Thursday, October 24, 2013

"Would you ever go back to Poland?"

Every time I see my family again I fall to pieces. It dawns on me how much I miss them. How much I'm not there. How they live their lives in Poland while I live mine so far from home and all we have are those glimpses, those moments when we connect and get sense of who we are once every few years. How time passes, things happen and change and those instances are all that we get. And that's when getting back to my reality, the life as I know and built for myself gets really hard for me. It's when I'm back with my parents that I ask myself how do I ever go on without my family around me? But then I have friends and hobbies and responsibilities. Places to see and commitments. Fun evenings and work to do. Causes I believe in and passion in what I do- life goes on. There are times that I get really sentimental about my journey, but that passes with realization how much more I get to be me in the place that I am and how much  better my life is now that I ever imagined in Poland. During the ten days I spent in Warsaw this month my dad asked me if I ever think about going back. As he did my wheelchair fell into a crack in the sidewalk. And I had to say: As much as I miss the people I don't miss the place. The temporary wheelchair we took out of the basement for the time that my regular one was in repair, big, bulky, heavy- became a perfect illustration  and a metaphor for my life in Poland. I couldn't move it by myself, I had to be pushed. And the moment I sat in it I felt powerless, with my energy drained, and at everybody else's mercy. Accessibility isn't and never was a priority in Warsaw. We waited some 45 minutes in the cold for a street car without steps, letting three that came before go. Everywhere I went I saw cracks, stairs, steps and high thresholds. I guess I could make it here if I had a permanent assistance getting around, but why should I compromise on my quality of life. My brother and sister in law wanted to take me to a nice, high end restaurant. Three steps lead to the door, luckily the greeter was there to help carry me grabbing the side of my wheelchair. I also wanted to see a play- we had go through the backstage because there were fewer steps if we went around the building. Needless to say I would never be able to do it by myself. I would like nothing more than to be able to experience Warsaw through the eyes of my brother and father. Restaurants, cafes, shops, cinemas, I hear it's an amazing city. They speak of it with such fondness. But for me Warsaw meant home, school, an occasional trip to a shopping gallery, but mostly nights in front of TV. I don't have my places there, venues I remember, think about and miss. I don't connect to Warsaw on a personal level because it never was welcoming and accepting to me. I have more places that I do miss, that feel like my own in Gainesville. And I realized how much life in Poland taught me to expect less. To dream smaller. To mold who I am, what I want and what I do to the wheelchair unfriendly reality around me. In Poland accessibility is a nice surprise. In Gainesville it's something I expect.

1 comment:

  1. My Irish-born wife feels the same. She became a "wheelie" after arriving in the States but I'm told that neither Ireland nor England (where some of her family lives) is anything close to being accessible. It is kind of sad, but we (both wheelies) will never travel to the UK. Her family either visits us or we use skype to stay in touch. We are both very independent and the thought of going somewhere that would mean we would be totally dependent on others to do even the very basic things a tourist might do (go out to eat, see the sights) is enough to keep us on this side of The Pond.