For this episode of Kitchen Conversations, as opposed to the usual format of the podcast – where I speak to artists about their work in the context of Eastern Europe, I invited my grandmother Marianna to share her long and tumultuous life story. To understand the complex socio-political situation of the contemporary East we must first and foremost include voices of people who actually lived through the past regimes, which have undoubtedly played a role in forming the present-day eastern European society.
After a year in strict lockdown, my grandma was finally allowed to go outside and meet me in person. We began to plan this recording a long time ago, and on the occasion of her forthcoming 100th birthday, we finally managed to sit down and talk. The conversation revolves around the polish experience of WWII and living under communist regime that followed it. Sitting on a bench in front of the elderly home where she currently resides, my grandmother revealed a whole different side of her life story that I was not familiar with.
The three-episode mini-series Grandma’s Tales describes a story of a young Polish woman who had to grow up in times of struggle, fear and poverty. Episode 1 is focused on the beginning of the WWII, and my grandma’s contribution to the underground resistance. In episode 2 you will be able to hear some first-hand experiences of working in a forced labor camp and also what role did society impose on woman at the time. Last but not least, episode 3 sheds a light onto the communist past of Poland and the everyday reality of the flawed socialist dream.
When asked, whether she agrees for her stories to be shared online, my grandmother answered: “Let it be a message to the young people to learn from and act towards a more peaceful future”. Hereby, I take her words and share them with you. This is a personal take on a violent time that already passed, but lessons derived from it can be applied nowadays to get a better, and more compassionate understanding of the position many people still find themselves in.