Updated: Apr 21
Agata Zbrojewska (interview conducted in Polish, translated by the author)
The picture depicts my maternal grandmother, Marianna Nowak. If I have had a daughter I would have named her Marianna. Such a crazy name! My grandma hated it. She came from a village near Kielce, where she met and married my grandfather, who was a carpenter. During the war, he was involved in the underground resistance army and she had to take care of her two children, my mother and her l little brother, completely alone and in a constant state of fear and the deprivation of basic items needed for survival. The Germans who occupied the village threw her out of her house and, together with her kids, she stayed in their shed. I was told that they were very lucky because a German commander had a daughter which was my mother’s age and he took pity on them.
After the war they moved to Dabrowa Gornicza, where my grandfather took a job in a steel plant. My grandmother did not work but took care of the children and the house.
I knew her well and she was very present in my life when I grew up. Grandmother Marianna was an incredibly warm person and she loved her family beyond anything in the world. With her own children all grown up, when I was born as the first of her grandchildren, she turned all her attention on me.
I have to admit that in my childhood I was a horrible eater. I did not like anything and feeding me was quite a mission. In this situation, keeping me well fed became my grandmother’s heroic quest.
Not only did I eat exclusively what I wanted, but also where I wanted. For example, she let me eat sweet cream from a special china cup, which was otherwise a family treasure used only on very special occasions. On another occasion, we went together to a local playground where I went on a merry-go-round. She was standing there with a cup of hot soup in her hand while I was riding and every time I passed by her, she fed me one tablespoon.
She was the paradigm of patience. Grandma Marianna was very pretty and always took care of herself in a way which was not typical for women of her generation. For example, she always started her day with a 15-minutes exercise regime, which she took while listening to the radio program and later massaged her face. She also followed beauty advices on the radio and subscribed to women magazines, where she read articles about skin and body care. Even if she stayed at home for the entire day, grandma always dressed carefully, did her hair, and applied perfumes. Her favorite perfume smelled of roses and it’s still my favorite fragrance. She presented me with my very first face cream, Tatra Snow (Snieg Tatrzanski). I miss her very much.