Trip To Poland

The student and the woman in charge seem to know each other. She asks if I would like to see the part of the museum not usually open to the public. Of course I express interest.

We are taken through a locked door into a small amphitheatre. Waist high railings skirt the front of the room. Behind the railing a dozen rows of seats climb to the back. The wood is old and dark with age.

“Here Copernicus lectured and defended his thesis,” she says.

She shows me exactly where he had stood. I stand in awe in exactly the same spot where this great man (1473 – 1543) in his young years proclaimed to the audience that the sun was at the center of the Universe, and that the planets circled around the sun.

I held my breath and recalled defending my own thesis in 1963 back at Iowa State University in Ames Iowa, but the room was small and grey from chalk dust and only 4 professors came to listen.

The student asks me whether I would like to visit Oswiecim the location of Ausschwitz south of Krakow. I say No.

Back in Warsaw it is time to leave. I’m flying out the next day.

But we must have one last supper together. I have grown to like Micky. I’ve invited him to come to Guelph and spend a year in our laboratories. He is willing. It is agreed that as soon as my grant application is funded he will come. To celebrate I propose to go to a fine restaurant of Micky’s choosing along with his wife whom I have not met until now.

At 9:00 we began the meal. I chose the Hungarian stew the specialty of the house. And indeed it was. Hot as Fire in Hades. The burn factor was 9.9 plus. This was certainly an experience of unprecedented magnitude. I had quite a lot to eat but could not finish the generous helping. A bottle of fine red wine helped quench the inferno in my mouth although Micky’s wife and I were the only ones drinking. I lathered my scalded innards with Coca Cola and coffee as best I could. I barely survived.

Ludmila could not speak English but participated freely in the table conversation through Micky’s interpretations. The evening approached midnight quickly. However, during the animated discussion, it developed that Micky played the guitar.

“How did you learn,” I asked.

“From my Dad,” he said.

“Where is your Dad from,” I pushed on.

“Well we’re really not Polish. We’re Ukranian. My parents came to Poland from the Ukraine. My Dad learned how to play the guitar in the Ukraine as a small boy. I learned from him.”

“Did your Dad by any chance play a 7-string guitar?” I asked breathlessly.

“Yes. How did you know?”

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Ed Janzen is the editor and publisher of CANADIAN STORIES, a literary folk magazine that publishes short stories and poems from Canadian writers of every province of Canada. Story Quilt is an electronic magazine similar in content. Ed has written four memoirs. He also writes for the old car hobby and has a column in OLD AUTOS - a biweekly newspaper featuring mostly Canadians events and automotive history.
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