My parents tried to integrate us into a Polish community. I was eight or nine then and my brother, Donny three years younger. Every Saturday morning we would trudge to Mrs. Olyshinski’s house where the children from the Polish community gathered to play. Mrs Olyshinski wore a Polish flag colored apron.
Her blonde hair was curled tightly around her pretty, soft face. If I close my eyes now and think of her an image of Robert Doisneau’s famous kiss by the hotel de ville comes into mind.
I don’t know why this is so. I never saw Mrs. Olyshinski’s husband and less her in a passionate kiss but that’s how I remember her. A Polish war bride. Mrs. Olyshinski was both beautiful and kind. She offered me cookies and gently encouraged me to mingle with the other children.
Except for a vague memory of my jumping I remember nothing of the games played. All the children spoke Polish and I didn’t understand a word. That I didn’t speak nor understand Polish made me even shy-er than I already was. I must have complained enough that my parents finally decided that I didn’t have to go there anymore although that brief experience of travelling through foreign territory changed me. It was the beginning of my lifelong search to belong.