The first thing that went through my mind when I got off the train in Gliwice was; ‘what in the name of Christ am I doing here?’ I took a long, hard look around and I didn’t feel well. I had a headache, that was very quickly heading south, turning into a neckache. At this rate and in this direction, I was going to have a herniated testicle by the time my future PRACTICAL SILESIAN WIFE drove me to her parent’s house. I met her family and I could read the look in their pitying eyes. It said, ‘how desperate do you have to be to come 3000 miles for a woman?’
Ah, but what a woman. Like the majority of Polish women, multi-talented. She is equally at home cleaning a gunshot wound or making a cheesecake. Polish women and Silesian women in particular, do all the work so it’s no big deal for them to buy illegal fruit on the black market, skin a goat for supper, all while finishing their thesis on Dostoevsky. And thanks to her, I’ve accepted Poland. I read somewhere that terminally ill patients go through four stages before they reach the level of Acceptance; Anger – Denial – Bargaining and Depression. I’ve gone through each one, not as terminally sick person but as an Irishman in Poland.
The anger stage came early – my 1st week here and a priest at mass refused to give me the communion when I put my hand out for it – he wanted to place the wafer in my mouth. No way, dude, I came from Ireland to avoid all that. I don’t want a priest to poking his fingers around my lower left molars. And I especially don’t like the taste of a priest’s finger. It’s unpleasant. I’d rather frenchkiss a turtle. I got angry. I walked away and he proceeded to denounce me in front of the whole congregation.
The denial stage came naturally – I’ve lived with denial wall my life – long ago I replaced my mirror with a picture of Antonio Banderas – not the one that’s currently being used by a Polish bank where he looks like pimp, but an old one where his hair is long and he emits the coiled sexual prowess of an Iberian Saltillo Bull. Being in Poland is living in a constant state of denial – I block out the vomit-inducing reality of the amount of dog-shit I’m confronted with every day. In Poland, regardless of where you are situated, you are always but 10 metres distance from dog faeces. I refuse to believe that people eat carp as their Christmas meal and they keep them in their baths. Jesus, In Ireland we eat turkey but we don’t keep them in our beds for week beforehand. Well some people do, but they’re from County Mayo and I think that sort of thing is still legal there. I think it is. Ask Enda Kenny. He’s know more about it than I do.
I fell into the Bargaining stage after worrying about the amount car accidents here – Please God don’t let one of these Slavic maniacs collide with me, please! I’ll do anything. I’ll start learning Polish. Okay, hold on, that’s impossible. I’ll learn Trigonometry instead. It’s easier. What else? I’ll start being nice to people, ahem – ‘Polish people are the best! You’re all really great!’ – how’s that? You want me to be nicer? Okay, I can be nicer. I won’t make fun of all the freaks I see in the park. There are so many people with humps on their backs here, but I’ll stop doing my Quasimodo impression when they walk by. More? Okay, I’ll be a good son-in-law, I’ll take an interest in my wife’s family, I’ll remember their names. I’ll stop spitting at them, just keep me safe on the Polish roads.
The Depression stage – I took to the bed for a week and wouldn’t talk to anyone. I spent this time contemplating life in Poland – why is there so much kashanka here? I refuse to believe kashanka is from an animal. No animal tastes that vile. Maybe it’s from a human? Is that why there’s so few foreigners in Silesia? I think I saw a toenail in a piece once. Christ, why couldn’t my wife be French? Now there’s a country that knows good food. I could be in the south of France right now, stuffing my face with croissants, and overdosing on Je Suis Charlie burgers.
But she’s Polish. That means she’s tough and smart. And for a dumb coward like me, that’s important. And unusually for a Pole, she’s optimistic. She sees the good things that are happening to me here. People are starting to smile. Occasionally in my direction. This is good. There’s a coffee place opened up in our neighbourhood. Great coffee and they’ve got a record player where I can play my favourite albums: Abbey Road, Dark Side of the Moon, and of course, Exile on Main St.