This is a pic of me and my dad with our first dog, Alma. She was my mum's, really -- apparently mum had read "Rebecca" by Daphne du Maurier and decided she must have a black cocker spaniel. So she got one (as was/is mum's way...).
I don't remember much of Alma except hiding behind my parents when we were walking in the door because Alma would jump all over me, and I was just a wee one.
In this picture we are at a place called "Szyglowek" which was a tiny village of a few farms, surrounded by 30 km deep pine forests. Mum and I used to spend Thurs-Sun there with mum's friend and her kids; the dads joining us on the weekend. We lived in a little 2-3 room cottage.
We'd spend our days mushroom picking (this is a pic of the mushrooms strung up and drying on the side of the cottage), playing in the sun, hanging out with the farmers watching them milk the cows and feed the pigs. I still remember the boiled potato smell of the pig swill, and carrying fresh milk in milk cans back to the cottage. The dads would fish and catch lobsters which we would then boil up for dinner.
Mum tells me the story of one day when I came running in excitedly with Maciek (the son of mum's friend, aged seven or eight -- I would have been five or six) telling them we'd found a bomb in the forest. We led them to where it was and sure enough, it was an old unexploded WW2 bomb lying on the forest floor!
Another time we'd had lunch and were playing outside, and mum called us in, but we were gone. They called and called but there was no sign of us, so they started frantically searching. They were terrified because not only was the village surrounded by deep forests, but there was a wide river running nearby, and the horrible possibilities of what could happen to their four-, five-, and seven-year-old children gripped their minds.
A few hours had passed. They had started going to each farm one by one, and just before dusk they found us -- we were happily watching the farmer's wife milk the cows in their barn.
Mum tells me I got 21 smacks then and there, and I think I might even remember it!
I have definite flashes of memories -- winding through bushy baby pine trees looking for mushrooms, the cottage near ours having its roof tarred, and standing in the doorway of the steamy little kitchen inhaling the sweet smell of the boiling lobsters -- but mostly it all seems like something out of a story book. I'm looking forward to sharing these stories with my girls.
As for poor Alma: when we escaped Poland, we heartbreakingly had to leave her behind. We left her with distant family, and found out later she had died from a neglected ear infection. I don't know what to feel about this -- guilt, anger, sadness. Just one tiny little price of non-democracy.