Henry Martin 

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Warsaw, 2013

By henrymartinhm, Mar 20 2017 07:13PM

Warsaw, 2013

We walk up the long stretch of Krakowskie Przedmiescie; a street dotted with light from bars and restaurants, tourists returning to their hotels, young people wavering outside, smoking.

Then we reach the rynek Starego Miasta at the Warsaw Old Town; a square alive with small electric lights and canopy-covered diners eating their late dessert and arguing for who would pay the bill. Men in middle age pump water from the water fountain and smile like children to have their picture taken.

We have visited many squares like this; a construction of something long ago bombed; a kind of homage, a sort of memorial. The Old Town suggests the proportions in which life was lived before the war; it suggests the harmony or uniformity of the collective will toward survival. The stars have stayed the same of course (or are they more dim) unaffected by everything below.

Summer means sitting outside in shorts until you get goosebumps. It means being more free with laughter, more generous. Winter means that we pass each other by, our eyes downturned to watch our feet in case the ground should bite them off.

Warsaw: a piano thumps behind a wall, a waitress in a miniskirt carries freshly laundered tablecloths into the night for the morning breakfast table, lonely men obsess with their phones, women are determined not to fall as they stride across the uneven cobbles of the square, in Plac Zbawiciela the Tecza rainbow is desecrated with a petrol bomb, a sign in a low-lit street says "world problems are now local," in the dark streets of old Stalowa we see a street altar with a Byzantine virgin and child, a communal wasteland with a solitary child, the dark hallways in buildings evacuated during the war, still empty, or so it seems to us.

We are accidental tourists, here to observe, until we move away.

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