues, maybe more than they wanted to know.
Thanks to all the people back home who helped out so I could be away for this long. I just found out that my dog was not the perfect houseguest. Sigh. Had I known she was being difficult, I would have returned home sooner.
Thanks again to all who donated money so we could buy shoes, socks, underwear and bras for the refugees.
I am grateful for all of the volunteers I have met from around the world who felt as compelled as I was to take a stand against war and show up to do something to help. To be surrounded by such caring, compassionate and giving people has been a joy. I look forward to many continued friendships.
I have a special place in my heart for Micha, Giovanni, Atle (Oh my God, Atle: the only photo I have of you is the back of your head while swimming at the lake!!!), Sophie and the organization A Drop in the Ocean/ Drapen I Havet. The work you do at the Szafa Dobra astounds me in its complexity and execution. While we volunteers come and go, you continue the work. Every day. How lucky I am to have found you.
What an exhausting and soul nourishing summer.
And. Friends. Don’t worry. If you see me and ask how my summer was, I will not drone on and on about all the places I went and all the things that I did.
If you ask me about my summer, I will smile slowly and say three small words:
It was good.
I found the door to a church that is rarely open -- open! What joy to get a sneak inside.
I visited the Cathedral at the Warwel Castle where kings were ordained. Sadly, they permit no photos inside. A beautiful building with a crypt, too. Crowded. Long lines in every area, but I'm glad I went. See the domes in the center or the photo? Those are chapels connected to the church.
I made it to Pod Baranem, a restaurant known for its gluten-free pierogis. It was a 30 minute wait to get a menu and another 30 minute wait to place my order and I had to wait forty-five minutes for the food to show up. Four pierogis cost what a dinner in another restaurant would cost. They were delicious. As I finished eating, Iryna messaged me and said she could hang out RIGHT NOW if I had the time. Oh, yes. I have the time.
Iryna showing me a Ukrainian shirt at the market on the Main Square in Old Town.
War toys are a big deal here. No comment.
Walking home I give trams a wide berth.
This guy lived a few doors down from where I am staying on Jozefa Sarego 16.
Street art in Kazimierz.
Thank you for following me on this journey. I love traveling with you!
xxoo Love Holly
Thanks for reading.
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Thanks so much, Holly Winter Huppert
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