A farewell to Warsaw (and somehow to Poland as well).
Goodby Warsaw, I’m leaving you today.
Goodby, goodby, goodby.
Goodby all you people. There’s nothing you can say
to make me change my mind. Goodby.
(“Adapted” from Pink Floyd)
I’ve finally left Warsaw (and Poland) for good; but, certainly, not without sentiment or melancholy, not without a disquieting grief that shrunk my heart and dwelled for some days in my throat; a distress that hasn’t fully abandoned me yet. Indeed, I wouldn’t leave the place where I’ve been living for so many months – a place so full of memories, anecdotes, recollections, loves and passions – without at least paying some kind of hommage to it. And here’s mine to you, Warsaw; here’s my ode to the city that provided me with so many remembrances and good moments. Here to you as well, Poland!
Goodby Warsaw!, captivating blend of trees and concrete, parks and asfalt; glass, steel and rust.
Warsaw of the anachronical and ubiquitous tramcars, scrappy and worn out, all creaks and racket, honking to the traffic with their familiar rings; wide opened doors through which all the winter colds get in, torture of the bearing passengers.
Warsaw, helter skelter of constructions, damp of urban styles: the dignified old town, the horrid blocks of communistic architecture, the incongruous modern skyscrapers, the emblematic Palace of Culture, a polemic Stalin’s gift and legacy, the breathtaking gardened roof of University Library with its fabulous view over the river.
And the countless parks!, so white and still in winter beneath a snowy blanket, upon which a thousand feet and paws trace their antlike tracks; so brightly green otherwise, full of life, of aromas and flowers, and of loving couples… Park Wilanów with its picturesque, elegant French gardens with the forged iron benches, a renaissance palace, a pond with water lilies, and the slanted sunrays hitting the bright grass. There’s a forgotten corner where I first met her, a slavic romance, all in white like an angel, her silvery hair shining in the summer light as an aura. Park Łazienkowski, thick trees and labyrinth paths, forest and mounds, voluptuously damp. Forever my memory will embody a snapshot: her handsome shape laying supine on a wooden bench, her comely features, mischievous smile and half opened dress — letting my fingers crawl, like caterpillars, inch by inch on her dashing white thigs (where a tiny spider has climbed down its glittering thread from the sky) and up to her chaste, moist knickers…
Goodbye for good, city of the broad unpassable avenues, the unreasonable junctions, the uneven pavement and its one million puddles (crazy drivers speeding for splashing the pedestrians); of the underground passages (stenchy bakeries and smelly zapiekanka), Centralna Station and its maze of tunnels, cheap food, takeaways, kiosks, kebabs, ticket booths; of the endless ambulances, police and firemen cars untiringly drawing a tiresome web of coloured, noisy sirens which disturb, day and night, the life of the citizens, the unlikely peace of the slumbers.
Farewell Krakowskie Przedmieisce, the main promenade with its excessive decoration, so baroc, so overloaded with gold and mirth, so kitsch. And Nowy Świat, the Mecca of commerce, tourists sitting in the terraces and watching the incessant flow of beauties, that natural catwalk of attractive ladies -short skirted, long legged, all made up- passing up and down to be admired, looking lewd, evasive and delusive as only slavics can be; unpredictable, contradictory, feminine and feministic, looking for they-really-never-know-what. Farewell popular Rotunda, where all the citizens meet each other, where I last saw her, a hot afternoon in the late summer, her bosom pulsating under the dress, a light perspiration on her forehead, and her vacillating smile. There she went!, down the subway scalator.
And the river!, the inaccesible Wisła which can only be seen and crossed -but not approached- east to west, west to east on the tram, on the bus. Wisła, its apparently calm waters reflecting at night the bridges’ lights.
I leave behind, the hostility, bitternes, aggressivity and anger, the sad faces, elusive stares and unanswered salutes. Warsaw of the drunks, the restless warriors and the troublesome men kurwing around; of the scary night busses which, despite their army of massive, wardrobe-sized rude guards, are sewers of inebriated human waste, stinking digested alcohol and vomits; gangs trying to hit each other, spitting “kurwas” and oaths from end to end of the long, double-bodywork vehicles. Fights in the bus, fights in the streets and the bars; too much beer and vodka, too little sex. Hormons jealous of the foreigners who pick up the local flowers.
Farewell to the kawiarnie (Tarabuk, Czuły Barbarzyńca, Chłodna), where universitarians and protointelectuals gather together for protesting, over a coffee, against the prime minister and solving the country’s politics. Also to the clubs, the salsa bars, the jazz and the striptease; all light and music, false joy and real money.
Unique Przekaski i Zakaski, the most emblematic bistro in town, small, crowded and noisy, gathering all kinds of urban beasts, clash of classes: politicians, avang-gardes, actors, beggars, street workers, students, foreigners, drunkards and drunks; all of them struggling shoulder to shoulder for a cheap vodka, a small beer, a bad wine, a snack to keep standing the night. Exhausted waiters and a scrounger bouncer trying to make some extra money on a toilet made up fee.
And Praga, the damned district, the accursed one; so ruined, authentic and unspoiled, yet soon to be marred by the press and the snobs. Praga of the dark streets, the rough dwellers and the cheap, shoddy clubs: five zlotich for the broad-shouldered doorman and, inside, a crowd looking forward to get lost in smoke, music and dance.
Goodby also to the stifling summer fog, the suffocating humidity, the unbreathable air. Another snapshot: it’s night in the dark and gloomy Pole Mokotowskie park, the grass is steaming as if with cauldrons underneath, and I’m kissing someone under a dim lamp, both inmerse and astray in the concealing vapour…
Farewell to my many whereabouts and their sonorous names: Saska Kepa and Rondo Wiatraczna in Praga Połódniu, plac Starinkiewicza and Raszyńska in Ochota, Solicarności and Chłodna in Wola-Ratusz, Narbutta in Mokótow, Świetokrzyska, Puławska… so many flats, so many hosts, so many landlords and mates. And, oh!, that magic appartment in Narbutta with its unique, unforgettable kitchen table -eyes down- and the oval wardrobe mirror -eyes up-. Something grand took place there and lasted what lasts a blink.
Adieu to all my good friends and my many acquaintances.
Do widzenia Warsaw! You gave me success and failure. You’ve been my every day, expectations and dreams, fears and pleasures. I’ve known you so well, I’ve enjoyed you so much, I’ve stood you so long, that now you’re a part of me. Hard to say goodby leaving behind such a loadful of memories and emotions, and yet… do widzenia!
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(Shall I never come back? Oh!, surely I will, some time or other. But the Warsaw of the daily strolls, the frenzy, friends and affairs… that Warsaw is gone forever.)