I have not been a believer in fate or divine intervention. I crossed that bridge in my twenties but something recently happened to me which has made me question my belief system.
this fully I need to go back to November (on All Souls Day) when, in accordance with Polish tradition, I visited my parent's and maternal grandmother's graves here in Melbourne at Necropolis. Together with Basia, a family friend, we placed the obligatory flowers and candles on the graves and spent a moment in deep reflection. In Poland this is a mass activity where crowds make a pilgramage to the graves of their loved ones. After returning home I became somewhat weepy. Not in regards to my parents or grandmother but in regards to my maternal grandfather (Wlodzimierz Dabrowski), who I had never met and who died barely seven months before I was born.
After my grandfather died at the relatively young age of sixty four, after struggling with hemiplegia after a stroke, my grandmother left the picturesque town of Bielsko Biala at the foot of the Carpathian
mountains, left her husbands graves and their family friends, to join her only daughter and only granddaughter on the other side of the planet. I became emotional because I became conscious of the fact that noone would visit his grave. I had recently been sorting family photos and documents, liaising with a genealogist, trying to trace my family's roots. Through this I developed a yearning to get to know the man who had been my grandfather and who I had never met. FIfteen years previously during my first visit to Poland, my cousin from my father's side of the family, who happened to be a nun, took me to the cemetry. After my grandmother left Poland, Basia (the nun) took it upon herself to be a guardian of sorts of my grandfathers grave. However there were two problems, Basia had died five years previously and I could not remember exactly which cemetry it was. I could vaguely remember the Carpathian mountains in the distance and
whitewashed brick walls surrounding the cemetry. I had photos of the grave but this did not tell me much. I knew noone in Bielsko Biala. My father's family was on the other side of Poland and could not help me. So desperation is the mother of all invention.
In my youth I belonged to the Polish scouting movement and was taught the notion that Polish scouting was a "family". So I decided to contact my "scouting family" and contacted the local Scouting leader in Bielsko Biala asking for assistance. The young man, after getting over the astonishment of answering a phone call from far off Austrlia agreed to help me without any pause. He just asked me to email any details I might have of my grandfather. So I dutifully emailed my grandfather's name, birthdate and date of death, place of birth as well as the name of my grandfather's last
employer. He had worked there fifty years ago. The young man (probably in his early twenties), promised that he would have something by the following week.
Sure enough Druh Slawek (the Scout Leader) contacted POLMOS (which once was the Monopol Spiritualowy) where my grandfather once was the head bookkeeper and got not only the details where he was buried (the Biala Cemetery) but also the name of the street where my grandparents once lived. I didnt even have my grandparents previous address. I was contented. I was planning to visit Poland in 2006 and I would be able to visit the grave nad see whether it would need any renovations.
But that is not where the story ends. The other key detail in this story is my favorite passtime - playing Contract bridge on the
Internet. About a fortnight after my contact with the young Polish scout leader, feeling rather pleased with myself, I was playing bridge in a bridge room called BBO. Not a place that I usually frequented as for years I played in the Yahoo bridge rooms. Suddenly out of nowhere I was accosted by another bridge player. "Czesc Imienniczko" (Greetings my namesake). I met another bridge player called Lucynka (the diminutive of my name Lucyna under which I was playing). Of course the obvious questions as to our locality. I mentioned that I came from the Antipodes, and Lucynka identified that she came from..... the town at the base of the Carpathian mountains Bielsko Biala.
As the initial astonishment, I mentioned that my grandparents came from there and that my Dziadek (grandfather) was buried at the Biala Cemetery. "Oh gosh" says Lucynka "that
is where my parents are buried. When the snow stops I will go to the cemetery and place some flowers and candles on his grave on your behalf." I thanked her and gave her the street where my grandparents lived. "I will go and take a photo of their street so that you can see where they resided". I was in rapture. I knew the beauty of the internet but this was just too much.
But that is not where the story ends. The snow this year in Poland was very heavy and it wasnt for a couple of weeks that Lucynka was able to go to the cemetery. However in the meantime she located the house where Babcia (grandma) and Dziadek (grandfather) lived and made a series of photo which she sent.
During this time Lucynka and I got to know each other. Not only were
we bridge fanatics but also dog lovers. I adore my Lulu, Lucynka has an adoreable Yorkie name Sisi. She runs a modelling school/agency and her favorite acitivity is travelling the world. She frequently visits the US where her daughter and granddaughter reside. She has been to India (which I yearn to visit) as well as other exotic places such as Egypt and Reunion Island.
When the weather settled Lucynka contacted the keeper of the cemetery and together on the computer they located my grandfathers grave. And then together then went and cleared the flat grave from the piles of snow. I prompty received photos via the internet of my grandfathers grave with candles and christmas branches. More importantly however she found out from the computers records that the cemetery fees had only been paid up to the year 2000. Obviously Babcia
had only paid for forty years.
My newly acquired internet friend Lucynka volunteered to pay the fee arrears for me as a Christmas present plus another five years in advance. As the minimum one could pay was ten years. I would just need to send an authorisation that she would be acting on my behalf and that I was the only suriviving relative of the deceased.
Lucynka then contacted the nun who looked after the administration of the parish cemetery and paid the 15 zloties per year. I was so grateful. It was the best Christmas present I could have. The nun said that it was gratifing to see that someone so far away from Bielsko Biala still remember family.
The next significant
event happened in the second week of January was a excited message I received from Lucynka on my Yahoo messenger. "Lucynka where are you . I have to speak with you urgently". So at three in the morning I dutifully replied to my internet friend.
"I have just returned from the Cemetery and guess what. As of the 5th of January your grandfather has new neighbours." It appears that the plots which were deemed to have been abandoned had been recycled. If Lucynka had not paid the arrears - this would have been the fate of my grandfather's grave.
If I had not met Lucynka in the bridge room on the day we met, if we didnt have the same first name as each other there would not be a grave for me to visit later in the year. Fate?
Coincidence? Or are they the machinations from up high of my Babcia and Dziadek? Is this their guiding hands?
After this series of events, we have adopted each other as sisters. After all we have the same name! Lucynka in rapid haste applied for a visitors visa to Australia, paid for her ticket and will be appearing in my home at the end of February. Lucynka will be my guest for five weeks.