Krys do you believe now, when I said this was your mother's gift to you?
Sent: Fri, February 12, 2010 10:42:34 AM
Subject: [Kresy-Siberia] Ceremony at the Consulate in Toronto 2010 02 10
Stefan has suggested that I should share this write-up of the Siberian Cross Medal presentation at the Polish Consulate in Toronto on Feb 10th .....
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The medal ceremony was lovely and touching, but over much too quickly. This new Consul General is a man of fewer words than his predecesors - he made a short speech and then handed out the medals one by one. Still, the words and circumstance were respectful of the sacrifices, and underlined the Government of Poland's reverence for these survivors of the deportations.
Then the medal recipients - some 20 of us ( I was the only one receiving a medal posthumously, though 2 others picked up medals for someone too ill to attend) - had an official portrait taken with the Consul General. The entire event was videotaped by TV Polonia and some of it will be shown Saturday.
While waiting for all the guests to arrive, the Consul General and the Vice Consul invited me to stand with them in the entrance hall, greeting arrivals, and in between these moments, having a protracted conversation with me about the Museum, their willingness to help with its promotion as much as they can, and the fact that they are aware of its importance to Ministers Sikorski and Krupski.
My brother, Ted, was greatly surprised at the way the Consul General and the Vice Consul appeared to treat me as the Honoured Guest of the evening, especially when they invited me to join them at the front of the Hall from the very start of the official program of the evening. They repeatedly referred to me as "Pani Dyrektorka" (my Dad would have had a field day with that ! - he would have called me that for months after the fact ! .... ) and introduced me as such when it was time for my presentation. Ted videotaped my entire speech and I think it's a riot ! (I've never seen myself on tape for this continuous length of time .... 5 - 7 minutes ? and certainly not in POLISH !) All in all I managed to say it all without too many grammatical mistakes (although I did draw a blank on the date the KS Group started, and ended up saying the wrong one! Drat ! ). I got some very enthusiastic "thumbs up" from a number of the elderly survivors who were amazed at my
grasp of the Polish language, considering that I had been born and raised here. The most remarkable thing I remember feeling, is the feeling of being "embraced" by the entire group of survivors in a communal hug of gratitude as they applauded me at the end, and many actually did physically hug me later !
The second reception hall was set up to present the short film and the demonstration of the Virtual Museum. My brother manned the PC there, while I did the presentations and explanations to successive groups of people, while others enjoyed refreshments in yet a third reception room. I received many questions and positive comments, and especially, many expressions of surprise and awe that I - as a member of the next generation who did not actually experience these events, could devote so much time and energy to this cause. When I said that I had promised my Mom that I would find a way someday to make her story known, and that is why I work so hard on this project, many of them said that their own children have promised them many things in the past, but that does not necessarily mean that they actually do them !!!
My business cards were swept up by one and all, as were many Brochures, Donation Forms, and Survivor Interview Project sign-up forms. As for the printed materials that were left over, the Consul General insisted that I leave it all with them, and they will hand them out to any veterans or other related individuals that visit the Consulate in the coming weeks. They even mentioned adding the info to their website. The CG said he was very aware that this is a project very highly supported by Minister Sikorski, as well as Minister Krupski, and he is glad that it is getting this kind of support.
All in all, I felt it was a success, and it truly was a joy to see the appreciation of the survivors and their families.
There was one lady in a wheelchair who reminded me very much of my mother in the last years of her life - she had that same look of innocence and total trust and appreciation that my Mom often had when she smiled at me. As her daughter went to get her own coat from the coat room, I helped this lady button up, and I put her hat and mittens and scarf on for her, and I kissed her on both cheeks in appreciation for just who she is. She was the same age as my Mom was when deported, and her daughter promised to send me all her photos, documents, and biography, for input to the museum, saying "You will be immortalized just like this lady's Mother is, in the Virtual Museum," and the lady's eyes lit up in awe and appreciation, This lady is the one that finally had me teetering on the brink of losing it completely, and later - in the car, driving away - I did. It truly was like having my Mom there in the flesh! My brother Ted felt the same way - it was quite
uncanny how she seemed to embody our Mom ! When I saw her earlier, she did not look like Mom at all, just a sweet old lady, but when I personally interacted with her at the end, her eyes became my Mom's eyes, her smile became my Mom's smile .... I can't explain it, but it was very real. The fact that my brother picked up on it and felt exactly the same, tells me that something happened to make us feel that way. Maybe it was my Mom's way to tell us she really was there for it all ! In any case, we both had a bit of a breakdown when we recollected it on the way back to the hotel.
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