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  • She knew how to speak Polish and nobody knew why exactly but it was speculated.
    It was the War, Mother said.

    How was the War, I asked my Grandma.
    She said, Never mind that. Repeat after me: Kocham cię and Jesteś moim sercem.
    I tried although I had some trouble with the “ś” sound – it was too soft. Like a rustling leaf.

    Grandma demanded I start calling her Halinka when I was a teenager. It was strange after years of Grandma but I managed.
    She’s getting old. Finally, Mother said as if old was something to be desired.

    Why did you never remarry, I asked her after she became Halinka.
    I’m not sure, she said. She added then, coyly, I suppose I didn’t like it.
    Her husband, my Mother’s father, passed away when she was in her 40s. My Mother was devastated. She cried for weeks and developed unilateral paralysis of the face for six months after his funeral. But Grandma was stoic, according to Mother. The word “stoic” was spat out rather than said.

    I was never in love with your Grandpa, Halinka said, what else. But I was in love once. I was in love with Janek. He was a Polish soldier. I took care of him in the war in the working camp. I was in a labour camp, we made sacks and sometimes we worked as nurses in the field hospital. That’s how I met him. He was a great kisser. We had to hide our love. He sang beautifully. He taught me some songs. In Polish.
    What happened?
    He said he would come back and find me. And that’s the truth.


    I was told it was a minor thing, just a little fall. They didn’t want to ruin my vacation. I was away having a vacation.
    Did she say anything?
    Not really. She thought she was leaving the hospital. Then it was just some singing, in some made-up language, probably in Polish, Mother said, Then it was over.
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