We’re trying a new technique 😉 Rather than posting one mega article that’s just too long to read, we’re going to feed you this one in bite-sized pieces across a summer/winter (depending what hemisphere you’re reading from!) series – hopefully keeping you hungry for more! The series is a reflection piece Wendy put together looking back on her first year living in Poland: ’12 things I’ve learnt living 12 months in Poland’. Smacznego!
Tuesday, November 1st, 2016: Poles flocked to the cemeteries to place candles on the graves of the departed and reflect on life, death, loss and love. On All Saints Day, a national holiday, these sites of grey stones, narrow passageways and quiet resting are transformed into bustling hubs of family meetings, large floral displays and as the afternoon darkness of night settles, the twinkle of thousands of candle lights to mark each life with memory. The smell of melted wax is thick and sweet on the air, escaping from the gaudy, modern plastic lanterns, in the competition to see who’s relative’s grave will have the candle burning the longest.
While I don’t have graves of relatives to visit here, the day was also a time of reflection for me, as it marks one year since I crossed the border from Belarus into the country that I’d travelled half the world over without a plane to reach. I’ve lived in Poland one year now – a whole 4 seasons getting ready to repeat their turns. So let me think a little about what I’ve learnt in this time, in this place…
1. To see the beauty in every season
Before arriving to Poland, I had pictured an eternally cold, grey land. As an Australian, I feared how I would survive the darkness and negative temperatures of the long winter. But in reality, Poland also has a really decent summer – they can even have days as hot as 40°C! What I actually needed to adapt to was living across a much more varied range of temperatures than what I’d been used to in my mild, temperate Melbourne.
The changes in the year are so much more pronounced than the changes I’d grown up with in Australia. And while you can choose to feel like your life is over with the end of summer, it’s a bloody long time to be miserable! Better to focus on what is beautiful in the changes. Keep your eyes peeled for those little signs that nature is alive and never stagnant. The heat and long summer evenings. The amazing colours of the parks exploding with autumn. That crisp, cleanness of winter air. The sight of snowfall against a street lamp as you wait at your tram stop. The pure joy you feel when you spot the first tree in blossom. The day you can wear your sandals again.
These pronounced seasons leave me with the feeling that I’ve lived in so many different ‘Krakóws’ – such a different mood the city has at each time of year. This is no longer something to fear, but something to learn to find the joy in.
Stay tuned for more lessons from Poland living coming soon…