Friday, March 29, 2013


We were lucky. Our Warsaw apartment ended up being in a building with an elevator. No steps leading up to the front door and relatively close to the ground floor. We were lucky, because my parents had absolutely no say in the matter. During communism, housing was assigned based on the size of the family. Millions of families waited for many years to get their own four walls. And they were happy to get it, whatever it was. I remember hearing that my mom originally didn't like the neighborhood. It was new, everything was getting built and for quite a while it didn't look like much. My mom was used to the pace and the noise of downtown. The people, the cars, the theatres, the cafes she grew up there. From what I understand the apartment buildings were new and getting a three room unit was mostly unheard of, but they were in the middle of nowhere and my mom missed her life. I guess she didn't even think how much having a functioning elevator will become a factor when she had me. I decided to bring it up for a reason. Not too long ago I received a response on Twitter. I guess I mentioned kids with disabilities that were stuck in their apartments on the top floor with no elevator and how in Poland it wasn't uncommon or unheard of. The message was a simple question. How is it that they couldn't leave. And I understood I've made I mistake. I didn't communicate the problem well.  When I write a piece I sometimes skip a step. Sometimes I assume that certain issues are clear or self explanatory. But I forget that not everyone comes from a background similar to mine or at least can easily figure it out. But I failed to provide perspective. These days in Poland you can buy any real estate of your choosing, provided you have the money for it. But not 30 years ago. Back then you were lucky if you got an apartment of any kind, anywhere, and you'd thank your lucky stars when the wait was over. Decades later some of the same people would still be living next to each other. Some richer, some poorer, some doing better than others, some renovating, remodeling and investing a lot into making their house as pretty and comfortable as they could lived few doors down from the heavy drinkers, the excluded and the unemployed. All under one roof. All under one building. And many never moved. Some because they could never afford it, others because they never had the need or they invested too much into the place to let it go. Every now and then I read an article in a Polish newspaper. It's usually about a young man and a woman who live on a top floor of a building just like ours.  They rarely leave the house because they don't walk and are to heavy to be carried 12 floors down every day. They didn't choose their apartment, but it became a barrier that they could never defeat. To a person who walks it must me odd how big of a deal a flight of stairs can become. A difference between going to school and being home schooled. Between being able to go out and play, to the store, to the theatre, the post office and being stuck. They didn't choose it, likely it was chosen for their parents. That's how it worked- the state enjoyed the role of power to provide anything to anyone. Not that it was free, but everyone depended on it. We were lucky because back in the day in Poland stairs were common.   My aunts and grandmother's apartments had nothing but stairs, at least half a flight to the half floor. If my mom had her wish we would have ended up struggling every day. How about the 3 step, 5 step entrances, that you never  sign up for but many people still end up with?  Yes, the elevator wasn't perfect. It would be out of service a lot, get stuck between floors and a few times some kids I imagine, set it on fire . The door was heavy, yet what mattered was we had an elevator (most of the time) which was more than a lot other families with disabilities could say.  Years go by and you don't hear much about it.  And then you read an article in a cheap sensationalist tone. Oddly enough it's always written to make you feel sorry for the person and not ask how silly it is that they have to deal with those absurd conditions to begin with and how little it takes to improve someone's life                                                                    

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