Recently, I attended a birthday party in the garden of a villa, a house that was once a substantial middle class family home. Now, during the day it provides an invaluable refuge, a place to come for families with young children who can’t quite cope. In the evening it reverts to something of a family home. I met a young man who has come to Poland for three months to learn Polish. I asked him how he was getting on and was relieved to discover that despite speaking all 3 official Belgian languages he was not finding Polish easy. We share the same quantity of Polish blood in veins which proves a facility for Polish has nothing to do with DNA. This was confirmed the following evening when I attended a party at the Hyatt Hotel.
A good looking young man, who turned out to be a Middle Eastern diplomat, was standing alone, outside the crowd.
“Enjoying the party?” I asked as I ambled past.
“No, I am alone.”
“Then let’s be alone together. Do you speak English?”
Apologetically, he told me that his Polish was much better than his English. This was not a boast. Clearly, he thought his English was weak. Weak my foot. We chatted about the war in Afghanistan. He told me that many families have divided loyalties. It is quite usual for brothers, one who may be in the Afghani army, another in the Taliban, to eat at home at the same table. I suggested he visit the war cemeteries at Tannenberg, not far from Olsztyn. The graves of young soldiers, whether from the Russian or German armies, all have the same names. Polish. Family fighting family simply because they lived on the wrong side of the arbitrary border that divided pre World War One Poland.
He asked me if I smoked. Smoked what, I wondered. “No, but perhaps I could try.” I’ve never taken drugs but perhaps at my age it would be a good time to start trying. What was he suggesting? Before I could find out he got a text from his girlfriend and said he had to be going.
“A smoke sometime?”